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Chapter one:Character design: ‘likeability’ and relatabilityOne of the main components of a successful animation film or game design is a strong narrative, and the driving force of a strong narrative is the character that inhabits the story. The character design process is a meticulous one which covers all areas from physical build of the body through to the characters facial expressions, but this process does not stop at the character alone. Character perception will also be influenced by elements that are outside of the characters control, such as environment and lighting. These are elements where the writers and designers control and manipulate to emphasise the characters story and personality for the audience to believe. There is a lot of thought and attention to detail that goes into the process of character design. From the initial basic concept art sketches which outline basic shape and colour of the character to the refinement of the character animation. The initial design stage of the character creation process begins with the physical appearance of a character. A character designer cannot begin their work without knowing the context of the story or script. There must be a setting for the character to inhabit and likewise the environment must be relevant to the character, otherwise the suspension of disbelief would not be achieved within the audience. Character artists work alongside the script writers and the process is a constant refinement of both, as both the character and script start to take shape. One cannot lead the other and both grow and develop at the same time, influencing each other. There are usually multiple artists working on a single character design. The said character is constantly going through many iterations of refinement through many artists to get as a wide scope of detail as possible. The first initial concept sketches start out with basic shape design. Different shapes connotate different meanings. A basic understanding of shape language will help to convey the correct meaning and persona of the character. Pete Docter, Director of Inside Out, breaks down the five main protagonists of Inside Out in a conference held by Apple (MrAgm65, 2015).He describes each character’s primitive shape and their connotation as well as what emotion is conveyed to the audience through the said shape. For example, the bright star is the character ‘Joy’ who is explosive, bright and happy. The squiggly line is to represent the character ‘Fear’ who is unsure and weak. The other three geometric shapes are basic standard shapes and have a generic connotation. Square represents strength, stability and trust and can be seen in characters such as Anger from ‘Inside Out’, Ralph from ‘Wreck it Ralph’ and the Hulk. Circle connotes friendship, soft, warmness and happiness. The circular shape can be seen in the character Sadness from ‘Inside Out’, Kirby and Pikachu from Pokémon. Finally, the triangular shape connotes sinister emotions such as intensity, danger, sharpness and speed. This can be seen in character like Disgust from ‘Inside Out’ and Batman. Through this initial step of character design process, it is easy to understand how complex characters creation is. It is an intelligent use of semiotics and subconscious reading of the character and their representation that helps the audience understand and connect to them. Animation films would not exist without the animation and movement of a character. Although there is a form of animation called Stop Motion, where the film is created by physically manipulating the scene, which includes the puppet, and/or the object being moved and then a photograph taken, this process is then repeated throughout hundreds of pictures. When these photos are put together in a sequence it creates the illusion that the objects are moving (Priebe, 2007). Stop motion is the heart and soul of animation. Character movement is very important in bringing life to the character and allowing the audience to relate and to create a bond with the character. The bond between the audience and the character is the difference between the success or the failure of a film. Successful animation studios know this, and it is their primary technique when creating an animation film. Pixar Animation is one of the studios who utilises strong characters in their films. They are responsible for creating several critically and financially successful films such as Brave, Wall-E and the Toy Story series. Pixar creates animation films suited to both children and adults, meaning their characters have personalities which are basic enough for children to understand and yet complex enough to relate to the adults. They are successful particularly because of their storytelling abilities. Their technique is to focus on creating memorable and relatable protagonists. They are ruthless when it comes to quality of their product, this is proven in the film The Pixar Story, where they revealed that after working on Toy Story 3 and finishing the project eight months early, they did not like the final product. This lead to them scrapping the entire film and rewriting the story over a weekend. They then proceeded to start the project from scratch. (The Pixar Story, 2007). This goes to show just how important a story and character is to the succession of a film, both financial success and recognition. Toy Story 2 was remade and turned out to be a very successful follow up film to Toy Story, some even said that it outshone the original film (Price, 2008). The film was the highest grossing film in 1999, and generated over $245 million (Box Office Mojo, 2017).Pixar utilises the twelve basic principles of animation greatly. The most prominent principle seen in character animation is exaggeration. Exaggeration of character movement helps to portray the character emotion with a greater expression. This principle is called squash and stretch. It is the first listed principle of animation and it is listed as “by far the most important discovery” in animation (Johnston & Thomas, 1981, p.47). It adds dimension and weight to the moving animated object. The typical example is a bouncing ball, where the ball moves through the scene by bouncing through. It is visible that when the ball hits the floor it is squashed and as it moves off it is stretched back into its original shape. This indicates the ball has weight to it as it moves. This principle is important when animating anything made out of living flesh. As when living flesh moves so do many other parts connected to it. For example, the face is extremely expressional, when we chew, sneezy, smile, laugh or speak there are a multitude of muscles that move along to create the expression or make the primary muscle move. There was no more rigidness within animation when the squash and stretch technique was introduced. Simple elements such as a smile, was no longer just a line across the face, but it instead outlines the shapes next to it, such as the cheeks and chin REF: Illusion of Life, p.48 the volume of the face is displaced to create another shape. Whilst the squash and stretch technique is not as prominent in real life as it is in animation, there is an element of squash and stretch. Pluralsight gives a great example of a person running; when a person is on the ground, their shape is ‘squashed’, and when they jump they are ‘stretched’ out. In real life the persons body will not deform to express the squash and stretch but the overall feel of the movement is the same REF PLURALSIGHT SQUASH AND STRETCH.Another principle which emphasized the expression and emotion is Secondary Action. It is a supporting action animation for the main movement. For example, if a character is expressing sadness, the movement of wiping a tear away is called a Secondary Action. It does not overpower the main animation but instead upholds it. If it does overtake or becomes more interesting or does not relate at all, it is not staged correctly. REF I.O.L p.64 “Secondary Action will add richness to the scene, naturalness to the action, and a fuller dimension to the personality of the character.” QUOTE REF P.64For me Secondary Animation is just like idle animation. Idle animation is an expressive movement that a character performs whilst not having anything to do and the movement is not relevant to the narrative but instead to the personality. All living things have idle animations that express their personality, it is visible in both animals and humans, but more recognisable in human behaviour. Idle character animation allows us to see the characters individuality, whether they are a frightened nervous character such as Fear from Inside Out. We see he is constantly holding his arms close to his body in a protective stance, and is always looking around nervously. The best expressive idle animations are found in game characters. Video games within the ‘adventure’ genre tend to be the most narrative rich games, as the player is in control of the character and the pace of the narrative. Adventure games allow the player to explore the game therefore do not force the player to move through the story. This is even more true with modern games which allow for an open world. An open world is a giant level map with little (or none) closed off(1) areas. The player can let the character stand still within the open environment and watch them react to the area or not. Game developers have given characters idle animation when they are not being moved or played. Gamesradar lists sixteen top idle animation examples in the article ’16 idle animations worth dropping your controller for’ REF. The top listed idle animation is Sonic from Sonic the Hedgehog. If the player leaves the controller and does not move Sonic, we can see that Sonic stands with his hands on his hips looking at the player whilst tapping his foot. This is an excellent example of an idle animation as we know that Sonic is a character based on movement and speed. So once he is stopped by the player he is not pleased. This shows us more about the character. The above elements are great areas to focus on if you require to portray character through animation. The visual look and connotation of a character is just as important as I have mentioned earlier but so is individual animation. As I am focusing on anthropomorphic characters I will be discussing the basic visual appeal of a character without typical visual expressions, such as as mouth or eyes. The best example of anthropomorphic inanimate character is Carpet from Aladdin. Carpet was a challenging project for Animator Randy Cartwright, to create a character out of an inanimate object, a piece of cloth moreover. REF Cartwright decided to attempt Carpet without a face or arms or a tangible body, only his textile shape. Carpet did not even possess a voice to speak, his complete gestural makeup came from his physical expression. He is known as one of the most expressive characters in animation history, a feat for someone who has so little to express with. Due to the success of Carpets expressive nature, Cartwright managed to create a lasting impression of Carpet. Even if Carpet does have a supporting role in the film, he is still very much liked by the audience as he has a charming and playful personality. He also interacts with many characters in the film which allows us to see him establish relationships just like a living being would. Expression and personalities such as Carpet’s have quirks which create a lasting impression and individuality, regardless whether positive or negative. When analysing Carpets character it is easy to see that he has a lot of charm, not only as a gentleman but as a compassionate character. Carpet has a lot of appeal. Appeal as described by Johnston and Thomas in Illusion of Life is something that draws the eye toward the character, the “eye is held there as you appreciate what you are seeing”. They list things that the audience like to see as ‘quality of charm, pleasing design, simplicity, communication and magnetism’. And anything that the audience finds repulsive or disgusting will capture the eye only through shock appeal, there will be no intrigue. It can be argued that a free standing narrative free character with idle animation can be appealing, but what is the point of a free standing character if it will not have a home within a story, or even a story to tell of its own. Narrative is inescapable, it is something that is embedded into the characters physical form. From it’s personality to it’s backstory.