CHARACTER DESIGN - RATS OF THE SKY!
The Pigeon designs for ‘Bird Food’ were always going to be difficult.
We wanted to create something that stood out as being original, but as there have been so many animated version of our feathered friends it was always going to be a challenge.
The first thing that you should always look at when designing a character that is based on an existing creature is to research how it is in the real form.
By studying the mechanics and its mannerisms you will be able to get a better understanding of how it works and what are the most important things that define it.
Once all of this information is taken on board and preliminary sketches are made then it’s time to look at the script again and see if it can be improved by any of your discoveries.
Here are some exploratory designs Andrew Crotty did…
As I mentioned in the previous post about the process of designing The Man, these pigeon designs changed just as much. Nicky Phelan and I went through a good few pages just scribbling every different type of shape we could think of that still made it look like an actual pigeon. Their colours and marking, especially around their necks, make them easily distinguishable as pigeons. The other major thing that you always associate with pigeons is their necks. This gives them their characteristic walk which looks increasingly amusing the more you watch them, especially when they start moving a little faster. But what would happen if we removed their necks from the designs? Would they still look like pigeons? With the man being rectangular we wanted the other characters to follow this type of shape association. Circular shapes are soft and pleasing to the eye. They are generally regarded as a safe shape as they have no points to hurt yourself on. Pixar’s UP was a very good example of the use of shape association in its design, and this was explained in a ‘making of’ presentation at Gnomon School of Visual Effect in Hollywood…“From an artistic standpoint, a round and square shape theme is being applied throughout the whole movie. Round shapes stand for change, freedom and adventure, whereas square shapes symbolize stagnation, boredom and despair. While Ellie, Carl’s adventurous wife, is formed of round shapes and coloured in a magenta theme, Carl starts of as a round boy but squares up as he grows older. Furniture, forms, image composition – everything is full of symbolism.As Ellie dies, Carl is surrounded by squares; the light is shining in all the empty spots where Ellie used to spend her time, while Carl is sitting in shade continuously. Russell, the boy scout that changes Carl’s life, is also quite a round boy. All these effects were used to support the story.”Keeping this in mind you may ask why would we choose this round shape for the pigeons since they are “the villains” of the piece? Well there are a few very good reasons for this…
- Aesthetically they are adorable and like true predators they use their cute demeanour as an advantage to lure in their prey so they will get the food they long for.
- They have gotten so fat after eating so much they basically have no neck anymore.
- I had never seen a pigeon design like this and thought it was wonderful!
So here is what the final design looks like…
...you can see what I mean by cute!
So with these final designs of our doughball pigeons I went back to the script and looked at how the characters’ movement is described.
After reading through it again I realised I could remove the use of flight from the pigeons and that this would make it even funnier. They are too big to fly so they simply waddle around like water balloons on toothpicks!
‘Bird Food’ was always meant to be an animator’s delight with the key being movement and emotion. With these funny possibilities for movement of the pigeons I really think it will be a joy to animate and we all can’t wait to start making them move!
As we start the New Year we have really turned up the pressure on the production and you will be seeing a lot more “making of…” posts, so please stay tuned and keep your comments coming because your support is greatly appreciated and inspiring.
PS - Oh and finally, don’t they also fit nicely into a logo…?
Great blog. Love the designs!4 January 2012 by Lindsay
Thanks Lindsay I’m glad you like them.
Andrew did some great primarily work and Nicky’s final designs speak for themselves.
Look forward to showing you renders of the final 3D model soon.
I only wish I could draw like you guys! Have to draw solely with words instead!5 January 2012 by Lindsay
Really interesting to see how the characters developed and good reference to ‘Up’ shape association which seems quite obvious now that it’s pointed out….5 January 2012 by Mick Lamb
@Mick, yeah the best designs are always ones that give you an instant emotional response. You often don’t know exactly why you like it but you just have that gut feeling it works. Then once you break down the design to find the ‘answer’ it makes perfect sense.6 January 2012 by Richard Keane
This is a wonderful teaching resource to show school students the concept of visual development!7 January 2012 by Eithne Gallagher
Thanks Eithne, I’m delighted that you think people can benefit from these “making of’s”. That is the whole point for them and please stay tuned for more in the coming weeks and months.9 January 2012 by Richard Keane