Great Character Design - Tips for Creating and Monetizing Cartoon Characters

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  Good character designs help to make a game look that much more interesting and sell a few more copies. But great character designs help to create huge franchises out of games, build up companies and even shape the landscape of the gaming industry. We take a look at some of the world's most famous gaming characters had created a legacy for themselves and their companies.
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  • 3. ALDRIC CHANG FOUNDING MD, MEDIAFREAKS PTE LTD | CEO, MEDIAFREAKS CARTOON PTE LTD AND CHARACTER FARM PTE LTD Aldric Chang is not the typical internet marketer who found an opportunity in internet marketing out of desperation. He has always been a creative entrepreneur all his life - having produced and written music for artists across Asia, built a 2-men animation studio to a 30-men tech new media company, creatively overseen the birth of hundreds of animation projects, executively produced several cartoon animated series and now in the midst of creating a virtual world for kids. Aldric has appeared on national TV several times as a featured entrepreneur, judge to a creative show and to offer his opinion about the creative industry. He has also been invited to give talks on entrepreneurship in the creative industry and topics related to animation and design. Somehow he managed to find the time to devour thousands of pages worth of Internet Marketing information a few years back despite his busy schedule – something he is grateful for until today. Today he uses the knowledge he has acquired in Internet Marketing to drive scores of traffic to his offline and online businesses, increasing his revenue and business potential many times over. Aldric is currently focused on growing his tech new media company into an entertainment behemoth with a solid structure that feeds on multiple revenue streams , leveraging on the power of the internet medium. His second pet focus is to share the valuable experience and knowledge he has garnered in Internet Marketing with folks who would like to learn how to grow their businesses using the internet or to make a good living through Internet Marketing. More information about Aldric can be read here . [email_address]
  • 4. Computer graphics has seen remarkable advancement in the past two decades.
  • 7. Even in the 2D pixel art days, game players have always been attracted to games revolving around charismatic characters. Today, with computer graphics being deployable across many platforms with a wide spectrum of possibilities with less technical inhibitions, many of these characters have been immortalized into 3D versions. The very fact that these characters survived the transition from 2D to 3D is testimony of the fact that their charisma spans across the different generations.
  • 11. Good character designs can help to make a game look that much more interesting and propel sales. But great character designs can actually help to create huge franchises out of games, build up companies and even shape the landscape of the gaming industry.
  • 27. COPYRIGHT © NINTENDO SUPER MARIO – THE WORLD’S FAVOURITE PLUMBER A plumber who jumps on foes to annihilate them and feeds on magic mushroom to gain super powers, Mario is easily Nintendo’s most-recognized mascot. Initially known simply as Jumpman in Donkey Kong’s earliest games, Mario quickly progressed to be the leading mascot for Nintendo and retired Donkey Kong to his supporting cast. As of 1999, Super Mario Bros. was the best selling video game for all time and was largely responsible for the initial success of the Nintendo Entertainment System. It was even responsible for ending the two year slump of video game sales in the United States after the video game crash of 1983. Mario has an entire series of video games to his name and his hit game Super Mario Bros. has been ported to almost every single one of Nintendo’s major gaming consoles. What’s Hot about Mario Mario’s colours consist primarily of comic red, yellow and blue - which are good colours to identify a character as a hero. These colours are also bright, attractive and memorable. The combination of that plus Mario’s huge moustache which makes him look cute and friendly, makes Mario unforgettable. Mario started off in Donkey Kong as a jumping plumber who had a mission to save a damsel in distress. This interesting background story and a unique game play which later had Mario warping through huge pipes, jumping on enemies and eating mushrooms to get super powers have turned Mario into arguably the most famous video game character in history.
  • 28. COPYRIGHT © SEGA SONIC THE HEDGEHOG – WORLD’S FASTEST RUNNER Sonic the Hedgehog - a rolling hedgehog which runs at super-sonic speed - is the lead character of a video game series under the same name released by Sega, as well as numerous spin-off comics, cartoons and books. The first game in the franchise was released on June 23rd, 1991 in order to provide Sega with a mascot to rival Nintendo's flagship character Mario. Since then, Sonic has become one of the world's best-known video game characters, with his series having sold over 45 million copies. In 2005, Sonic was one of the first game character inducted into the Walk of Game, alongside Mario, Halo and Link. What’s Hot about Sonic Similiar to Mario, Sonic also wears comic red and blue, which gives Sonic a super hero appeal. Sonic’s design is unforgettable with his lanky limbs, confident smirk and spunky hairdo. Everything about Sonic screams ‘action figure’. Sonic’s game play was undeniably unique at the time it was launched. Even today, the concept of being able to manipulate a character that traveled at super-sonic speed is still very appealing. Sega has given Sonic a very strong personality, defining him as an adventurous soul who lives and dies by his own rules, goes for what he believes in and always on the move. The above traits have all come together to make Sonic the unique character he is and an icon not just for Sega, but for the history of video games.
  • 29. COPYRIGHT © EIDOS INTERACTIVE LTD LARA CROFT – CYBER BIMBO OR FEMINIST ICON? Friday 22nd November 1996 - A cold morning in the UK for the launch of a video game on the Sony PlayStation, Sega Saturn and the PC that would take the world by storm and forever change the face of video games. It featured an intelligent, athletic and driven woman as the central character, instead of the tough guys like the marine from DOOM or Duke Nukem and it gave us a new view of life with its 3rd person perspective, which personally made a change after all that first person shooting. That game was 'Tomb Raider’ and the woman was Lara Croft. Tomb Raider became so phenomenally successful that it was later optioned for 2 motion pictures starring A-list Hollywood superstar Angelina Jolie as Lara Croft. What’s Hot about Lara There are different schools of thought regarding this. Some see Lara as a cyber bimbo - designed specifically for the male target audience in mind. She’s sexy, beautiful, intelligent, adventurous and incredibly athletic - the sort of female men feel intimidated by - but now she’s controllable at the whims of your fingertips! How’s that for the perfect combination of eye and thumb candy for the guys? Others see Lara as a feminist icon - designed to please also the female gamers - a confident and capable female not dependant on men for survival. And the best part is, she is capable of taking out anyone who mucks around with her. Either way, Lara pleases both demography. Her appeal is undeniable - as most gamers would relish the idea of controlling a gun-yielding, acrobatic femme fa-tale even if it’s just for the heck of it.
  • 31. The Core Product What is the core product or platform which your character will be appearing on? Where will the character be seen and in what medium? This will directly affect how you should design your character, as different products will have different presentation platforms. Ideally your character should translate across several platforms to maximize its licensing potential. TV The Internet Mobile Content Games Story Books Comics Merchandise
  • 32. Target Demography What is your core product’s target audience? Have you considered the traits and personality that will appeal to the target audience and not only makes sense in the game, but also gives the game play a boost? Characters aimed at young children, for example, are typically designed around basic shapes and bright colours.
  • 33. Licensable and Merchandisable When designing your character, always bear in mind its potential for licensing and merchandising. It is no good if your character has limited potential to be exploited. Ask yourself these questions: Is your character charismatic as merchandise? What kind of merchandise can your character be made into? What kind of merchandise would look good with your character on it? How many different categories of merchandise can your character lend itself to?
  • 34. Distinct, Different and Visually Impactful Is your character design unique? With so many characters out there on the market, you need to ensure that your character stands out. Your character needs to be strong and interesting in a visual sense to get people’s attention. Take the Simpsons for example - the characters’ unusually bright yellow skin colour is an immediate attention grabber. Do a thorough check and be perfectly honest with yourself. Does it look distinct and different enough or does it look like something out of another game or animated series? If it even remotely resembles something else on the market, chuck it away and go straight back to the drawing board! Do not hesitate! COPYRIGHT © FOX
  • 35. The Lead and the Followers Do ensure that you differentiate your lead characters well from the supporting characters. It would be a tragedy if your lead character blends so much into the supporting cast that he fails to stand out. Even if all your characters look great, a potential licensee may end up being spoilt for choice because all your characters look great but your lead doesn’t look extra great! Licensees lose interest quickly when licensing your characters becomes too complicated for them. Personality Characters that lack personality are boring and forgettable. How does your character express himself? Is he loud or shy? Is he intelligent or dumb? Is he evil, neutral or good? What are his strengths and weaknesses? What are his likes and dislikes? These are all parts of your character's personality and you should incorporate all these into the design to create a greater sense of identity for the character.
  • 36. Think 3D Design concepts usually start from 2D. Look further and consider your character in 3D. How would it look? Some characters look better in 2D and vice versa. Would your character translate well to 3D? The best kind of character design look good in both 2D and 3D. COPYRIGHT © SEGA
  • 37. Think in Motion The image of your character may be static but the character probably will not. How would your character look in motion? It is easy to fall into a situation where the character looks good, but inanimatable due to factors we don’t consider during the design process. COPYRIGHT © NINTENDO
  • 38. Colours Colours play an essential role in communicating a character’s personality. Dark colours such as black and grey depict evil characters with malevolent intentions. Light colours such as white, blue, pink and yellow express innocence, purity and goodness. Comic red, yellow and blue suggest heroic qualities in a character.
  • 39. Line Quality and Style The manner in which the lines of your character is drawn plays a part in defining to people what kind of personality it has visually. Thick, soft and round lines suggest a cute, approachable character. Take the example of Super Mario. Having said that, besides helping to define personalities, different line qualities also help define different demographics. Sharp, scratchy lines suggest an erratic and uneasy character which may be more suitable for an older demography. COPYRIGHT © NINTENDO
  • 40. Exaggerated Characteristics As far as possible, exaggerate the characteristics and facial expressions of your character. Exaggerated expressions will allow viewers to better appreciate the character’s key qualities and make your character more interesting. If your character is a Hercules sort, give him muscles 5 times that of a body builder.
  • 41. Props and Accessories Props and accessories add depth to a character design and help to emphasize a character’s traits and his background. Done well, they can also open up a whole range of spin-off opportunities in merchandise. Take the example of Doraemon - the robot cat who comes from the future together with a full range of props from the future. Many of these props have since been licensed into real merchandise.
  • 42. Story Background Developing a story and background for your character is necessary if you are planning for your character to cross over different platforms. Without this in mind, it will be more difficult to convince potential licensees to exploit your character for development into platform properties like story-books, comics, animation and games. Goals and Dreams Characters are more interesting and closer to fans if they have a goal and dream which they might or might not be pursuing. This may be a relationship, a state of mind, a physical asset, anything. This gives the fans something to identify with and talk about amongst each other. TIPS FOR CREATING A GREAT CHARACTER DESIGN
  • 43. Don’t be Afraid to Experiment Experimentation is about breaking all the rules and going against the norm. If your character is evil, he doesn’t necessarily have to look nasty. Make him unforgettable by giving him an unassuming and harmless look! Think Mini Me from Austin Powers! If your character is a really nice guy, why not give him the body of a gorilla and make him a gentle giant? Just check out Sulley - the huge furry monster who has the soul of an angel!
  • 46. About Sedo Dog Sedo Dog (52 x 11’) s an action comedy animated series aimed for boys and girls on a demographic from 6 to 9 - Mediafreaks Cartoon’s latest original creation, in partnership with Omens Studios and supported by the Media Development Authority of Singapore. Sedo is the top dog of the group and he’s a pooch on a mission. His evil arch nemesis Bado and her side kick Rollo have escaped justice through a dimensional doorway into Earth. Unfortunately, the dimensional doorway sucked Sedo and his friends through as well. The stunned pups found themselves falling through the air and landing in a strange new world called Earth…Well, they actually landed on Lucy who was on her way home from school before being buried under a pile of whimpering dogs. Sedo and his friends, Guru, Cosmo, Mono, Judo and Floro are marooned on Earth, with their only hope of returning home is to apprehend Bado, and get her to conjure up the dimensional doorway. But she and Rollo have no intentions of going home and quickly disappear deep into the labyrinths of Westmile City. Sedo and his friends could be stuck here for quite some time! With every pooch armed with his own special hat that bestows upon him super duper power, you can expect a spectacular show of dazzling special effects and action-packed scenes kids will simply love to watch!
  • 47. Collaboration with Hi Corp, Japan In early 2008, Mediafreaks entered into a collaboration with HI CORPORATION of Japan - a Japanese company specializing in real-time 3D rendering engine (MascotCapsule® ) for mobile phones and a wide variety of other devices - to release a set of original characters from the animated series Katakune and Sedo Dog to be offered as downloadable content for mobile phones released in Japan. The first mobile phone to sport one of the cartoon characters called Mono Dog from the Sedo Dog series is the high-end Sharp SH905iTV. The cartoon characters will be used for a service where users can set characters to display on their mobile phone standby screens, menu screens, and other screens. The character moves around the mobile phone screen and reacts according to events such as incoming calls, mails and text messages. Popularity Being Garnered in Kidscreen, MIPCOM and MIPTV Despite the fact that Sedo Dog is still in production, it has already garnered many enquiries and much interest from broadcasters all over the world during soft launches at Kidscreen, MIPCOM and MIPTV. We have also received numerous proposals for licensing collaborations.
  • 48. Unique Designs We have designed this bunch of dogs to steer clear away from the conventional perception of how dogs should look like - on all fours, canine features and furry all over. The Sedo Dog pooches are furless, stand on 2 legs and sport human-like features with human-like expressions.
  • 49. Unique Names Sedo, Cosmo, Guro, Judo, Floro, Mono, Bado and Rollo make up the names of the pooches in the Sedo Dog family. Each character’s name ends up with an ‘o’ so that it forms a unique connection and becomes easily remembered by fans.
  • 50. Unique Form of Expression Our characters were designed for 3D animation. Instead of using target morphs which involved animating the facial features of the characters in 3D, we chose to create a series of expressions in 2D so that we could have more flexibility and maintain an anime look. This manner of expression is quite unique in the market.
  • 51. Special Accessories Every one of the pooches in the Sedo Dog family wears a special hat which bestows upon him a special power. This not only serves to strengthen each dog’s personality and identity, it also becomes a major selling point for licensing and merchandising opportunities.
  • 52. Special Powers Every dog in Sedo Dog has a special power due to the hat they wear. Special powers help to further strengthen the personalities of the dogs and add an overall attractiveness to the cartoon series, especially for the target demography of 6-9 which we are targeting. In Mono’s case, he can turn into a huge giant dog at will.
  • 54. Record labels do not make their money solely on album sales. Albums are primarily marketing mediums to make the artiste known to the world and propel him/her to fame. Once famous, multiple avenues of income become available – such as product endorsements, advertisements, concerts, movie deals, etc. You should consider looking upon the management of your stable of digital characters just like the management of real-life artistes as described above in the case of the record labels. Character Licensing Licensing your characters is a good way to generate extra income out of your characters. If your game is about to or has already hit the shelves, you should consider getting a licensing agent to manage the rights of your characters. Good licensing agents are often well-connected and able to look for suitable partners who may be willing to license your characters for their merchandise. Such licensing deals can result in anything from plush or clothes to books or even credit cards! The publication Total Licensing is a good resource for learning more about the latest trends in lic
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