Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Character Design: This Week's Lesson 30/10/12

This Week's Lesson
In this week's lesson, we focused mainly on anthropomorphism, specifically, lending human characteristics to inanimate objects.
For the first task, we were each allocated a different room in a house. We then had to create as many unique characters as we could, using objects specific to those rooms. 
The room I was given was the attic. Below are the objects I attempted to bring to life.

A 'Spinster' Trunk- Old and Forgotten

An 'Excitable' Cardboard Box- Out of It's Box!

A 'Veteran' Chair- Been There, Done That, Seen It All

A 'Maniacal' Photo Album- Consuming Memories, Never to Be Seen Again

We were also asked to bring in an interesting object this week, and anthropomorphise it, however we could. I brought in a Sonic Screwdriver (who would have guessed...) and created something which generated an... interesting response from Justin.

From This...

...To This!

Monday, 29 October 2012

Character Design: Drawing Update 29/10/12

Drawing Update 29/10/12

Today, I spent most of my time trying to figure out the construction of a snake, built using only simple shapes.

After looking at tons and tons of different images of snakes, I found that their construction is less like one giant cylinder and more like a stretched out trapezium. More like a ribbon than a rope.

They appear to have for faces down their entire length that map to a separate corner on the underside of the head. These faces converge at the tip, never crossing.

Once I'd figured out a method of construction the snake, I moved on to working on the Mongoose. Although, it wasn't long before I realised I was coming up with the same sort of thing each time around; a Mongoose torso with humanoid arms. This approach may be suitable, but I can do better. I'm just not sure how, just yet... I think that's something to discuss with Justin in tomorrow's lesson.

I also sketched out a couple of variants for the Alligator as well, although as with the Mongoose, I soon fell into a pattern of practically drawing the same thing, so I need to find a way of breaking out of this habit and really pushing the characters.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Character Design: Figuring Out the Sidekick

Figuring Out the Sidekick
Initially, the Sidekick was going to be a sort of Professor character, working alongside the Sheriff in order to defeat the Merchant, but during a conversation with Justin surrounding one of my Villain concepts, he mentioned that the idea of this small snake practically conquering the world was less impressive and more ludicrous, when you really look at it.
When I first conceived the idea, the scale of the Mongoose and the Snake was going to stay the same, just enlarged, I.e. they would be the same size in relation to one another, but expanded in order to interact with a human world, so a five inch tall Mongoose would roughly translate to being six foot in reality.
Justin suggested that, if I still wanted to retain the Snake as the Villain, maybe I should change the Sidekick into a Henchman for him. Whilst this would kind of throw a spanner in works on the story side of things, I've compromised in favour of the better character because, well, thats sort of the point of the project! The story will change, but only slightly. The role of the Professor character will be somewhat assimilated into the Sheriff, consequently giving him a bigger role and ultimately making him a more interesting and dynamic character.
The Henchman would function as something of a 'surrogate' or 'host', kind of like Krang from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, with the Snake perched atop his shoulder, wrapped around his neck or tucked within a pocket, providing his Henchman with orders. The Snake would constantly be the one in charge, regardless of his minute stature.
I keenly took to this idea, starting by developing a mind map of basic traits I wanted the character to inherit, as well as notes on his appearance, attitude and relationship with the Snake.

After coming up with some options of what I wanted from the character, I still struggled to decide what species of animal the sidekick would be, a factor which can potentially make or break the design of the character.
Eventually, I landed on the idea of using an Alligator as the Snake's henchman.
Although this wasn't without a fair amount of thought. There were several reasons for this possible option, including:
  • They bear a similar overall appearance to Snakes
  • Varieties inhabit desert-like areas, so it's appearance in a desert wouldn't be totally absurd
  • They are visually intimidating and threatening, without a ton of effort on their part
  • There is a lot of potential charm that can come from the relationship between a clumsy, oafish Alligator and a Snake with a Napoleon Complex (think, Pinky and the Brain)
I went on to further develop what I wanted from the character, once again, compiling my ideas using a mind map.

After establishing the basic characteristics of the Alligator, I quickly took the first image I could find of a bipedal Alligator and roughly annotated it with ideas of what I perceived would suit a more rough and threatening character (using probably the least threatening image of an Alligator ever to grace Google Images).

With a basic idea of what I wanted initially, I began to actually draw (finally!)

This was a quick scribble to get the basic idea of a broad built, bipedal Alligator on paper. I quickly scrapped this approach and instead, decided to focus on the anatomy underneath the clothing first off. It was beginning to look less like an anthropomorphised Alligator and more like a portly Dick Tracy who'd traded his trilby for an Alligator mask. Not really what I had in mind.

This was moving in the right direction, but it felt too superhero, although I'm not completely against that approach, I think his appearance needs to be tame enough to compliment the Snake character, not steal the show.

I tried to revert the shape back to the bipedal Alligator style, as opposed the distinctly humanoid appearance of the image above. Although they problem I was having by this point was that it appeared to friendly. Whilst the character is somewhat dim witted, and this could be perceived as friendly and charming, he still needs a degree of threat in his appearance. Structurally, though, it felt as if it was heading in a good direction.

In this image, I toughened him up a bit more, whilst still attempting to retain the basic structure as before. I'm pretty happy with the direction this image is heading, although there is still something missing. I think the missing element will hopefully crop up when I further delve into the character and his relationship with the Snake, and a lot of his design will come from what the Snake requires him to do. With this in mind, I drafted up a couple of sketches showing the basic character in motion, as the Alligator would be required to be fairly agile (although this does go against the general perception of Alligators being fairly motionless until they have to strike).

I really enjoy the motion in these sketches, and it made me realise that the Alligator's devious nature could presented as effectively through the flamboyance of his actions and movements as much as his general, physical appearance. The flexibility in the character is definitely something I want to retain and I feel it also correlates nicely with the flexibility of the Snake that the Alligator is playing surrogate to. A nice connection between master and servant.
As always, any critique, feedback and advice is greatly appreciated!

Friday, 26 October 2012

Character Design: This Week's Lesson 23/10/12

This Week's Lesson
This week, Justin continued to teach us how the underpinning foundations of a character can significantly affect the perception of that character from an audience members perspective.
We were each given an established character (in my case, DangerMouse) and our task was to change the intended perception of that character, by simply adjusting the shapes that the character is constructed from. Below are my attempts at altering DangerMouse.

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Character Biography: The Merchant

Name: Known Predominantly as the Merchant, his true identity is unknown, as he is constantly acting as somebody else
Place of Birth: Unknown
Residence: Never settles down, he is constantly moving from town to town
Date of Birth: Late 1800's, roughly the same age as Sheriff Eli, give or take a few years
Species: Rattlesnake
Height: 6ft 2in
Weight: 195lbs, Tall and Thin
Hair Colour: No Hair
Scales: Patterned, hues of yellow, red and brown, although they have been known to change, along with the rest of his appearance
Eye Colour: Piercing Yellow
General Appearance: Dapper, his success is reflected in his attire. He has a penchant for coattails and polished shoes. Although, in order to constantly remain incognito, his appearance changes from town to town. His identity lasts as long as the con he is pulling at the time. Generally, his scales appear to have a dull shine to them, along with a slight transparency
Relationships: Any relationships he develops are fleeting, being that he is constantly travelling from town to town. He doesn't make friends, so to speak. They are more contacts, or clients, more than anything. He will be a 'best friend' to anyone, providing they bring with them a tempting job offer, or anything else he desires, but he has no problem stabbing them in the back for his own gains, or once they have served their purpose.
Friends: The highest bidder, or anyone else with a tempting offer or something he desires
Enemies: Local law enforcement, the competition, just about anyone, given the right offer from the right person
Educational History: Beyond basic reading and writing, his education typically comes from watching cheats, liars and swindlers, and more importantly, avoiding where they've gone wrong
Employment History: He has been cheating people out of their money from a young age, although his methods became more spectacular and considerably more devious when he reached his mid-teens. After years of cheating simple individuals, he realised he was not going to get anywhere unless he started cheating the right people. He moved onto cheating gangs, the wealthy and entire towns, travelling constantly and regularly changing his appearance so that before they realised he'd cheated them, the character he was playing was long gone
Skills: He is a master of disguise, literally shedding his skin and changing his identity, escaping any trouble heading his way. He is a skilful con man, effectively convincing his victims with grand scenes of spectacle and amazement, much like a magician.
Phobias: He is naturally fearful of Mongoose, after discovering that of all the people he attempts to swindle, they were the only ones that managed to see through his facade
Bad Habits: His arrogance leads him to underestimate many of his victims, effectively ruining his plans in a few cases.
Quirks: He tends to lick his lips when he spies a potential victim, and he speaks with somewhat of a vaudevillian inflection when he is in character
Best Qualities: He has none.
Worst Qualities: He is devious, sly and relentlessly cruel, with a unshakable taste for money
Morality/Ethics: His moral code lies with himself and him alone. He doesn't care much for others, unless their existence benefits him in some way

Friday, 19 October 2012

Character Biography: The Sheriff

This is a preliminary biography for my Sheriff character. This is subject to change as the story and character is altered, but this is my starting point for drafting up designs.

Names: Sheriff Eli Johnson, Sheriff Johnson, Eli
Place of Birth: Leoneville
Residence: (Town TBC)
Date of Birth: Late 1800's
Species: Mongoose
Height: 6ft, 2in
Weight: 220lbs, Predominantly Muscle
Hair/Fur Colour: Light Brown, Blonde in Places
Hair/Fur Length: Roughly 3in's, at It's Longest
Eye Colour: Brown/Green
Handedness: Right Handed
Appearance: Typically well presented, but not to the point where he looks as if he doesn't work his fingers to the bone every day. A balance of professionalism and ruggedness
Relationships: His reputation in town, before the attack, was shining. He was loved and respected throughout town, not to mention feared by many. After the attack, he was shunned. His reputation was tarnished and all trust he had gained in town was lost, just like that.
Educational History: He received no more an impressive education than anyone else in town, but never the less, it is safe to say he has above average intelligence. Regardless, he is known to call on the services of others when his brainpower alone will not suffice.
Employment History: Before he became Sheriff, he worked as a simple store hand since he turned seventeen. After assisting the local law enforcement in stopping a robbery at the store in which he worked, he enlisted as a deputy. After the previous Sheriff retired, Eli was promoted, by order of the townsfolk, and he maintained that position of power for ten years. Currently, he has been stricken of his position, cast into the slums of town after he failed to prevent a bandit attack that could have been avoided.
Skills: He is known for his ability to handle a gun and his impressive people skills, working efficiently as a negotiator.
Phobias: He is fearful and distrustful of snakes. He also has a distaste for heights and deep water, but being in the desert, he doesn't come across that large a body of water too often.
Bad Habits: He has a tendency to brush things aside, ignoring any potential danger unless it is staring him in the face. This has lead to him being unprepared in many situations, but he doesn't seem to learn (another bad habit of his).
Quirks: He whistles when he's concentrating or feeling confident, which has been known to give him away in the odd game of Texas Hold 'Em or two.
Best Qualities: His unshakeable dedication, unstoppable confidence and stunning charisma.
Worst Qualities: His unintentionally lackadaisical attitude towards situations and the minute arrogance that comes with it.
Morality/Ethics: He has a strong belief in justice and looking out for those who cannot look out for themselves.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Character Design: Initial Plot Concept

This is the initial story idea that I have developed to explain the intentions of my characters. It is incredibly long-winded at the moment, and very unrefined, but it is hopefully a jumping off point for greater, more interesting ideas to come. As always, any comments and critique are welcomed and encouraged!

Initial Plot Concept
A bandit attack strikes a small town, but the Sheriff's disbelief in the legitimacy of the attack leaves the Townsfolk unprepared and vulnerable. The town is overwhelmed and all supplies and valuables in the town are either stolen or destroyed.
The Sheriff, under the orders of the furious Townsfolk, is stricken of his badge and exiled to the darker side of town, where crime and corruption are rife, not to mention escalated poverty and minute income. During the town's period of recovery, a Merchant swings by in an elaborate and ornately decorated     wagon. The Merchant is offering the Townsfolk a cure-all for any ailments and illness that they may be afflicted with. Conveniently, just days after the attack. The cure-all is sold under the name "Miracle Snake Oil". The attack left the Townsfolk with no medical supplies or any other means of healing their wounds and curing their sick. Believing that the Oil truly is a miracle, they gather up all their remaining funds and queue up day after day, to buy Oil from the Merchant.
After a month of consistent, repeated consumption of the Oil, the Townsfolk notice that, contrary to the claims of the Merchant, many of them are in fact, becoming more and more unwell.
A young Professor of Medicine is staying in a town nearby, where he catches word of the mysterious illness in a town over. Curious, he visits the town in order to see if he can catch a break and make anything of the mystery.
The Professor's investigation begins in the slums of the town, where he happens upon the washed up Sheriff, pining over his former career. The Sheriff has done some investigating of his own during his time in the slums, and brings to the Professor an interesting observation; Why is it that in the more wealthy part of town, sickness is rampant and yet, in the considerably more deprived and typically, disease ridden slums, the inhabitants are, for the first time, at an all time high in regards to their health?
The Sheriff and the Professor realise that there is a distinct correlation between the Oil and the wealthier townsfolk. The wealthier Townsfolk are the ones that are more paranoid about their wellbeing, and more importantly, can afford to buy copious amounts of the Merchant's Oil. The poorer townsfolk, on the other hand, cannot afford it and therefore, their contact with it is significantly reduced.
The Professor takes a sample of the Oil for analysis and discovers that the Oil is not so much a cure-all as a kill-all. The Oil is a deadly poison at takes effect over an extended period of town, as to lower any immediate suspicion towards the vendor.
The Sheriff and the Professor reveal the Merchant's deadly secret to the rest of the Townsfolk, but given the Sheriff's reputation, they are unconvinced. The Merchant continues to sell his wares through the week, until suddenly, his true self begins to show through his facade.
During a demonstration, the Merchant, completely unawares and unintentionally, begins to shed his skin. Quite literally. The Merchant's true identity is revealed to the town.
The Merchant is revealed to be land baron working with the same bandits that attacked the town almost a month prior. He has been gradually poisoning the town in order to clear all inhabitants and poach the land, gaining access to an oil well underneath and consequently, gaining a considerable amount of money.
The Merchant flees town, with the former Sheriff in pursuit close behind. Meanwhile, the Professor attempts to formulate an antidote that can be distributed to the Townsfolk and legitimately cure the town.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Character Design: Researching Anthropomorphism

I'm beginning my research by investigating the general application of anthropomorphism in popular culture. 
Anthropomorphism is defined as,
"The attribution of human characteristics or behaviour to a god, animal, or object"
As defined above, the word applies to both animals and objects, so I have gathered examples of both, as found throughout television and film.

Examples of Animals with Human Characteristics

Examples of Objects with Human Characteristics

The ways in which animals and objects become anthropomorphised varies dramatically between each of the examples. 
The change can be subtle, with the animal or object retaining it's physical attributes, but inheriting a human personality, as seen in the case of Luxo Jr. In other cases, the change can be drastic, with the character becoming more human than animal or object. Examples of this can be seen with Lion-O in ThunderCats and B1 and B2 from Banana's in Pyjamas. The transformation from their initial forms is considerably more human than their original form would ever normally allow (Walking, talking bananas. Really?).
When it comes to creating and developing my own characters, I've got a couple of choices to make before I can get anywhere. Will my characters be animals or objects that inherit human personality traits and characteristics? How dramatic will their transformation be? Will they be more humanoid than animal/object? How well will the source animal/object fit in a Western-themed scenario?

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Character Design: Initial Thoughts

For our Character Design project, we have been given the task of designing a cast of three characters, based around two randomly allocated themes. The two words I received were Anthropomorphic and Western.
Below, I have created a mindmap based on my immediate thoughts and reactions to my words. It consists of my own knowledge at this time, just to get a quick idea of what I was already familiar with surrounding anthropomorphism and westerns. The mindmap will grow over the week, as I research further around the two themes.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Mudbox: My First Sculpture

Although this was the second of our Mudbox lessons, I didn't take my sculpting particularly seriously in lesson one. This time around, I made a conscious effort to sculpt a moderately believable person from the default Head shape.
I'm pretty happy with the outcome and comfortable enough with the software at this stage to push things a little further in lesson three. 
I can't wait!

Presenting: Harlequin Productions

For our Narrative group project, we have founded the studio, Harlequin Productions. If you could follow our studio blog at, peruse our posts and leave any critique you have (seriously! tell us anything!), we would greatly appreciate it.
Thank you!