Tumble Loop (2 of 6) – Character Design

Tumble Loop (2 of 6) – Character Design

Because Tim and I are running out of Cyanide and Happiness shorts to post two cool dudes, we’re going to do a series of behind the scenes posts about our ‘traditional’ animation process. It’s something we wanted to blog about because usually when I tell people how long animation takes, they spit their drink into my face and eyes and call me a stupid liar (which I’m not). This series of posts uses 10 second animation we made for LoopDeLoop as a demonstration of this process.  So remember that all this thought and planning was to make 10 SECONDS! Tim’s already made a really impressive post about painting backgrounds which you should definitely check out. Anyway, onward to; Character Design!

There’s a million things that have already been said about character design by people far more skilled in it than me. My own policy is that the most appealing character isn’t always the best drawn character. I can’t tell you how many projects have been abandoned because I was too ambitious with an overly complicated character design. I usually find I have to refine the character to be as simple as possible and use a combination of interesting shapes. There are a few things I try to keep in mind when I design a character; Can I draw it again easily? Can the character express whatever emotion it needs to express to help the piece and does it look appealing? Also, does the character give the animator the opportunity animation principles?


After I’ve found some reference material, I start playing around with shapes and ideas. Every step in the animation process comes back to how you want the audience to react to the piece. Originally, when designing this character, I was designing thin, silly looking characters. The more I thought about it, I realized the comedy of the piece would work better with a confident macho character. If the character is too tall and thin, the audience might expect a piece of physical comedy, however a masculine, broad and confident character will help keep the joke a suprise.

The shapes I use are also important because I want to redraw the same character from several angles, and if you have more than one animator it’s especially important that your drawing are similar in style, otherwise different shots and movements will look out of place. The best way to prepare for this is to create what’s called a Model Sheet, or a Turnaround sheet, like the one below.

Once the character has been designed we can start thinking about how the character will act and move in the scene. We’ll talk about this a bit more in the next blog entry though!

– Levi