The following character designs are from a visual development project intended for feature animation based on Roald Dahl's classic children's book, "Matilda." Below is the titular character, Matilda Wormwood, a quiet but gifted girl forced to put up with crude and distant parents.
The pose explorations to the right of the rendering illustrate some important character moments in the story. From left to right: young Matilda exploring the library, school-aged Matilda enjoying a book at home, school-aged Matilda practicing her psychokinetic powers (on a cigar), and young Matilda quietly mourning the library book her father destroyed.
Below is the full line-up of important characters from the story.
Here are a selection of sketches from early on in the character development process.
The following sequence of images explores character interactions and creates a foundation for the story beat illustrations.
Mrs. Wormwood struggles to remove her husband’s hat, which Matilda covered with superglue earlier. It was important to capture how over-the-top the parent's struggle was in comparison to Matilda's private moment of humourous retribution.
When Mr. Wormwood tears up Matilda's library book, we get our first real taste of just how awful he is to his daughter. The framing and body language were important to conveying the power dynamic between them.
On her first day, Matilda effortlessly solves a series of increasingly difficult math problems. This is Miss Honey's first scene and it took many iterations to get her astonished reaction right.
A visible discomfort overpowers Miss Honey’s excitement about her new student as she stands in the entryway of the headmistress Miss Trunchbull’s office. This scene introduces Miss Trunchbull for the first time.
When Miss Trunchbull blames Matilda for putting a newt in her water pitcher, Matilda's frustration manifests as a burst of random psychokinetic powers. After learning to control these powers, Matilda uses them to frighten Miss Trunchbull. The weightlessness around Matilda is a visual indicator of her powers.
As Matilda learns more about her teacher's tragic relation to Miss Trunchbull, their student-teacher dynamic transforms into a savior-victim relationship. The first scene is the pivotal moment when Miss Honey discloses her history to Matilda. The second story beat illustrates a happy turn in their relationship when Miss Honey agrees to adopt Matilda as her family flees the law.
Below is primarily a mixed selection of late-sixties British apparel I used as reference for these character designs.
In this design intended for serialized TV animation, Cleopatra is a shapeshifting cat that takes the form of a human and transforms to maximize the attention she gets from others. In this version of the story, she fakes her own death and escapes in her cat form, living out the rest of her life as a cat.
Below are the stages of her transformation from human to cat. The middle form is only seen when she transforms and functions as an in-between.
Expanding representation in media is important to me as a designer, so I deliberately avoided "white-washing" Cleopatra. It took a number of sketches to get the costume and style right for the "paper cut-out" look. The design changed a lot from the first iterations.
The primary design inspiration was Ancient Egypt as interpreted by twenties Egyptian revival fashion. Since Cleopatra’s life was full of spectacular drama, it seemed appropriate to portray it through a dramatization of actual history.
The wacky, nostalgic appeal of the 1997 sci-fi film, The Fifth Element, makes it the perfect candidate for a late-night animated TV miniseries reboot geared toward the 18-24 demographic (allowing for slightly edgier humour).
This character design project focuses on the two leads - Korben Dallas and Leeloo - and Diva Plavalaguna, an iconic member of the supporting cast (right). Below is the final design for Korben Dallas as well as a number of action poses and his costume design for the final act of the story.
Below are the sketches that led to the final design. The top left sketches were very early explorations, before the style was finalized.
Next is Leeloo's design, followed by the sketches leading up to it.
The following is a collection of pre-visualization sketches for the alien, Diva Plavalaguna.
In this design for feature animation, three young women at the height of the Spanish Inquisition - Nazmin, Luz, and Hilla - are falsely incarcerated by the corrupt zealot Maurice. They call upon Ziel, a phantom who visits poor souls in their time of greatest need. She endows them with the double-edged power to escape.
Below is the full line-up of characters. The three young prisoners (middle) represent different demographics victimized by the Spanish Inquisition, which not only historically grounds the narrative but also helps their designs feel distinct.
Below is a selection of choice character acting moments from the storyboards. The full sequence can be found here.
The collection of sketches below attempt to balance style with culturally and historically accurate costume design.
In nineties Shinjuku, Japan, "Blue" (middle, right) works at a host club, a business where attractive male employees pamper female clients. However, having been born female, he must keep up appearances as "Aoi" (left) at home and school.
It was important to make this character more than a disrespectful gag. Throughout the design process, I connected with a number of individuals that helped me better understand how to portray the transgender experience.
Colours help visually communicate Aoi's gender dysphoria. The desaturated palette of his school uniform reflects his difficulty with his biological gender, while the saturated palette of his host club costume echo the confidence he feels presenting as male.
Shape design and body language were also crucial to conveying Aoi's experience. Exploratory sketches helped develop a contrast between Aoi's discomfort and "Blue's" confidence.
While high school uniforms (top left) and host club photography (bottom left) were obvious choices for reference, "Blue's" costume was also heavily influenced by "Visual Kei" (right, an androgynous aesthetic popular in Japan), reinforcing the themes of gender dysmorphia and performance.
"La Traición" is a re-imagining of the King Arthur legends intended for 2D feature film treatment.
Arthur, a Spanish priest in missionary California, takes “enlightening” the natives very seriously. He harbors a secret love for fellow convent member, Genoveva, and is mortified to find her absconding with Achij - a warrior from the native tribe. When Kaan, his half-sister, assassinates him, he realizes the err of his ways.
A number of polarizing design choices between the Spanish missionaries (Arthur and Genoveva) and the indigenous natives (Kaan and Achij) visually communicates their idealogical differences. The upper-left diagram below identifies how their palettes and facial profiles differ.
In the collection of sketches on the right, the missionaries' poised silhouettes reflect their superficial moral superiority; however their chaotic detailing illustrates the psychological toll of their lifestyle. The natives' organic form language both inside and out demonstrates their self-actualization and confidence.
In some sketches, you can see how Mayan illustration and logograms (lower-left) inspired some elements of the native characters' designs.
Below is a number of other references, mainly used to ensure the historical accuracy of the costume designs.
In 2015, Riot released Star Guardian Lux, a pay-to-play cosmetic upgrade to the pre-existing playable character, Lux. The following character design distills and applies the "Star Guardian" design language to another pre-existing character from the game, Lulu.
Above is the final design and character turnaround. Below outlines some of the process used to get to the final design.