Thursday, 14 November 2013

Pre-Production: Benjamin Form Anatomy

Hello Everyone,

I meant to post this up the other day as per Sammy's request before jumping into full on turnaround mode but its here now so lets get to it. Sammy put it to me on Tuesday that she wanted me to explore the stylised vs. real anatomical connotations on Benjamin. She wanted me to explore the possibilities for the character before deciding on a route. Of course I was a little sceptical I mean I have explored the form with 3D dummy's earlier in week 1 of this project (See link here). Anyway I set to it not just to give Sammy what she wanted but to prove my theory of Benjamin's ultimate form.

I have staked out numerous sources including some of the earlier stuff Sammy and Chrissie have been drawing in regard to Benjamin's design. I even used a book ("Figure Drawing for all its worth" - Andrew Loomis) to gain more of an understanding for the head rule in young boys. What I found was that boys aged 5 tend to be comprised of 6 heads (evenly 3 to groin - mid point and 3 for legs to foot). There was also something else to consider, that children's characters tend to have bigger heads then their bodies (2x the head) this makes them appealing to children.

With these things noted I jumped into redesigning Benjamin's Skeleton.
From my experiments I conducted a few basic movement tests using Benjamin's skeleton (images above). The image to the far left is based on the realistic proportions of a 5 year old with Benjamin's head. The image in the middle is an adaptation suggested by Sammy - that being shorter chest and longer legs. Last but not least the image to the far right is actually based from my dummy 3D pose tests. It was bugging me that we were not using the proportions of my form tests even though it appeared we were more or less adhering more towards them without our knowledge.

The journey started here (see image above). Sammy's initial rendition derived from Chrissie's concept art promoted the notion of a shorter lower body. I copied this and made it symmetrical shortening it slightly to fit in the hat. What I found was these rules made the upper body 2 3/4 heads with the legs 1 2/4. Sammy wasn't too sure on these proportions wishing them to be more anatomical. This would mean the head ratio would have to be more even (I.e. 2 heads upper body 2 heads lower body). I'm guessing she wanted to avoid the ape effect - that being arms as long as the legs.
I began this journey by looking into what I knew to be true - that being to apply anatomical rules to Benjamin the upper and lower body have to be even in heads. The groin is the half way point leaving the legs to take the same size as the main body. With adults the norm is 7 1/2 heads with the lower body getting the extra 1/2. Idealistic male proportions follow the 8 head rule which again is entirely even across the board (4 head upper, 4 head lower). After seeing this I realised 6 heads is just too big for Benjamin as we lose the cuteness, besides the style this far has never been THIS REALISTIC.
Next I decided to indulge Sammy's earlier suggestion, that being that we shorten his chest cavity a little in an attempt to elongate the legs. This gave me a 4 1/2 head rule - 2 heads upper 2 1/2 heads lower much like the adult norm (7.5 heads) although obviously shorter - its a kid after all. The 4 head rule usually applies to 1 year olds as so sayeth my book. Still I preferred this to what 6 head rule gave me. It looked cuter and much more ideal which told me he had to be a short squirt. This more or less confirmed the kind of thing I liked all along (as did we all).
The thing which has probably gotten confused throughout our debates on Benjamin's character is that the form was there all along. I rendered a silhouette from our preferred 3D form 16 and built a skeleton for that. This form follows the exact proportions for a 1 year old (4 heads - 2 upper and 2 lower). Throughout Sammy's animatic she has been using this form - why? because it works. Sammy's rendition based from Chrissie's concept aged Benjamin beyond our agreed base form. I think we should be returning to this form to create Benjamin's final outcome.

I think I know why I made the head on the original form so big as it was to embed what I learnt from children's characters (that is 2x the head for child engagement). What Benjamin's form will ultimately depend on is if Sammy is looking for kids to Engage with this story. The easiest way to do that is to make Benjamin's head bigger then his body as kids react more to this kinds of characters. Of course if the goal is to primarily entertain adults then this may not be the way to go. The "aww" calls which resonated with our green-light presentation was not just because Benjamin was sad but because he was cute.

I'm not saying that only kids respond to these kind of characters but society does, we consider them more appealing because they remind us of children. They remind us of what we once were. I would also like to note that this post does not reflect stylistic choices but merely the proportion of character, anatomy/form. I know Sammy is a bit paranoid about the Disney epitaph making it through onto this project but that is a stylistic choice and has no distinction on form. Numerous companies create characters with bigger heads because it engages children.

Anyway I think I'm done explaining.

Take it easy!

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