The look of our central character, Rosie, was a struggle to find (more on this in the next post). But sometimes things can fall into place with incredible ease. Take, for example, the character of The Barman who serves Rosie as she sits in a bar waiting for her date to arrive. This was the first sketch of The Barman I made, and it's not a million miles away from the final design:
There's a reason this first sketch came easily. One of my oldest friends is David Bowers, director of live-action movies such as the recent sequels in the 'Diary of a Wimpy Kid' series. We met up at college, and David became a very good animator and story artist, and in the process managed to sneak caricatures of me into a couple of the productions he had worked on. I was never able to return the compliment until I put The Last Belle into production and decided to model the Barman - very loosely - on David. (I say 'loosely' because caricature is not my strong point, and my often odd-looking drawings are hardly complimentary. But sometimes it's good to start with a real face as a jumping-off point, and then let your pencil take you where it will.)
I'll usually take a drawing like this and begin to sketch out poses and expressions that I know will be required to tell the film's story. In this case I changed the nose and played with the general proportions:
And the more confident I felt, the more I'd work into full colour (pantone pen on paper) animatic poses, which then became the basis for the key animation drawings:
Our drunken lout, Wally, was the first character to be designed, and the character from which the whole concept of the film developed. He first appeared in the corner of a sketchbook looking like this:
Knowing that he was drunk throughout the film, I wanted to keep his outline scratchy and irregular, as if it's falling apart. (Ronald Searle's line quaity was a huge influence here.)
Now he's getting a bit fatter, and I've moved the eyeballs right up to the top of his head. These quick ink sketches were made playfully and unselfconsciously, not to try and create 'good' drawings (were it not for this blog these drawings would never have seen the public light of day), but to see how expressions and proportions might affect the face.
So now I've moved the eyes to the top of the head can I get a frown, or a bored look? Quick doodles answer the questions...
Getting looser and faster now...
And as the body gets fatter the head gets smaller (well he's not the smartest of guys)...
And now the dreaded bermuda shirt has appeared. It seemed a funny idea at the time but hand animating it probably added about five years to the production schedule. You live and learn. The eyes are a little bigger and the nose a little smaller, but this has the unfortunate effect of making him 'cuter'. Sort of.
So to counteract this the eyes get even smaller and the nose even bigger. And by this stage I'm comfortable enough to start doing quick storyboard sketches, and feel 'in character'.
We have our man!
So these two guys were fun to develop. But Rosie proved harder to pin down. That collection of frustrated and irritated sketches I will save for the next post...