Monday, November 23, 2015

Character Reuse Galore!

Lineup of the five main characters in Marco Macaco by Dan Harder, 2010.

Given the financial constraints of the Marco Macaco feature production, the character modeling process was deliberately planned for maximum reuse between the characters. Hence, a Build-A-Bear-style system was devised in order to create models consisting mainly of other characters' body parts.

The core model was the main character, Marco, followed by the two villains, Carlo and the President, who both inherited Marco's eyes, ears and hands, but had alternative mouths setups. Carlo got a copy of the President's nose. Thus, for the heads, we had one type of eyes, ears and hands, two kinds of noses and three different mouth setups. The monkeys' mouth areas were by far the most expensive to produce because of the many blendshapes needed for the characters' expressions and ability to talk. All facial features could be reused in variable sizes and with a certain amount of distortion.

Lulu was entirely a variant of Marco, only with different proportions and new clothes. So was the Captain who, however, received a nose from the President. The bodies of Carlo and the President were unique, but pretty much everyone else's were reused in all sorts of manners. Overall we had four types of bodies to make combinations from: normal, strong, big and fat. All existed both in a dressed version and one with a naked torso (for the pirates and a number of local monkies). We had two kinds of legs, one with shoes and one barefoot. There were long trousers and shorts, long sleeves and T-shirts. The sleeves of all jackets were somehow derived from the President's (which were in turn stolen from the Disco Worms villain, Tony Dean). Monkey kids were made by shrinking the mouth and nose region and enlargening the eyes. And so on and so forth. The cast also included some turist pigs, which were all built from the same template, just with different clothes and accessories.


You won't be after a quick peek at this simple chart, clearly describing the pattern of reuse.

The chart may look silly, but was made by the film's technical supervisor (and animation director) Tonni Zinck, as a result of meticulous planning by Tonni and yours truly in cooperation with the lead modeler, Jimmy Levinsky, and rigger, Rasmus Rolfshøj. This way we managed to produce a rather large cast of characters at only a fraction of the normal price. And as a positive side effect all the characters definitely came across as belonging to the same universe (which is not always the case in animated movies).

Below you'll find inspirational modelsheets and "technical" sketches for most of the remaining secondary characters.

The Guard's and Servant's heads were both based on Marco's model, the former with Marco's uniform adapted to body type "fat," the latter with a uniform based on the President's.

It took a few attempts to nail the soldiers. This is the final inspirational model in modern SWAT team style. The head is taken from Marco, but with the President's nose.

This is an earlier version in fascist style uniform with World War II type rifle.

And this is an even earlier version in a uniform matching Marco's, but with a Communist Cuban cap.

Technical sketches for Guard, Servant and soldiers.

According to the director's wishes, Carlo's henchmen were designed in an American 50's style. Their heads are all basically derived from Marco's (with the President's nose). All sleeves are copied from the President (or Servant) and adjusted as necessary.

Technical sketches for Carlo's henchmen.

Here's a bunch of incidental monkey characters: Worker Monkeys, the young brat that steals Marco's precious heart necklace, guy with scooter, a crowd of monkeys on the beach, an old lady and a Playboy whose yacht Marco and the pirates steal. There's also a bird that makes a strange sound.

At the beginning of the movie, apart from monkeys (and the bird and a butterfly) there are no other species on the island. However, with the arrival of Carlo's Casino, the island is soon flooded by turists that are all, well... pigs, of course.

Here are the technical sketches. Note that even the pigs have inherited Marco's eyes.

And even though the pigs rarely say anything more meaningful than "Oink!," we still gave them some ability to express themselves with this limited set of mouthshapes.

In the bizarre mish-mash of styles and ideas that constitute the Marco Macaco feature, there is of course also room for some 2D animation. Actually there are something like five or six different 2D sections in the movie, in several different styles.

These character designs are for the opening sequence depicting Marco's favorite animated TV series, "Hard Cop."

Here is the funny storyboard of the opening sequence with Hard Cop, done by Casper Høg with crazy Bollywood music by Jonas Severin Kristensen.

Finally, Marco and Lulu appear as children in two flashback scenes during the movie. They were originally planned as 3D characters like the rest of the cast, but in the end the director decided to simply have my storyboard sketches colored and presented as a slide show with a nostalgic Super 8 projector gobo effect on top.

Here's an inspirational sketch, along with the (unused) "technical" sketches and a series of the final colored storyboard panels that make up the two flashbacks.

The storyboard panels in the flashback sequences were colored by background artist and color stylist, Anders Hald.

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