How To Draw Animation: Simplifying Characters for Animation

Christopher Hart continues his series of six tips on how to bring animated characters to life. This month we learn about simplifying character designs so that animation is easier.

My book, How to Draw Animation, has found its way into many animation classrooms. So I was delighted when the people at Animation World, a Website I frequent, asked me if they could reproduce some of the art from the book. My aim in creating the book was to marry art instruction with appealing characters. Appealing characters lie at the heart of animation; and it always struck me that unless you create great characters, it's pointless to put so much energy into making them move. If you are interested in learning more about character design (both cartoony and semi-realistic types), as well as in creating fluid, convincing motion based on fundamentals and more advanced techniques, then give these pages a look. Although the examples given are of 2D animation, the same principles may carry over to 3D.

Last month we covered "Facial Wrinkles," now we are going to move on and consider some design features that make sense when it comes time to start animating.

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The wolf is a popular shaggy old villain. But you'd give the other animators heart attacks if you asked them to animate every ruffle of fur for hundreds, if not thousands, of drawings. And, the producers would shoot you, because the process of drawing all that extra fur would add up to many more hours of labor and, therefore, many more dollars.

While you shouldn't edit yourself when designing a character, once you've created it, see if you can simplify the character without destroying its personality.

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How to Draw Animation by Christopher Hart. New York, New York: Watson-Guptill Publications, a division of VNU Business Media, Inc., 1997. 144 pages. ISBN: 0-8230-2365-6 (US$19.95)

Christopher Hart has written and illustrated many successful "how to" cartoon and animation books for Watson-Guptill, in addition to writing for many studios and networks like NBC, Showtime, 20th Century Fox, MGM and others. He is also the author and on-screen host of a popular art instruction CD-ROM series. Hart has worked in animation, comic strips (Blondie), and magazines, including contributing regularly to Mad Magazine.

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