Animation has come a long way in the industry, and in due course of time, animated characters and animated films have had a huge impact on the audience. Toy Story, Finding Nemo, Inside Out, Shrek, and the Ice Age series are just a few of the critically praised animated films.
Animated filmmakers cleverly tie the worlds of adults and children together in such a lovely way that both parents and children may enjoy the films. The films have a bigger impact since they present a cartoon character who looks like a real person while simultaneously portraying a deeper meaning through the storyline. The protagonists in these films emphasize the significance of strong relationships such as those found in family and friends, as well as teaching the audience about bravery, open-mindedness, generosity, and loyalty. These characters are also designed keeping in mind the culture and traditions the movie is set in.
In 2021, the audience got to witness some of the remarkable animated characters that were not only loved but admired and are now competing for awards. Now, the creators of these characters have shared with The Hollywood Reporter how they came up with the looks of their characters to make them relatable along with making them reflect their inner world to the audience. Let’s find out.
Encanto’s protagonist ‘Mirabel Madrigal’ who is voiced by actress Stephanie Beatriz is the only one in her family without magical powers or gifts. Lorelay Bové, associate production designer shared about the character, “We started with a traditional Colombian-inspired skirt and covered it in embroidery designed to look imperfect and handmade. Similar to what you may find in a 15-year-old girl’s scrapbook, we created different icons [for the skirt] to represent each member of her family, reflecting her love for each of them. One of the film’s main themes is perspective — how different points of view can affect a relationship — and having our main character wear glasses was an intentional choice to reinforce that theme.”
Raya and the Last Dragon’s protagonist ‘Raya’ is a young warrior princess who is voiced by Kelly Marie Tran and her costume needed to be authentic to the set-up of the movie, which was Southeast-Asia and at the same time needed to function as a warrior princess. The production designer Paul Felix shared, “The team was inspired by the breathable draping styles in clothes of the region, landing on a combination of the sabai top and dhoti pants, allowing her to move in a believable way.” The makers and designers of the movie were aware of the authenticity they needed to bring and went on research trips to Southeast Asian countries and met consultants to be true to the culture. Paul added, “Raya’s costume design included input from Lao visual anthropologist Steve Arounsack, who led the story trust.” Avneet Kaur who was the simulation supervisor had explained previously, “It was very important to the directors that everything in her character design and performance resonate with her personality, whilst being inspired by Southeast Asia. For example, her hairstyle is carefully designed to frame her face beautifully. It keeps out of the way, hence the double braid pinned back—allowing her sightline to be clear for agile action, and for the audiences to read her expressions clearly.”
One of the significant animated characters that appeared in 2021 was ‘Flee’s Jonas Poher Rasmussen who is also the writer-director of the movie and appears in the movie while interviewing another character an Afghan refugee Amin. Jonas who decided on creating his animated character blond shared with The Hollywood Reporter, “I really wanted to create contrast between Amin and me. Flee is Amin’s story, and I wanted that to be clear from the very beginning. Another thing was Amin wanting to be anonymous. As I’m the one representing the film in public, I thought me being blond would be a nice, subtle way to show that people in the film don’t look exactly like they do in real life.” The movie is crafted through first-person interview format, and it is animated to protect Amin’s identity and to refresh the “queer refugee” story that has verged on becoming a trope. On asking about how did he came up with Amin’s animated character, Jonas shared, “You’ll see I’m blonde in the film and Amin’s equally changed. We found a lot of footage of different Afghans and put together a character that we felt could represent them in a good way. So we had a character designer who gave us a lot of different options, and we ended up designing the character you see in the film.”
Belle’s protagonist Suzu is a 17-year-old girl who lives in a rural area and becomes an international singing sensation ‘Belle’ through a virtual world titled ‘U’. Talking about her appearance of Suzu in the movie, the writer-director of the movie Mamoru Hosada explained, “The goal was to depict a more global perspective of ‘beauty,’ hence the rather unrealistic dress and pink hair. The dress was designed by different artists and a fashion designer who has designed clothes for the Paris collections in the past [Kunihiko Morinaga and the brand Anrealage]. It’s these unrealistic designs that portray a strong and empowered sense of beauty.”
Designing and creating the looks for the animated characters is a tedious job as the designer not only has to research, read the details of the character but also has to try to stay as authentic to the surroundings as possible.
What is your favorite animated character?