Painted wooden mannequin used to represent the art of character design
7 September 2023 Video production tips and best practices

The Art of Character Design in Animated Storytelling

Explore the intricate world of character design in animation. Understand its significance in making stories relatable, emotional, and unforgettable.

Ever since the dawn of civilisation, humans have been captivated by the art of storytelling. It’s in our DNA. We've come a long way from sharing tales around a campfire or illustrating them on cave walls, to the intricate digital stories we craft today.

One of the most potent mediums for contemporary storytelling is animation. It captivates us, not just because of its vibrant visuals but largely because of its characters – they’re the heart and soul of any animated piece.

It's where the craft of character design comes into play, making stories relatable, emotional, and memorable.

1. Delving into the Heart of Character Design

When you think about character design, it isn’t just a matter of crafting a visually appealing figure. It’s far more profound. We’re talking about birth – giving life to a personality, embedding them with emotions, struggles, and dreams.

This process of creation allows these characters, be it the whimsical creatures from children’s tales or the intense protagonists of adult animations, to become fundamental anchors of the narrative.

Relatability – The Human Connection: Think about some of the most iconic animated characters, from Disney’s Simba to Pixar’s Woody. What makes them special? It's that instant connection we feel. When characters are designed with relatable traits, aspirations, and even flaws, they reflect parts of us, making their adventures deeply engaging and their struggles very much our own.

Visual Appeal – More Than Meets the Eye: Beyond just being a delight to look at, a character's design tells a story in itself. From the colour palette used to their physical attributes, every detail hints at their age, background, or their overall persona. These design elements subtly communicate layers about the character even before the story unfolds.

2. Characters – The Heartbeat of Animated Stories

It’s the characters that breathe life into the plots. Through them, stories get their pulse, rhythm, and emotion.

Emotional Depth: The beauty of animation is its ability to touch complex emotions effortlessly. By crafting intricate character arcs, animators can navigate through intricate layers of feelings, weaving narratives around themes as intense as love and loss or as uplifting as redemption.

Diversity and Representation: The animation world is evolving, and today, it's all about inclusivity. By introducing characters from diverse backgrounds, cultures, and walks of life, the narratives not only become richer but also more relevant in today's globalised world.

3. Crafting Characters – A Process of Creation

Designing a character isn’t a one-step job. It's a journey.

Research and Inspiration: Every memorable character begins with a spark of inspiration. Animators and designers often dive deep into research, drawing insights from real-life figures, historical epochs, or even personal experiences to shape their character's foundation.

Sketching and Iteration: The initial sketches aren't about perfection; they're about capturing the character's essence. Through numerous iterations, refinements, and revisions, this essence is honed until it perfectly aligns with the narrative's demands.

Finalisation and Rigging: Once the design settles, it's time for rigging. This technical yet crucial phase ensures the character moves and interacts seamlessly, preparing them for the limelight.

4. Character and Plot – An Inseparable Bond

The true success of an animated story lies in the harmonious blend of character and plot.

Consistent Character Behaviour: Any inconsistency can break the illusion. Keeping characters true to their designed behaviours and reactions not only makes them believable but also roots the audience in the narrative's world.

Evolution and Growth: Just like in real life, watching a character learn, evolve, and overcome challenges is deeply gratifying. It not only enriches the story but also leaves the audience with a lasting impact.

Wrapping up

In the vast realm of animation, it's the characters that truly make a difference. Beyond the aesthetics, it's about bestowing them with life, emotions, and purpose.

And when this is done with care and craft, these characters don't just remain confined to the screen; they find a place in our hearts, showcasing the unparalleled power of character-driven animation.

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Emily Malone

Written by Emily Malone Marketing Manager for Venture — a full-service video production agency that specialises in producing creative videos & campaigns that get real results.

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