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3D Character Creation
Class 08: Character Design Influences


  • Character Design Influences
  • Fantasy Model Project

Class 08 seems sketchy

Character Design Influences

Character Driven Stories:

The protagonist is an interesting and highly developed personality that is in the driver’s seat. Atypical person in a typical situation (good for a series).

Situational Driven Stories:

Situational/story driven films usually put ordinary characters in extraordinary predicaments where situations drive the narrative.

Cliche Characters:

There is a phenomenon where the same design and story is repeated again and again.

These characters look similar but also have the same story:

Awkward clumsy kid who’s dad was the best at what is important where they live
Discover a magical creature that is the antithesis of what they believe
In secret creature teaches/gives them the ability to appear the best ever
By the end of the film the two change everyone’s minds about their prejudices.

Game Non-Character Stories:

Games have characters with no character.
A pretty interesting (and humorous) article on the Devolution of Character Designs

Personality Stereotypes:

You can use cliched characters when you don’t have time to develop novel ones.

Cameron spent all his time developing the world of Avatar and none on character development. Makes for an interesting ride but not story.

Visual Cues (symbols):

Instead of words or explanation certain symbols are recognized by everyone and can have an instant impact.

Visual Cues (proportions):

Where you place your proportions can obviously say a lot about your character.
This can be pretty stereotypical but useful if there is not a lot of screen time, like secondary characters.

Genotype, Phenotype:

Many things can influence a character and can have some drastic affects.
For instance: the pattern on a horse is dictated by its mother’s mitochondrial DNA and by influences while in the womb.
Genotype is an organism’s full hereditary information, even if not expressed.
Phenotype is an organism’s actual observed properties.


Males were typically leads in early cartoons (animation was pretty sexist). Females were generally just males with different clothing.
Betty Boop was the first real female lead, not made to twin a male. Grim Natwick, from Fleischers designed her to have a mature woman’s body and a literal baby’s face (combination of innocence and experience made her a sensation. Note the “line of beauty” (‘s’ curve).
Bows, skirts, eyelashes, lipstick, etc. is pretty generic.
Try using poses instead to express sexuality. You will notice that guys walk lumbering, up and down, and parallel. A female will be more level, piscine, and in a straight line.

Sex (angles):

You can tell Perdita and Pongo because they use subtle differences in shape and angles. Pongo has larger, bulkier features. He has a more square clumsy approach. Perdita has more delicate fine features and thinner mass.
Prince Eric has more squarish features. The jaw and clothing have a lot of 90 degree angles. Ursula has more fine features. Notice her wavy angles and fine features.


People’s posture change as well. A lot has to do with their confidence and gravity.
A baby will walk and move like a clumsy quadruped. They are very ambitious but not coordinated. Their limbs are bowed and short.
A toddler is has a huge head still (1/4) and is constantly wobbling to keep themselves erect. They have a high center of gravity and together with diapers create a waddling walk.
Children are very agile and create violent actions. They are very light and very confident.
Teens are awkward and less confident. They will have a sunken posture. Parts of their bodies are growing at different rates and this creates a clumsiness and varying proportions. Typically you will see large hands and feet but anything goes.
Adults are again confident. They push against gravity (most boring).
The elderly have a hard time fighting gravity. Their features literally look like they are melting. Nose, ears, and jowls will all sag.

Age (proportions):

The proportions of a person can range a lot.
A newborn’s height is 3 heads tall. The eyes will be 1/3 from the bottom. The features are more delicate and small. Arms, legs, hands, and feet are relatively short and squat in comparison to the head and trunk.
In animation characters are often designed with baby proportions to make the characters cute and instantly appealing.

Time and Location:

You need to research your time period.
If you are making a period piece, you cannot have things that exist after your date (anachronism) but you can have something that existed before.
This is a great way to get some range in your silhouettes.
After time period you need to take the location of your characters into account.
You must do research. People can get highly offended if you get something wrong.

Time and Location (art):

You can use art that people recognize to place your film into a time and place. This also creates an interesting look.
Don’t tell me. Show me. Don’t have subtitles that say when and where your film is taking place, that is lazy.

Secret of Kells

Celtic Art


Chinese Ink Painting

Prince of Egypt

Egyptian Art

Fantasy Model Project

Fantasy Model Project

In this project students are encouraged to think “outside the box” and create something truly unique. A “blue sky” assignment. It doesn’t need to be “realistic” but should be “believable.” The final model should be appropriate for a special effect movie.

You will be graded on the following:
  • Geometry:
    •   There are no errors in the geometry. Few tris used. Appropriate polycount.
  • Topology:
    • Gridflow is strong. Topology follows architecture well. Should fully support quality deformation.
  • Texturing:
    • Well-crafted UV’s and elaborate materials are developed. Painted textures are fully developed with a strong sense of color theory. Fully “fleshed” out details are included.
  • Creativity & Craftsmanship:
    • Well structured, clean model. Novel, unique design.
Assignment Video Tutorials
You may watch the tutorial videos below to help you complete your assignment.

Assignment Video Tutorials

Wait! Before you go!

Did you remember to?

  • Read through this webpage
  • Submit the Fantasy Model Project