I’d like to think that within a lot of my work I like to have some form of fable, a message which connects to a wide audience, yet voices my own opinions. Lately I have been dwelling on an idea which to be put into a sentance could be worded as “While we are young all we ever seem to want to do is grow up, but it also seems the older we grow, the more appealing being young again becomes.” In a way similar to the anticipation of christmas time or birthdays, once they arrive a sudden realisation sets in that we no longer have something left to look forward too. In light of this I’d like to make a product that inspires viewers to strive for the present, to cast aside any doubts they have about what they are still capable of doing and what they have missed out on and do what they want as if every day is their last, to be grateful for what they have and not constantly long for what they have yet to have or have had and lost.
I found a few videos that picture old people in the shoes of younger generations, this one in particular tugged on my heartstrings, influencing me to incorporate not only a childlike nature to my character, but also a touch of teen angst and anarchy.
Anyway, I figured this outlook would be best portrayed through a combination of old and young, which has been used countless times in countless films. One such film is “Up.” a Disney Pixar movie in which the lost dreams of an elderly man are revisited once his life is enriched by that of an adventurous youth. I personally think this is fantastic, however I’d like to capture this youthful and adventurous side of my character, who in light of this will be an old man, without the need for a catalyst, such as the young boy.
I began to look at other ways to do this and realised Pixar seems to love the same concept and had another of the best examples. A short they produced in 1997 in which they had one old man, by the name of Geri, playing a game of chess against himself, portraying him with two completely different personalities, both of which had a childish nature, it links to the way children seem to find it so easy to use their imagination to entertain themselves without company. This is another massive message Pixar love to express, particularly in films such as Toy Story, which I have grown up with and loved all the way. Even when the plot swapped between this message which is almost completely positive to the soul crushing idea of growing up in Toy Story 3. Geri also appears in Toy Story 2 as a man who fixes damaged toys.
This prompted me to begin thinking about creating a character that I could use in a series of ways and after consideration I had the idea for a fighting game using purely old people, doing thing with their false teeth and walking sticks that you’d never expect to see. I thought this was quite original, though in an effort to link my character with uni briefs and as the message I’d like the old man to portray is quite personal, I figured he would be the ideal character to use in a small ident for my film production. I decided that as Pixar and the whole 3d animation scene seems to have come to this amazingly high level during my lifetime and the influence it seems to have on my life, I should keep these characters as my main inspiration, I began to watch the clips linked in a new light and took a more intricate look at how old people were portrayed. I found another short film that I hadn’t seen before, which was fantastic for analysing the way an old man moves. It’s called “The Old Man and the Fish.”
I also began to compare the realistic movements of Geri in Geri’s game with a live action version, shot using an old man, amazingly, using the twelve principles of animation to their full effect, Pixar have somehow managed to reproduce the actions and emotions of an old man even better than a live action actor.
I also remembered about another animated old man who has influenced me growing up, It’s Arnolds grandpa from hey Arnold. Using massive exaggeration the animators made it clear he was an old man without even making him look particularly human shaped. I’d really love to make a character which can go to these insane lengths and still retain his old man qualities enough to be instantly recognisable for what he is.
I then decided I had watched enough animated old man to become a little creepy without beginning to look at how their essence is captured and what features remain constant throughout their portrayals. I figured the first steps to doing this would be to look at some concept art for old characters. First and formost, the rough sketches that will have been used to pitch the character.
I really liked this picture as it shows the progression of the same character from youth to pensioner, while this would be completely unneccessary for this module, it inspires me to maybe come up with a back story and design younger versions of the old man I make too. I also love the drawing style and the way some of his features are static throughout to really capture his essence
Whilst on my concept art search for the old man from Up, I spotted this little beauty, a little figure of the character, I’d like to make my own one of these once I have made the initial designs for my character as I feel it would massively improve my final concept package. I didn’t want to spend too much time on what I personally feel is irrelevant material, so I quickly made some photoshop sketches of what I’d like my old man to seem like. This is not too detailed, and comes accompanied by a few sketches I have attempted in my sketchbook. However even without the need for animation, my tool of choice for drawing is Sculptris, even though I’ve been advised against it. Using programs like Paint and Photoshop may seem logical to some, but Sculptris is the exact same program except with an extra axis to work with, genuinely creating better concept art and only disliked by those who can’t use it. If you’ve got it – flaunt it.
Next came the time to look at faces, which without a doubt is the primary tool all of these examples have used to capture the emotion and age of the characters.
I really liked the way this initial concept art was set out, showing the stages of creation for the old man, especially when they started to add texture to his appearance. I think I’d like to make my initial drawings in the same way, paying particular attention to the progression of the face with a few full body sketches alongside.
I could also capture a lot of emotion and the way my character looks by making another mochette of just my characters head, I’ll invest in some plastercine to do this and a full body miniature once my initial ideas are down on paper. Next I began to look at other examples of old man faces which had been created in 3d and began taking note of the global features used, such as the loose skin, large nose and ears and massive bags under the eyes, accentuating cheek bones.
Being realistic, at this stage in my career, I don’t feel I am personally capable of creating a character of such calibur in 3d, not to mention the fact my computer at home would probably spontaneously combust if I ever tried creating something with such a high polygon count. However, as I intended to create a character which was more Pixar style I feel I can capture the same kind of emotion using a much lower polygon count through massive exaggeration of features. I then began to look at real old men faces, with features I’d like to mimic and combine.
This old man is quite obviously painted up and has a fair few unrealistic features which accentuate his appearance and age. He also has a kind of creepy Tim Burtonesque feel about him, which I’d love to incorporate into my character. Particularly the massive nose and strange shaped head, much like the grandpa from Hey Arnold.
The feature about this old man that I noticed really brought out his age is the lack of teeth shown, whether they are just covered up of have all fallen out, this is something I’d like to incorporate into my own character.
This is a picture showing some hideous deformity on the mans head, though that wasn’t what captured my attention, I was looking more at the priminent ears, nose and chin, again accentuated with the cheek bones and lack of teeth, this man is almost a culmination of everything I’d like my old man to look like. I’d also like him to be bald, as at a young age it is one of my more distinguishable features and will trigger more of a personal feel about my character. I decided to make a rough collage of what I’d like my characters face to resemble, taking attributes which are distinguishable as stereotypical old people and seeing how they look, the result was…terrifying. But the point remains, all the features I’d like to exaggerate and combine seem to work well. I decided it was time to sketch my character.
It’s a strange combination, having old people items as well as things you’d see on a much younger person. But as my character is animated, I figure I can go crazy in terms of props, he could use literally anything he wants. How can he carry it all? In his underwear of course. The freedom of animation means I could have him pull literally any sized of shaped object straight from his crotch.
This approach to the brief could take all year, so instead I decided to come up with just a few of his signature props, all with his own form of branding of course.
Working on this, along with my actual animation concept, I created a development sheet for a select few of his main props. I created these in flash, as I’ve always liked the idea of combining both 2d and 3d animation. Though I’m aware how often this ruins films.
As I’ve always seemed to prefer drawing my characters in 3d, as kind of a pre-requisite for the pre-requisite sketches. I began to design his head using Sculptris, I made sure to keep the poly count low to avoid waiting hours for renders while still managing to capture the deep set eyes, big ears, massive nose, prominent chin and lack of teeth. As I said before too, I also made him bald. I think the inspiration gained from Hey Arnold’s grandpa can easily be seen too.
Next I had to begin looking at the torso and how I wanted it to look, as I wanted my old man to be weedy with saggy skin, as any stereotypical old man should be, I realised that to be realistic he would have gained a beer gut and will no longer have taut breasts. I also realise I want my old man to clearly seem healthy enough to be flexible strong and dynamic in his motions, to show his youthful side though usually unseen acrobatics from an old person. Not only would this bring across the message I had intended but would also show the lack of limitation brought about through the use of animation.
After some time browsing the internet for something I’d never ever have expected myself to type into the search bar I came across… oh my god I’m about to say it – The perfect old mans torso. I used this image as reference as I created a torso to go with the head I had made on sculptris.
I wass quite content with this, I made sure it would join quite nicely with the head I had made, though this will be my first multi segment 3d character design so I’m sure it won’t look perfect. Either way I feel I managed to capture the past it’s peak figure well, paying attention to let the breasts sag a little and to extrude the stomage by quite a lot, this will also add to the appearance of his arms being scrawny in comparison, while still allowing them to be realistically muscly when it comes to holding his weight. Naturally, the creation of my character’s arms were up next. I used the same image to model these as the torso, as I felt this would help me proportion them well. I kept the arm weedy as intended, though it clearly shows at least a small and still fairly well toned amount of muscle around the bicep and tricep.
Next limb on the list was the leg, again it was awkward to capture the stereotypical knobbly kneed look of an old mans leg, while seemingly realistic in terms of the movements I’d want them to produce and the weight they’d have to hold. I made sure the theigh was quite a lot fatter than the shin and rounded them off to create a more toned look.
When it came to the hand, I cheated, I also have hands, which remain in plain view throughout the majority of what I do.
Next I had a look at feet, something I didn’t particularly enjoy doing, since searching this generally brings up images of feet with something grotesquely wrong with them. One of the better reference images I found happened to have gangrene and was being used in an article about a dog who eats it off them. Not nice. Anyway, they served as a reasonable reference while I created my own feet.
The next step in my process for creating a 3d old man was to bring all these body parts together. I did this using 3ds Max, most of the body parts needed scaling and adjusting but with a skin coloured texture map it turned out alright looking, now I can add a smooth modifier to make it look a bit more Pixar.
Though it can’t be seen from this I also rigged the character, a little more work to add in the envelopes on the rig and I should be able to present the character in a few better poses and could even run some test animations for the final concept package.
Here is a quick screenprint showing the biped within my character, it is also now enveloped, though I am having some trouble with overlapping on some of the limbs. Still, it’s a learning curve and it’s being tackled.
It’s said that the eye is the window to the soul, so I wanted to make this as realistic as possible as I felt it would add a lot of depth and emotion to the character. The eyes were created using a few simple manipulations of a sphere and only took a few minutes, but I feel the desired effect was matched and raised when I actually added them to my character. I also decided that since I had rigged the character’s limbs and he was, by this point almost a fully operational 3d character, that I should rig the eye’s to move, this is done by adding a simple “look to” constraint from the eyes to a helper object placed directly in front of each of them. Again, this was a very fast and very helpful learning curve for any future production.
Here is a panorama of my 3D character so far, he still needs some 3D underpants but he is getting there.
As my work so far had very little 2d incorporated so far, I decided to use a pose from my 3d character to create a 2d replica. Both to experiment with what looks better and just to prove I can actually use 2d software, though at the moment I find learning 3d is a much more intricate and therefore interesting process.
I made a character development sheet to fulfil the brief requirements. It shows the initial sketch, to the usual next step 2D, to the final 3D stages. Though as I’ve explained, I did these in a different order, purely due to where I feel my skills lie.
The actual concept for my character to be used in is a short ident before my real productions, or even as the mascot for a website containing other animation and special effects work. I’d like this to show the character slowly walking onto the screen with a walking stick, then giving the camera a cheeky grin, casting his walking stick aside and somehow performing acrobatics such as cartwheels , walking on his hands and skateboarding with apparent ease. I did some tests of this using another character with a similar build using MotionBuilder.
This is a simple run-cycle on a gremlin model that I felt was similar to Abe.
This is the Gremlin moving as Abe would with a walking stick, when pretending to be old and feeble. The walking stick isn’t incorporate though, it just acts as if it were.
This is the Gremlin model pushing a skateboard in the way Abe would in the sequence. Again the skateboard was not incorporated into the tests.
This is the Gremlin doing a cartwheel as Abe does when he falls off of the skateboard. In my sequence this will end in him catching a spray can, but as this wasn’t a proper already on the program, I replaced it with a hat as I wanted him to catch something.
Finally I had the Gremlin act out spraying his tag on the wall.
He then elevates this sense of youthful ability by combining my love for animation with my passion for graffiti, by spray painting the Azz Brown logo on a wall. The logo isn’t something I had to make up right now, though I had never thought to use it for such purposes. I decided to call my character Ancient Abe, as the logo I’d like to use is basically a multi-layered letter containing my initials which is then circled, giving the look of an additional E to the the initial A & B. I also realised that as his name is alliterated, the logo could be used at the beginning of each word in his name. I’ll experiment with this when I have come up with a final image for my logo. Here is a series of images depicting how the logo will be spray painted onto the wall by the old man.
After realising a logo this simple would be ridiculous in any production, not to mention how hard it would be to see, I developed it into a much broader and more stylized version, which could be recognized anywhere.
Here is an attempt at using the alliteration in the way I described earlier.
The most seen still images of Abe are when he is sat down riding his skateboard. This can usually be seen (Bottom of skateboard deck/initial poster concept) happening on a rainbow. I figured any pill popping, skate boarding, yo-yo flinging old man is bound to have ridden a fair few rainbows in his time, even if no-one else could see them.
I created the rainbow I wanted to use on Photoshop. Here is a closer look at it.
Next I had to storyboard my production and show what exactly I wanted my character to do. Again, sticking in my comfort zone for practicality, I decided to do these digitally. First I took still screen shots of my 3d character in the poses I wished to portray and also created a simple 3d environment for the scene to occur. Here is a sort of collage of the poses onto the static environment.
Here are the storyboards in order. There is no text on these, as the actual storyboards have the text written on so notes can easily be added as any extra ideas spring to mind.
I then developed these storyboards into a short animatic of my production.
I then began to experiment with different effects on Photoshop to create a character bio sheet. Here is a basic example, though it still needs improvement, I did this before I had developed my final logo, using the alliteration and the logo, so I will have to change that for sure, I am also not happy with how cluttered it is, pretty rushed work that I’d never class as high quality.
I changed the writing on the wall to use the actual Ancient Abe logo and font.
I then began working on my promotional material.
As I liked the contrast between the red and green on my character sheet I stuck to it as a primary theme around my work.
As my character is a realistic person, he doesn’t really have many props within’ the idea that couldn’t be sold as merchandise, as anyone who actually likes the show would appreciate owning the actual merchandise he has, I figured it would be smart to create distributable ways of selling his props.
I then looked at creating a web banner, using the dimensions of a regular web banner and noticing that most web banners were quite simple and not too much to look at I designed my own.
I then made a launch party ticket, with the end being a tear away once the ticket is used, I used the same colour scheme and again kept it simple, any terms and conditions would of course be printed on the back, it seemed mental to try and squeeze a load of ugly text onto the front of it. Once the ticket is ripped it relies heavily on the character image and the logo to show what it’s for as this would get the viewers to appreciate them more than just the title once they had seen the launch.
I then had to create a magazine cover, while this was very limited as to what I could do to it, I wanted to make it as hectic as possible and quite over the top, to get across the personality of the character and have people thinking they’d want to know just how an old man could possibly end up in such a situation.
Naturally riding a giraffe was the first thing that came to my head. No-one ever get’s to ride a giraffe. Except Abe.
My final animation test, I started to implement some 2d props as I mentioned before, but felt this was not necessary for this brief.