Cutout Characters and Heirarchy Overlap Issues

I have been rolling through a rather complex character and just cannot get the peg heirarchy to do what I need.

My character has many pivot points and all of them work excellently as we’ve intended, but for the life of me I cannot figure out how to properly stack a hip/pelvis with a chest… then make the furthest arm swing behind the pelvis/matching hip AND keep it’s pivot point attached to the chest. Imagine someone facing right and swinging their left arm down. When it comes in contact with the pelvis, the forearm/hand pokes through the pelvis while the bicep stays behind the chest. It’s not natural but with the rotation points and trying to keep a natual heirarchy I can’t get it to work correctly.

In the heirarchy below the *1, *2 represents the shoulder relationship while the *3,*4 represents the pelvis/leg that should appear in front of the left arm. I need some way to keep the *1 arm ‘attached’ to the chest’s shoulder *2 while still allowing it to pass behind the *3,*4.

Am I missing something fundamental here? No matter what I do, I end up breaking the body’s fundamental joints, etc. If I shove the arm to the complete back of the stack, it’s no longer attached to the shoulder and moving at the hip will not allow the arm to move with that motion freely. Puzzling.

P = Peg D = Drawing

P_character motion
----P_full upper body
--------P_eye ears
------------P_right pupil
--------------D_right pupil
------------P_left pupil
--------------D_left pupil
------------P_right eye
--------------D_right eye
------------P_left eye
--------------D_left eye
----------P_left ear
------------D_left ear
----------P_right ear
------------D_right ear
------P_upper body
--------P_right arm
----------D_right bicep
----------P_right forearm
------------D_right forearm
--------P_chest *2
--------P_left arm *1
----------D_left bicep
----------P_left forearm
------------D_left forearm
--------P_right leg
----------D_right hip
----------P_right knee
------------D_right shin
------------P_right foot
--------------D_right foot
--------D_torso *3
--------P_left leg *4
----------D_left hip
----------P_left knee
------------D_left shin
------------P_left foot
--------------D_left foot

I’ve taken a little time to show some screens illustrating the core problem.

These are the character pegs:

This is the character’s upper body group:

This is the character’s lower body group:

This shows a normal view of the character:

This shows the result of rotating a shoulder:

As you can see in the shots, my intention is to maintain a relationship between the left shoulders and chest, while allowing them to swing behind the pelvis. I can’t figure out how to get both of those things to occur without one negating the other.

You have created your character and arranged the parts hierarchally in the time line which is correct. The problem some times is not with this arrangement but with the fact that all the character’s body parts are all at the same front -back location (the “Z” plane is the same) Without changing the actual attached heirarchy created in the time line you can adjust body part’s front-back position which should help your situation.

You can move elements back and forth along the Z axis while in Camera View. Useful keyboard shortcuts are [Alt] + [Down Arrow] to bring the element one increment closer to the camera, and [Alt] + [Up Arrow] to push the element one increment back, away from the camera. Using these shortcuts in Camera View will move elements in .01 increments forward or backward in the “Z” direction. I hope this is helpful to you as this is the approach to adjusting the stacking order in addition to what can be done in the time line. -JK

I considered this for a bit and didn’t attempt on a hunch… then came back and tried it after your reply. My hunch appeared to be correct. Peg heirarchy overrides ZOrder in unrelated peg groups. The problem appears to be that the arms exist in a peg (P_FullUpperBody->P_UpperBody) that is in front of the hips (P_Pelvis) group. Which presents condundrum…

In a perfect world, this would be the 'stack’

right arms
right leg
left leg
left arms

I can do this stack in toonboom, but because of peg heirarchy I cannot connect the left arms to the chest as the pelvis/leg group gets in the way. My peg heirarchy is equally as important as the stack order so I’m pretty much stuck with a catch 22 here as I also need rotational movement at the joint between the pelvis and chest.

Ok… all it always takes is writing it out in public then I see my goof.

By grouping the pelvis in the upper body group, I can get the desired stack and swinging arm effect. I can also freely rotate the pelvis from the chest. I can make a character sit effortlessly.

The only bad part of this type of grouping design is that I cannot easily make the character bend at the waist to pick up something. Now that the pelvis is part of the chest group, attempting to move the chest’s pivot point (intending to swing the chest, arms and head down) rotates the pelvis and legs as well, so I pretty much move the character in a clockwise rotational turn, feet off the floor.

I order to pull off a ‘pickup’ it now requires two simultaneous rotations. I have to 1) rotate the whole character then 2) re-rotate the pelvis back to put the feet on the floor.

It works… but it’s a bit hacky.


I get the sense that you are trying to do movements that are not possible in a single POV rig. The chest and pelvis movement such that the arms rotate in front of the pelvis is not practical. You can cheat with a little skewing to turn the character but not that big a rotation with out a different perspective. You need a different rig for that POV. For this 3/4 rig you want :

right arm
right leg
left arm
left leg

Remember this is a 2D puppet not a 3D puppet.

You need to build multiple rigs if you want multiple POVs (front, side, 3/4, etc.) as the body rotates, perspective, forshortening and other conditions kick into play. I may be wrong but you sound like you are trying to turn a 2D puppet at the waist right out of the picture plane without different drawings to show the rotation. -JK

The bending at the waist is down… no 3d rotation. In any case it’s working now.