Saturday, April 1, 2017

Character Design: Drawing vs. Acting

A single drawing of a character in a standing pose isn't really a character design.

Bob Clampett's model sheet for Daffy Duck
That's why good model sheets have so many extreme poses and expressions. And that's why animators make the best character designers.

A character design is more about acting performance than it is about static design. Warner Bros. director Chuck Jones put it this way:
"When you have a drawing, you don't have a character. It's like seeing a photograph of an actor, and then saying, 'We're choosing this actor.' I don't understand these casting directors: what do you know when you look at him? OK, he looks the part, but until I see him move, I haven't any idea whether he is the part or not. If it's anything, it's the bodily style, bodily movement, gestures, mistakes that you make, that identify you."
"The same is true in an animated character: 'This is the first Bugs Bunny' has no meaning. It's how Bugs came to stand and move and act, and what his feelings were, and his thoughts, and what kind of personality he was."
From Chuck Jones: Conversations by Maureen Furniss.


Steve said...

This post to put this...legitimate. No Copro Lights? No Equihominids? No state of California banning watercolors due to a drought? No news of the Uffizi and other museums auctioning off their collections? Is the April Fool's joke really that there is no April Fool's joke?

James Gurney said...

Good memory, Steve. I thought about doing an April Fool's post in the grand tradition, but there's already so much Spoof-ology appearing every day online that the novelty of it may have worn off a bit.

Steve said...


Sigh -- like so many things in life, this can now be viewed in the rear view mirror as Fun While It Lasted. Thanks for such creative inventiveness in the Spoof-ology realm over the years.

Steven James Petruccio said...

One character drawing works for many illustrators but that's because , in our heads, we can see the movements and expressions when conceiving the least thats how it works for me. For animators, since more than one artist will be drawing the character, these character sheets are needed to ensure consistency. When I draw a character for a book, human or animal, I see it from different angles and movements in my mind and then draw it most of the time wth no model. These character guides are great way of seeing what goes on inside the illustrators head! Illustrators also know the backstory of their characters - what they eat, likes and dislikes...their personality - even though you may never see any of that specifically in a book. It's all there in case we need it.

Steven K said...

Great analysis of Chuck Jones at Every Frame a Painting:

I have to take issue with "animators make the best character designers." There are significant exceptions to this, starting with Peter de Seve, Claire Wendling, Stephen Silver and Carter Goodrich. Or, more historically, Jack Kirby, Alex Toth, and Doug Wildey.

James Gurney said...

Steven, those are all great artists, no doubt. But I think C.J.'s point is that no matter how great the drawing, you never have a full sense of the character until it gets into the hands of the animator, who can define the acting personality. Jones is saying it's like the difference between a celebrity photo and a screen test.

Lewis Clark said...

You have perfectly matched acts with drawing that’s it look more beautiful and you have done a great job.