Monday, January 16, 2006

A short Rant on Character

Countfunkula (yes, that is his real name) asked in the comments section whether Chippy and Loopus were new characters or if they were characters I'd been drawing for a while. The answer is that they are as old as that first strip. I wanted to try skribbl's 2x8 dialogue strip make-it-up-as-you-go experiment, and that was what came out. An easily irritated rabbit named "Chippy" and his dimwitted cigartette bumming freind the wolf, who later was named Loopus. When skribbl suggested I try to draw one a day, I decided that instead of sitting down and spending a few thousand hours figuring out who these characters are and what kind of world they live in the way we do at work, I'd develop them the way Charles Schulz said he developed the Peanuts characters. He started out with a group of kids, Charlie Brown, Lucy, etc. with no pre-concieved personalities in mind. Then, through gags and jokes, he let their personalities sort of develop organically. You can see this at work in the new Peanuts collections. The strip began in 1950, but the kid's personalties don't really emerge until about 1955. This is what I wanted to try with these guys.
Now I understand that we could never do this sort of thing in feature animation. You have to know your characters and their world fully so that you fully exploit their personalities for gags and business. However, I think that we sometimes OVER develop these guys. We sit for hours in meetings with the writers and the directors and the executives hashing out these characters, writing their personality traits on little cards. I think that sometimes, through this process, we kill the opportunity for the characters to suprise us. It would be nice to leave somethings up in the air so that we could discover them on boards.
Hey, it's just a thought.


Jim M. said...

Maybe a little off topic, but I think every animation exec. in the world should be forced to take long-form Improv. classes. I think it would help them to realize that making a film is not like building a skyscraper according to blueprints and known materials.

In a great Improv scene, you might step forward with an clear idea of your character's motivations, but the scene always falls flat you impose it upon the rest of the players. You have to "yes and" someone else's idea too along with your own.

Anyways, I don't remember how I found this blog, but as an aspiring story artist I hope you don't mind me commenting or attempting a dialogue..

countfunkula1 said...

Welcome aboard Jim! If aspiring and new voices were shut out of the process, it would be (in my opinion) the death of our industry. Otherwise, it's the same old thought processes rehashed over and over ad nauseum till it's ad nauseous.

Robo, as to your thoughts, what utter bullshit! ...awkard pause...KIDDING! You are so right on. It's true, there is way too much heaviness put on the damn COMEDY in our movies, until almost the slightest bit of freshness is beaten to a pulp. I do believe in knowing your characters, and their personalities, so you know what they will do, but there needs to be that room for spontaneity. Preach on brother! Keep hope alive!

Skribbl said...

Good thoughts RoboTKZ. I agree that we sometimes over analyze our characters in features but remember, the cards are for the execs so they can get it straight in their own head. If they tried to think of anything orignal on their own, then their heads would explode. We all know that storyboarding is a process that allows us to explore visually the characters and ideas that don't play in a script. The real work is done after a screening when you react to what you've seen. I wish that that they would just give notes after the screenings and not before. Which we get alot of these days.

Oh and welcome Jim m.!! Any thoughts are good thoughts! Keep 'em coming!