Wednesday 30 January 2013

Character Design - Examples

‘A well designed character has the following characteristics:
  • It will be immediately recognizable and relatable
  • It will have a recognizable shape or silhouette
  • It will reflect the personality of the character
  • It will have the physical attributes that complement the content of the story
  •  It will be able to complete the actions that are required by the script
  •  It will be interesting to watch’

(Alexander, Schumer and Sullivan 2008 P.102)

‘In The Incredibles, Elastigirl is not just an interesting design for a superhero; she stretches because she is a mother and must always multitask. Dash is fast because he is a little boy with so much pent-up energy. Violet disappears and has a protective shield because she is in adolescence. Elastigirl is organic and loose in the joints. Dash is solid and low to the ground with strong legs. Violet is slim and has hair that perpetually hangs over her large and watchful eyes.’
(Alexander, Schumer and Sullivan 2008 P.108)

The significance about this is its application to the narrative and to the characters goal. In The Incredibles, Mr Incredible cannot be himself, a superhero, because of the past mistakes made by superheros has outlawed them from acting as such. The theme, according to Alexander, Schumer and Sullivan (2008 P.21) is ‘A Herd sticks together … Mr Incredible cannot work alone … strengths, weaknesses make us whole. Mr. Incredible must learn that he needs help to be a successful superhero.’ It is his family unit that offers security and success, learning this is his emotional arc that is required for the narrative. His family have designed traits that are specific to their role within that unit and ultimately Mr Incredibles success. Each of their roles within the narrative has informed their traits, physical topology and their gestural personality.   

The advert shows all of these qualities mentioned, whilst also conveying the initial exposition of the narrative. The design of everyday objects (car and office space for example) compared to Mr Incredible further aid the narrative by being more obstacles to overcome. Note how his house is big enough to accommodate him, thus aiding the feelings of isolation from the rest of the world. 

‘Other ways to find a unique character design is to look at the characters’ goals and the conflicts they must confront. In The Triplets of Belleville, Madame Souza’s goal is to save her kidnapped grandson, Champion, from the French Mafia. She is small and old. Many obstacles are put in her way: an ocean, lack of money, the city of Belleville, and the Mafia. You would think that this would be enough. But Sylvan Chomet designed her with one leg shorter than the other. She wears one elevated shoe. Because of this, she can move only slowly. There is, in her physical design, an impediment to her goal: to quickly rescue her grandson. It is not enough that she is small and old. We expect grandmothers to be small and old. Her foot makes her different and memorable. The first time we see her we see her foot. It creates intrigue and we want to know more about her.’
(Alexander, Schumer and Sullivan 2008 P.108)

With the second video, i think it ties in narrative arc into an end wonderfully by using her main impediment as the characteristic that helps her achieve objective, and shows how the design and narrative can aid each other. 


ALEXANDER, K., SCHUMER, G., and SULLIVAN, K. 2008. Ideas for the Animated short: finding and building stories. Oxford: Focal Press

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