Character animation research

I’ve decided to animate to the nursery rhyme of “Three blind mice”. This nursery rhyme is aiming towards an older audience (18+) and the overall theme to the rhyme is horror. I felt there were a few questions I should ask myself before developing the characters:

Should the mice characters be drawn as anthropomorphic (given human features) or be drawn as mice?

Do I want to add the farmers wife into the story as well? If so should she be a shadow or a fully drawn figure?

What colours should be used?

What should the setting be? We’ve been asked in the brief to have a contemporary setting, but what is contemporary?

While designing the characters and background I had to mindful of the file size and overall style of the animation. I couldn’t decided to change the style of drawing half way through the animation.

I decided to tackle these questions by actually looking at cartoons. I looked at cartoons that weren’t only aimed at adults but were aimed for children and teenagers as well. I also had a look at the character designers history were their influences came from and what could have inspired them.

I first had a look at Peter Chung’s Aeon Flux.

aeon-flux.jpg

Compared with children’s cartoons (such as pepper pig) Aeon Flux takes a more darker tone. I believe that Aeon Flux would be aimed at people over 18 rather than children under 6 or for teenagers. The actual rating on the DVD states an M rating, meaning it is not recommended for children.

Like with all cartoons aimed for an older audience there is much more detail. The characters are well defined, basic shapes have not been used to define them.

I gathered this palette from the screen shots taken, after a while the colours began to look very similar. A darker colour palette has been used. The colours aren’t saturated but are rathered muted. Muted colours are perhaps to convey a darker tone.

colour_palette_aeon.jpg

Peter Chung is influenced by the work of Egon Schiele. It does show in his animations. Chung’s work is more lean than fat. The characters all have defining features and are tall, lanky people, much like Schiele’s work. Most animators including Disney have taken some influence from history. Disney had influences from the surrealist movement (such as Salvador Dali) and Chung has taken his influence from expressionist Schiele’s work.

A small history of Egon Schiele (1890 -1918):

Egon Schiele was a Vienna artist from the expressionist movement. Schiele studied at the Vienna Academy of fine arts in 1906 and the following year he met Gustav Klimt. Klimt took a special interest in Schiele’s work and tutored him from 1908. Klmit would often buy Schiele’s drawings and exchange work with him.

Schiele’s work actually sought to explore the deeper recesses of the human psyche, especially the sexual aspects. It was fair to say during Schiele’s time he was not without controversy. Unfortunately Schiele’s work had reached during the time of Nazi Germany. His stark style of expressionism with bold outlines, the characters on his canvas would be tall lanky people often nude was not considered traditional art. Death, sex and nudity were common themes in Schiele’s work. By 1912 he was arrested by Nazi Germany, convicted of offences against public morals and briefly imprisoned. After his marriage in 1915 his worked mellowed, taking a brighter and more sensuous form. It would have been interesting to how his worked evolved if he had not died from influenza in 1918.

Below is a comparison between Schiele’s work and Chung’s Aeon Flux.

comparsion_aeon.jpg

Another cartoon I came across was The Triplets of Belleville. A french full motion animated film, I had seen this movie when it first came out. Although I enjoyed it, and so did my friends children under the age of 14 seemed to find it boring. This lead me to believe The Triplets of Belleville is made for an older audience.

triplets.jpg

triplets2.jpg

The characters again are detailed. Even small details like wrinkles have not been over looked. Each character is satirical, they are made to look a particular way. The story pokes fun at stereotypes in today’s society. Such as the french obsession with the Tour de France and the American Obsession with food and weight (depicted as Belleville although it should be noted that Australia has a higher overweight ratio compared to America per capital). The film has very little dialogue concentrating more on actions, because the film is concentrating on actions the characters are stylised.

As an example the waiter in the film is made to bend over. Like a contortionists, since waiters in higher class establishments will do anything to make a customer happy. The body guards or goons are another example. They are made to look like one functioning unit rather than separate. They are made to look like they have melted in together, that one cannot live without the other.

The Triplets of Belleville is directed by Sylvain Chomet, a french director. Like Chung he has taken influences from the past and present. Chomet’s influences stem from french film making such as Jean Pierre Jeunet (Amelie, Delicatessen, City of Lost Children, A very long Engagement) and Marc Caro (Delicatessen). Both have a certain style that is instantly recognizable to them, however Chomet has borrowed their style for his own animation. It does show as the film progresses. Other influences noted in this film is betty boop and old 1930’s animations. As an example from the opening scenes :

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Like in Aeon Flux the colours are very muted. They are darker than what should be seen in a children’s cartoon. Another colour example:

colour_palette_triplets.jpg

As shown the colours again are muted. Only time the colours are bright in the film is when Champion the cyclist is growing up. However not all cartoons aimed for adults follow this colour scheme. Examples of this would be Drawn Together and South Park.

I decided then to have a look at children’s cartoons to really understand the difference. I noticed that cartoons aimed for children and teenagers take a slightly different tone. Programs aimed for children normally have a learning theme. They are meant to be educational. Oswald and Peppa pig have a friend learning theme. Like sharing is caring and it’s always nice to be nice to your neighbours. Other programs such as Lazy town has a fitness theme, along with a friendship theme.

Peppa Pig and Oswald are cartoons directly aimed at preschoolers (children under 5)

Oswald is voiced by Fred Savage his voice is actually the right tone for children. Not too loud or quite. The colours in Oswald are bright and saturated. Colours that young children are able to respond to. The characters in these cartoons are simple shapes. Not much detail has gone into them as observed in the below picture:

oswald.jpg

Oswald the octopus is basically a simple circle and his dog weenie is the shape of a hot dog. Something children would understand, incidentally I think the dog is based on a dachshund or a sausage dog.
The background again is simple shapes. However the shapes of the homes associate with the type of character. Another association children would understand. The houses are everyday shapes that can be found around the house.

background_oswald.jpg

Again with the colour palette taken from this background scene we can see only bright, saturated colours have been used. Shading has been kept to a minimum, unlike with the adult orientated cartoons.

oswald_colour_palette.jpg

Peppa Pig is a children’s show regularly seen on ABC kids. Like Oswald it is aimed for children under 5. Below are a few screen shots from an episode.

peppa_pig.jpg

Again the characters are simple shapes. There is hardly any shading to define the characters. Just simple blocks of colour. Each character is given their own shade. The colour never changes for each character or the costume. The type is fairly rounded like with Oswald. The designers also used shapes to describe the sex round for the male and triangle for the girls as obverse in a child’s drawings:

piirros3.jpg

Source: http://www.tpk.fi/netcomm/ImgLib/9/181/piirros3.jpg

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Cartoons for teenagers is a bit harder to describe. There are extremes for adults and children under 5 but it was quite hard to find cartoons that were just meant for teenagers and younger children (aged 10 – 13). I do believe that most cartoons are aimed at a larger audience. I don’t quite believe there is a set cartoon for teenagers aged 13 – 15. However that doesn’t mean that there are none, it’s just a little harder to tell which cartoons are aimed at this age group.

I believe that the cartoons shown on Nicktoons (http://nicktoonsnetwork.nick.com/) are probably the closet to this age group. A few on the disney channel such as Kim Possible, American Dragon, The Replacements, Dave the Barbarian etc are also aiming their cartoons towards that age group. However I found that there is a much wider age audience for these cartoons. I do believe that they are aiming for a teenage audience but have also achieved in gaining a tween and older audience. Through the colours, shapes and type used. None of their cartoons are cute looking, and some cartoon makers have gone for a anime (Japanese cartoon) feel. Anime also can range from teenagers to adults. Just like most cartoons aimed for a teenage audience they have reached a much wider audience. However I’m steering away from anime due to aiming for a different audience (Asian) while the cartoons I’m looking at are based for a western audience. This doesn’t mean a western audience doesn’t watch anime it just isn’t relevant to my target group.

I found that with Disney and nicktoons there is a certain style that is used when making cartoons. This style they use pretty much confirms if you are watching a nicktoons cartoon or a Disney cartoon. Same could be said about Warner Brothers.

However I found the age of the main character is a good indication on who the intended audience is for. Like with Kim Possible the main character is 15. Dave the barbarian the main character is 15. Hey Arnold! the main character was 13. With the cartoon below Cornell and Bernie the main character Bernie is in his early teens. I’ve noticed that it’s the same with cartoons aimed for children under 5 and adults as well. Again there are exceptions with Drawn Together(some characters are aged between 15 – 25) and South Park (the main characters being under 10 but the creators aimed for an older audience.) As with Oswald there is no real age for the characters but we are given an idea that the cartoon has child themes to it.

bernie.jpg

Cornell and Bernie is a french cartoon. Unlike children’s cartoons simple shapes have not been used. There many shapes that help define a character. Shading is used to define the characters, detail is used to define the characters but also the background. They’ve used an animation technique with patterns. The characters move but the patterns don’t, which makes an interesting effect. There are a range of colours used unlike in the adult and children cartoons as seen below:

bernie_colour_palette.jpg

Each cartoon for each age group as a distinct theme to it. I think I can continue on with the project with this research in hand. Not all of my questions have been answered but it’s at a level I am happy with. Since I am designing towards adults detail and shading can be added.

References:

http://mag.awn.com/index.php?article_no=1923

http://shop.nickjr.com/shopbyShow/index.jsp

http://www.hitentertainment.com/oswald/uk/intro.html

http://home.disney.go.com/tv/

http://nicktoonsnetwork.nick.com/

http://www.mbam.qc.ca/disney/index_en.html

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