Week 1: From Comics to Animated Films / by Valzorra

After my thorough investigation into different styles of graphic novels and how they have developed over the years, I thought it best to continue by exploring two-dimensional art styles in other forms of media. One of the first places I turned to was the traditional and old-school animation style of classic Disney films. As they essentially pioneered animation technology and were the creators of numerous successful and iconic characters, it seemed worthwhile to have a look at their distinct style.

The proportions of Disney characters are shifted and exaggerated, yet their characters are structurally sound

Disney films are very friendly, sweet, and welcoming, they do not feature any harsh outlines at all, while all of their protagonists have been designed with smooth and curvy outlines in mind. This contrasts the line art in quite a few comic books discussed in Week 1: The Start of Semester II as they focused on cross-hatching and realism, which is not present in the Disney style. Additionally, I am very fond of the use of basic geometric shapes and proportions in the Disney characters. They accentuate the most crucial elements of the character and help create a memorable silhouette. For example, oftentimes the heads of their characters tend to be rather large in comparison to the rest of the body, as the most emotion can be conveyed through the face and the eyes. This is what makes these characters so memorable, the fact that their most important features are exaggerated and make a focal point. However, even though the proportions of Disney characters are rather shifted and exaggerated, their characters are structurally sound. Similarly, in my own work, I will strive to play with anatomy, while still making sure that each character is believable and has a solid shape behind them.

Character Sheets and Concept Work for Aurora, showcasing the soft and curvy lines Disney tends to prefer.

In addition to the line work and the stylistic choice behind classical Disney heroes and heroines, I was also quite fond of the way they lay out their character sheets. They are essentially representative of sketchbook pages and show different poses and facial expressions of each character, all the while maintaining their proportions and some key angles. What’s more is that thanks to these layouts other illustrators would be able to learn how to create the characters accurately regardless of what they are doing in the specific scene. Overall, I think this is really good practice and I would love to do it with my own character sheets once I arrive at that stage. There is so much I could learn from the Disney method of character design and animation and I am very pleased that my research has taken me into this direction.

Character Sheets from Disney showcasing the characters with a variety of different facial expressions.

Moving away from the very distinct style of Disney, I went on to explore some other popular animated series. Specifically, I took a look at Castlevania and The Legend of Korra as they both seemed to share a very similar style. Their specific visual aesthetic focuses on very clean and very thin lines that only indicate where different objects and characters are positioned. The line work is even more discreet than that of Disney and its color changes depending on the scene. The characters in both of these shows are very anatomically correct and do not exaggerate proportions greatly. For the most part, they aim to be realistic and are much closer to the comic book art styles discussed in the previous post. The artists and animators of both of these shows have used vivid and vibrant colors while their shadows are more like blocks rather than gradients. I reckon this style would be quite difficult to replicate, but nonetheless it is good to at least explore the possibility.

Examples of scenes from both Castlevania and Legend of Korra

Whereas the last two examples I discussed were very much focused on realistic proportions and discreet outlines, there are a series of other animated series that take a more cartoonish approach. Both Marvel and DC’s Animated series are somewhat of a mix between the Disney style and the Castlevania/Legend of Korra style. Their shows combine the style of line work with Disney’s approach of exaggerated proportions and geometric shapes for many of their characters. This could be great for As It Lies, because the game very much fits into those themes and ideas, therefore, using a similar visual style might help with targeting the right audience. I am especially fond of the way Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy have been constructed in this style, as they have very distinct shapes and silhouettes, making them visually exciting. At this stage I am considering adopting this style, perhaps in combination with the comic book style, because of how visually distinct it is and because it has been used in thematically similar settings.

Examples from Marvel and DC Animated Series

The last distinct visual style that I explored is commonly used in concept art pieces and sketches. This style takes the cartoony and exaggerated approach even further, making characters and artifacts even more stylized and exaggerated. I think this might be taking the concept a step too far, simply because Zeta’s story is somewhat serious and can be requires focus from the player. The style showcased below is more adventurous and rather lighthearted. It would not require focus from players, but is rather best suited for telling a story. Nonetheless, I rather appreciate its visuals and how distinct and memorable it is. Although this style would not be appropriate for As It Lies, I appreciate it for its shapes, its quirkiness, and I can definitely see myself trying to create artwork of the sort on my own time.

Examples of the Cartoon Concept Art Style

Thoughts and Reflection

Over the course of this week I have conducted a thorough investigation into a variety of different art styles ranging from the many different types comic books over the years to Disney’s classical films. After reflecting upon everything I have seen and explored thus far, I believe a modern comic book style would be most appropriate for the game.

A modern comic book art style is something Zeta would engage with the most.

The reasons for this decision are rooted in Zeta’s personality and world. From all of the different art styles, including Disney, Pop Art, Realism, and so on, a Comic Book Art Style is something she would engage most with. She would be interested in comic books, superheroes, and that whole aspect of geek culture. Therefore, Zeta’s story in 2D would best be told in a medium that she is fond of. What’s more is that comic books have long explored the idea of different superpowers and how one represents them in 2D, which is why they would be a fantastic reference for As It Lies. Additionally, from all of the different comic book styles discussed in Week 1: The Start of Semester II, I thought that going for a rather modern and generalized style would be best. After all, Zeta’s story is set in the future and as I cannot possibly account for potential future visual styles, it would be best to go with something rather modern and universal for the genre that will likely withstand the test of time. For example, comics from the Dark Age and other examples such as Casanova or Ashe: Warmother might be suitable references.