Five Lessons about Character Design: How “Foodfight!” fails at it
I apologise in adventage for any grammatical errors. I’m not a native english speaker, so if I make any mistakes, please point them out to me, so I can edit them right away.
Foodfight! has recently claimed its fame all over the internet by earning the title "Worst Animated Movie Ever Made".
The computer animated movie was produced and directed by Lawrence Kasanoff and swallowed over 65 million dollars in its production circle, that lasted over a decade. It was released in June 2012 in the UK and in May 2013 to the United States, from where it gained attention for its awfulness, especially after two popular internet comedians, JonTron and the Nostalgia Critic, talked about the flick. The movie can be seen in full length on YouTube.
By now, I’ve seen the movie at least three times, and I can assure everyone, that it deserves this title. The story, the characters, the visual presentation, the sound design, the voice acting - everything in this movie feels unpleasant or at least, unfinished.
What especially bugged me about the movie were the characters and their designs. It bugs me so badly, that I decided to rip this movie a new one and point out flaws in their character designs, that might help you to make your character designs better and more believable.
And yes, I know, that picking probably one of the worst movies ever as an example for bad design choices is kinda lazy and an easy target for criticism, but it’s also one of the worst examples for bad character design I can think of AND it’s still recent enough to talk about, so let’s just give it a shot!
I also think to understand my points in this lesson, it would be helpful to you to have seen the movie at least once. But watching one of the reviews on top mentioned will do the trick as well (and it might be more pleasant as well than sitting through 90 minutes of pain!).
Pre-Lesson: What IS Character Design?
Even though the word “design” might suggest, that “character design” stands for the looks of a character, it actually stands for everything revolving around the character: their personality, their looks and their role within the story they appear in.
The whole concept of a character is presented in their character design. Their personality is likely to be seen in their looks and their looks and situation can therefore change their personality. It doesn’t matter, what role your character plays or in which world they live in, a well-designed character will always work out fine, not matter how the story is structured.
Since I’m going to talk about both, character design and the looks of characters, I’m going to distinguish between two terms, in order to not confuse anyone.
When I’m talking about a character’s design in relation to their looks, I’ll use the term “aesthetic design”, while I’ll use “character design” to refer to design choices in relation to a character’s personality, role ect.
Lesson 1: World-Building is also part of the Character Design
FoodFight! takes place in a supermarket, that, after closing, turns into a city, in which so called “Ikes” live. Ikes, or Icons, are basicly the mascots of various goods, that you normally find in a grocery store - cereals, candy, potato chips, cleaning products and so on. This is why you can see some familiar faces in the movie, like Mr. Clean, the California Raisins or Charlie Tuna.
Sadly, those licensed characters are the only well-designed characters in the movie. On one side, because they are known as popular brand mascots, on the other, because their designs work in the context of the movie.
The Color Thesaurus
All from Ingrid’s Notes on Wordpress, direct link here.
We discussed the issue of describing People of Color by means of food in Part I of this guide, which brought rise to even more questions, mostly along the lines of “So, if food’s not an option, what can I use?” Well, I was just getting to that!
This final portion focuses on describing skin tone, with photo and passage examples provided throughout. I hope to cover everything from the use of straight-forward description to the more creatively-inclined, keeping in mind the questions we’ve received on this topic.
So let’s get to it.
S T A N D A R D D E S C R I P T I O N
B a s i c C o l o r s
Pictured above: Black, Brown, Beige, White, Pink.
"She had brown skin.”
- This is a perfectly fine description that, while not providing the most detail, works well and will never become cliché.
- Describing characters’ skin as simply brown or beige works on its own, though it’s not particularly telling just from the range in brown alone.
C o m p l e x C o l o r s
These are more rarely used words that actually “mean” their color. Some of these have multiple meanings, so you’ll want to look into those to determine what other associations a word might have.
A great resource for describing color in accurate and creative ways!