Thursday, 3 November 2011

Ox Character Design

I started by doing some sketches of Oxes in order to get an understanding of the physicality of an Ox.

They have a very distinctive horn shape which very gradually curves down, along with a very flat and hunched back.  The hunched back can really be exaggerated; particularly as the character will be carrying a Cat and Rat.

I initially had the idea of portraying the Ox as a cool, calm character who is happy to compromise.  In the bottom image, I experimented with the easy going facial expressions and the sense of understanding that the character would convey.
 However, as the character development went on, he become less of a "cool" character and more of a simpleton with a vacant expression.  This is mainly because the Ox is essentially not a very bright character for letting the Cat and Rat travel with him in the first place, and the Rat eventually outsmarts and deceives the Ox at the last moment.

In the next two drawings, I drew the character with a more vacant expression.  This may seem static and lifeless but that is almost the whole point of the drawing.

I also started to make his back more rigid and taller to exaggerate the appearance of the character, and so that it would be suitable for carrying the Cat and Rat.

In this next drawing, I tried to consider how this character should look when submerged in water.  This is fairly fundamental as the character will be in the water for a whole scene.  I would need to make sure that the character's head was high enough in relation to his back so that it would still be above the level of the water.  It was also suggested to me by team members that his nose and mouth should be further out of the water.
I was not fully satisfied with the look of the Ox at this point so I decided to go back into the facial expressions and push it further.  As you will see in the next two images, I started playing with exaggerating the size of the eyes and snout.  I was working at making the character look more warped and detached from reality.

 However, when I showed these to Lily, the director, she asked for a more cute design.  I interpreted this as being a character that wasn't particularly sharp but that you could still sympathise with; particularly when he is deceived by the Rat.  Making this character cute and appealing would be fairly challenging so I decided to look for reference.  Eventually, I decided to look at the more rubber dose animation of the 1920s and 1930s, particularly the VERY early Looney Tunes and Merry Melodies.

A lot of the earlier Looney Tunes and Merry Melodies used to have quite cute and appealing animals that would be exploited or manipulated in various ways, like in the cartoon below.
After studying this animation, I decided to apply this style of character design to the Ox.  I made his eyes and snout more like that of a rubber dose cartoon character from that era and I think it works well; he has a very vacant and not particularly bright facial expression, but his face is a lot more versatile.  He can have a blank expression, but he can also look shocked or disappointed if need be.
Another touch that I have added to this character design is that his horns now simply droop down either side and only curl at the very end.  Rather than being a sharp, powerful character with quite sharp, assertive horns; he is a dopey pushover and I thought drooping horns would reflect this.  I have retained the quite exaggerated, hunched back that I was working on in earlier designs.

I think I have settled on this concept, so I have done another variation of this character design with the Ox standing at another angle.
I also started doodling facial expressions for this Ox design and I think that this is going to be a really good design for expressing a wide range of facial expressions.  He will mostly have quite blank and almost dumb expressions, but I'm not afraid to really push them out and I have some very exaggerated smiling expressions and sad expressions.

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