Character design for animation
One of the most crucial steps of pre-production, in my opinion, is character design. It’s comparable to the casting process for a live-action film, where you’ll need to find the ideal actor to work with you before, during, and after the film’s premiere (Diffusion and promotion). More importantly, it’s who we’ll follow throughout the plot, regardless of the length of the short/film/series. If we make a poor decision, the piece’s success may be jeopardised, because the audience will be unable to form an emotional bond with the storey if they do not empathise with the characters. This is why it’s crucial to take your time and consider all of your options before making a decision that feels appropriate.
Okay, that’s fascinating, but how can you apply that live-action casting reasoning to animation? The only purpose of casting is to choose the voice actors! Right?
To be honest, I used to believe the same thing, but after contemplating and analysing the casting process in film and comparing it to animation, I concluded that they were virtually the same, with one notable exception: Characters in live-action films are basically pre-designed. You see a number of people with varied traits to choose from, who you could somewhat tweak by altering their attire, haircut, or even asking them to change their body by training/gaining weight, etc. If we look at it objectively, it’s a collection of templates from which you can select the finest possible combination of acting abilities, physical attributes, and distinctive characteristics that the actor/actress has to give.
Research and development (Blue Sky stage)
The big studios call this stage “Blue Sky” since the sky is the limit. Usually, you’ll be given a physical or psychological description of the character, but you don’t have to follow it to the letter in all of your sketches; the key thing is to explore the largest range of possibilities for a character and to make sure they’re all extremely different. What do you think of this character’s appearance? White/black/asian/latino, tall/short, fat/thin, muscular/weak? You may even attempt drawing the gender that was assigned to you in some circumstances. I drew a few of fresh sketches to demonstrate my argument because I skipped this stage while making Here’s the Plan.
Research & References:
This stage can run concurrently with the preceding one, but I believe it is vital at some point to incorporate the usage of references, whether for style or research. On the one hand, it’s a good idea to compare the sketches you made in the previous step with your style references and see how similar or dissimilar they are, depending on what you desire. It’s crucial to figure out what makes those designs successful and catch your attention so you can include it into your own work.