Friday, November 7, 2014

117B - Character Design Project (How to Train Your Dragon)

So! This is some pretty recent work for my visual development class. For our character design portion of the class, we were to pick an animated feature film, design a new character in it, and then composite that character into a still from the movie.

The choice of movie was rather easy for me; How to Train Your Dragon has always been close to my heart, and I decided to go back to the source material (Cressida Cowell's original books) with a character that is dear to the hearts of many who read the books as children:

Original drawing by Cressida Cowell, excepted from her book series
Camicazi is the heir of another tribe in the books (the Bog-Burglars), and is one of Hiccup's best friends. She is described as a tough, headstrong girl, extremely capable as a thief and swordfighter but somewhat overconfident. Like Hiccup, she is the smallest in her tribe (that also consists of large, stocky vikings). Though she has a general disdain for men, she seems to have complete faith in Hiccup and is one of the few people who do not underestimate him.

Unfortunately, Camicazi did not make the cut for the film, as she was retconned in favor of a new character (in the form of Astrid who is cool but comparatively very, very vanilla to Camicazi), and while this worked out fine in the most part, I do feel that Dreamworks might have missed out on a character with a very vibrant personality.

Fortunately for me, I am a big fan of characters with a lot of spunk, so when the idea of designing her into the look of the movie popped into my head, I couldn't help but leap in on it.

The overall challenges of this project were to:
1- Capture her spirit of haughtiness in my drawings
2- Style her to be on model with the production style developed by Nico Marlet and Simon Otto
3- Visually fit her into the movie without making her seem out of place

The first two images are a collection of early exploratory sketches. The overall outfit didn't go through much change, especially since the movie already set a pretty clear framework as to how the "fashion" of the movie worked. I noticed that Cressida's drawings of Camicazi often featured a sort of sash that she wore across her chest and torso (much in the similar fashion as a messenger bag strap). I felt that a sash would feel extremely out of place in the setting of the feel but I wanted to keep a similar shape in, so I gave her a satchel with a similar shape. Afterall, where else would she keep all of her stolen underwear?

 An observation I made from doing shape silhouette studies of the teen character lineup in the film was the fact that all of the characters sans Hiccup and Astrid wore viking helmets that clearly differentiated the forms on their heads. The helmetless fashion of Hiccup and Astrid set them apart, and I felt that this was an appropriate design decision for Camicazi as well.

Defining a clear silhouette for Cami to distinguish her from Astrid and Ruffnut was especially important, and I figured the best way to go about this would be with her hair, as it is already a prominent feature in Cressida's original drawings. However, one of the crits I got from my professor early on was the fact that her hair shape was too clean, giving her a sort of "trolls" kind of look that made her really ugly. To avoid this, I ended up looking at examples of viking braids and the approach Pixar took on Merida's hair in Brave so I could break up the silhouette.

This is an expression sheet that I did to feel out the character's personality once she had a more on-model look. I ended up referencing the expression on the top left in the final composite.

Here is the final design of the character in a front-side-back turnaround format. After deliberating with some peers and my professors, I decided to remove the pearl necklace she had in favor of a dragon teeth necklace; pearls as a material do not show up in the film at all (and would definitely feel out of place in the final setting of the film), and rendering the reflections of the pearls would have given me more trouble than it is worth. It is a bit of a compromise, but one that I feel works better for the overall goal of the project.

A prop sheet with some belt emblem ideation. Explanations are on the page.

Texture call out for my own (and a potential modeler's) reference. How To Train Your Dragon is an EXTREMELY textural film. Because my turn-around is not rendered out to a hyperrealistic degree, I felt a texture call-out sheet was necessary as reference so I know what kind of material to render certain areas of her outfit in the final painting process.

The shot that I chose to composite her into. I felt like this would be a fun shot to choose in context, as as during this scene Hiccup is saying "Pain. Love it!" after all the other teens are talking on how they want to get injuries from dragon training. Also, that face is pretty funny.

And the final composite!