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Making Of Bird Food #Part3


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 versions 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 the most important things that define it are.

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…

pond scene 01pond scene 02 Pigeons_Model_SheetPigeons_Pitch Design

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. 01020304

Their colours and markings, 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…

  1. 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.
  2. They have gotten so fat after eating so much they basically have no neck anymore.
  3. I had never seen a pigeon design like this and thought it was wonderful!

So here is what the final design looks like…

BFD_C_Pigeons_Modelsheet_POSTBFD_C_Man+Pigeons_Modelshee_POSTt 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.

PS - Oh and finally, don’t they also fit nicely into a logo…?


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