Hard Day's Knight: Vincent and Wally

Posted Sunday, September 27, 2009, 3:29 PM


These are the first steps for A Hard Day's Knight, the animated short film which may never be made.

I've jiggled Wally's textures a bit, and shortened his arms a tad. Then, not being able to stop myself, I grabbed the layers for his body and armour, and whacked them onto the head of the other character (which I had also previously modelled earlier this year), rearranged most of the points to make him skinny and tall, and so Wally and Vincent, the two stars of our little animation, are fully rounded and, almost, complete.

As a character, Vincent is a much tidier person than Wally, he takes a pride in his appearance that Wally chooses not to emulate. Also, he likes to think of himself as being more intelligent than his friend, but really he only barely qualifies as such. And, compared to Wally's comfortably rotund and squat appearance, Vincent's posture is quite lanky and awkward, so he's not as graceful as he would like to think.

I struggled a little bit with getting Vincent looking just right. The bulk of the chainmail armour and steel breastplate unfortunately hid his skinny physique. I had to work on it quite a while, but I eventually figured out how to make him look thin while still covering up his chest with bulky armour.

The trick was: lengthen his legs considerably; comically shorten his pant legs; and give him a short upper body. This allowed for the armour to remain tiny and narrow, emphasising his skinny chest, and giving it just the right balance to look in proportion, but still exaggerated.

This is a key factor to caricature. You can't just enlarge anything you want, and put them where you want. There has to be a balance, a perfect ratio, that works.

Jim Henson, mastermind behind the Muppets, knew of this trick, that there's a magic triangle of eye-position to nose-position that is always pleasing to look at. If the eyes are too high, or too far apart, or tilted the wrong angle, they just don't work so well. You'll see evidence of that when you look at some of his earliest Muppet characters, or in some puppets that aren't Muppets, where they haven't managed to achieve that golden ratio. But all of Henson's most successful Muppets had it, worked out during the design and building phase.

That same kind of ratio and proportional balance applies to other caricatures, like in cartoons and 3D characters, where whole body proportion, like limb length, body shape, forehead-to-chin, ear-to-nose, shoulder-to-waist, arm-to-leg, etc etc etc, needs to fit. If you can't get that balance just right, it will feel off-kilter, or wrong somehow. Unfortunately, it can be hard to pin down where exactly it is failing. It can take quite a lot of experimentation with adjustments before you start to recognise the subtle things, those that work, and those that don't.

I like to think that I am pretty good at it. Now if only Pixar would come knocking.

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