Character Design Beginnings: Research Stage

After making the compilation of birds in the previous blog post, I began drawing them in order to catch some of the details and find the parts that I like and don’t like about their looks. This will help me in my design stage later

Colour forms an important part of my design decisions, and goes side-by-side with background designs too. If one doesn’t work with the other, it might not look good.
I plan on making the colours for the birds be Yellow and Blue, but this might change later.

Common daytime birds can be quite similar, but the night time ones are owls, or even bat-like creatures (I know bats aren’t birds, by the way). It’ll be a challenge for me to make the both creatures work together, look different and seem like the darkness/daylight is their natural ‘awake time’.

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The Western Park Museum Trip

My house mates and I took a trip to the Western Park Museum and I took the afternoon to look at the stuffed birds that were on display in various places. This helped me get a sense of size, shape and ‘home’ habitats for the variety of species. The museum also had a series of books regarding birds in their literary area, and I looked through them for some inspiration.

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I did bring my sketchbook, and this allowed me to do some quick little sketches of some of the birds as well as spending some time exploring the multitude of beak formations a variety of birds have and for what purpose they’re designed for (some birds mainly eat grain, others eat nuts, some eat fruit, or small rodents, or insects etc.)

After exiting the museum, we explored the park. There are a lot of ducks in said park, and a lady had an amazing idea of bringing bread and feeding them. This allowed me to get up close and personal (they went as far as standing on my shoes and nipping at my trouser legs) to these creatures so that I could take some photographs and recording of the way they move and interact with one another.

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Moving on from ‘real life’ research, I brainstormed a variety of bird characters I’ve seen on TV or in movies throughout the years and look into their character designs and the designer’s thoughts as I go.

In order of appearance: Owl (Winnie the Pooh), Big Mama/Dinky and Boomer (The Fox and The Hound), Willy & his friends (Willy the Sparrow), Piper & Mother (Piper), Margalow (Stuart Little 2), Valliant, For The Birds, Sven (Happy Feet 2), Zazu (The Lion King), and Kevin (Up).

I managed to find “The Art of Up” in the library and found some of the quotes from the team that worked on the movie interesting in terms of research and design choice:

“The bird character has always had this enormous potential for animation fun. She’s very unpredictable, and you don’t know what she is going to do. If you watch real cranes and storks, they are hilarious in the same unpredictable way”
– Pete Doctor, Director

“We did a lot of research on the large flightless birds. We looked at ostriches. We went to an ostrich farm. We actually had two ostriches brought here. They were out on the campus outside. And we visited the zoo to get a glimpse of emus, but we also studied cassowaries, which are very strange, very dangerous relatives of the emu.”
– Greg Dykstra, Sculptor

“The bird is a cipher. We liked the idea that a bird looks at you with only one eye. She is on-dimensional”
-Ronnie del Carmen, Story Supervisor

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