New Cartoon and New Character Designs

After taking a couple of weeks off from animating I was surprised at how eager I was to get back to it. It felt good drawing my regular characters.

Despite this, I noticed something while working on a previous episode. My recent cartoon dimension changes made my thick-lined characters seem crowded on the stage. In addition, now that my backgrounds have more consistently included color, the characters did not seem to pop quite as much as they used to.

Sounds like a character redesign is in order!

While working on the most current cartoon (click to watch), I started with a character that I don’t have a ton of templates for, Will.

Here’s a before and after look at Will (please disregard the jagged aliased edges, I exported the image improperly):

The biggest adjustments, from a design standpoint are:

Beyond those changes, I was also excited to try a new animating approach. I had always done my lip synching very early in the animation process, thinking that it was a chore that I wanted to get out of the way. Unfortunately I think my final animations suffered from talking-head syndrome, where not enough effort was put into body language strong key poses.

With this cartoon I did all of the animation prior to the lip sync. As Will “shoots at the pigeons” and laughs like a child, I did not have the crutch of the lip sync to fall back on. I wanted the body language to be able to communicate the story 100%, without the crutch of the lip sync. I think the final animation is stronger for it, and I’m more proud of the results.

Anyway, that’s my though process. I welcome comments, as I’m always looking to improve.

Still waiting for the 'toon to load, but I like hearing about the changes to your work flow. I can relate to what you’re saying about talking head syndrome, and I’ve been working to get away from that. Or thinking about it for a while until my most recent piece.

I dig the new style changes! One thing I’ve been trying lately is to draw outlines with the pencil tool after ruffing in brush on a separate layer, then convert lines to brush strokes, simplify, and tweak ‘em with the contour editor. Keeps it lookin’ smooth, includes thick’n’thin lines, and works faster than drawing with brush first.

I like your outlines and styles, and I’ve always admired your ability to make a character move. Rock on.

Nice stuff. I might go against the grain here, but I find the original quite charming!

Making a character pop in front of a fully colored background is tough. That’s probably the biggest issue I’ve been dealing with recently when planning out my very, very short animations. It was a total disaster with my very first one, so I pretty much trashed it altogether and started from scratch again. Now I’m basically designing everything first and seeing how they look against each other before I even start storyboarding. The thing that’s made the most difference, for me, is keeping the shading and highlighting of the background very very simple and basic, while making them a bit more detailed in the characters. That helps a lot. But I don’t really have much experience with animation anyway. This is something that I’ve just started in the last few months and I still have a long way to go.

But as far as the talking head syndrome thing goes, I might be able to help, because I’ve been writing for a bunch of years now, mostly screenplays, and one of the first things I was taught was: if you can show it rather than say it, go that route, because 90% of the time it will be much more entertaining that way. Go for the body language instead of the expository dialogue. And remember this too: you don’t always have to actually show the character talking while they’re talking. You can cut to reaction shots of whoever is listening, or close ups of anything they might be doing with their hands or feet or whatever, or show whatever it is they’re talking about in a kind of flashback or daydream sequence. There’s a bunch of ways to get around it, you just have to do a little brainstorming.

But I have to agree with stickybullseye. Even though that newer character looks really good, because it does, that old one looks cool too. I wouldn’t get rid of him altogether. Just maybe use him for other types of stuff.

Hi Cal!

Love ur Flying rats! Interesting charater u got there… He feels nice and u have manage to find the right feeling with him. He feels alive! I Checked the other anim on the page u hade there… the pet store. Love it!)

Would like to see more about ur new character… i suppose u need to give him a name too… now when he is out there and playing to much GTA!)

Keep up with the good work!

I appreciate all the great comments guys. Seveneyes, you’re right about needing to be more creative with framing dialog.

I still have a lot to learn, but I’m enjoying the process!