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Character sheets

How we communicate our character ideas. Copyright The Walt Disney Company.

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Video transcript

At Imagineering the creation of a character involves many people, across many departments, and with many different skills. From sculptors to animators, engineers, machinists, fabricators, and more. With so many people in the mix, how do we make sure that everyone has the same idea about how the character will look and behave? One of the tools we use is called a character sheet. Character sheets consists of a variety of sketches. Which define how a character will look, what they will wear, and how they will move. It also contains notes that define the personality and background of a character such as: Where do they come from? Where do they live? What do they say? and How do they say it? Think of it as a blueprint that informs all decisions about such a character. For the story department a character sheet is a breakdown of what constitutes this character. A character sheet for the Shaman is that she is extremely elegant and she moves in a fluid-like manner. That she is extremely expressive and likes to use her body, it's part of her communication. If you only have a sketch for a character sheet, that's better than nothing, not having an image at all. Any type of visuals always helps in developing your character sheet. If you go back and you look at the history of, you know, the Walt Disney films, back to things like Snow White and Sleeping Beauty, in the woods there's always these creatures around these princesses. We had this question of, "Could we fill our lands with characters like that?" You know, this idea of a woodland creature intelligence. It's a small little thing that sees you and hears you, but doesn't really speak. And you know understands the world around them, but doesn't really have human intelligence. So I think with tiny life we kind of created a personality board. So we knew we wanted to express some different types of emotion. So, what we would do is we would say "okay, we want to think about how an introvert would say 'hello'" and we would articulate that out and make a collection of little storyboards. What does excited look like? What does sad look like? What does surprised look like? What does angry look like? And we would show those sketches to people and have them guess what emotion we were trying to communicate. And the emotions that we communicated really, really clearly and people immediately guessed, we circled and said, "oh, that's, that's the way to convey that emotion." My biggest piece of advice when coming up with a character sheet, is to come up with a strong key pose first. Like - what is your character thinking - figure that out first. You know, is your character going to, you know, make some soup, right? So draw that character with a big you know cauldron of soup and a spoon. And he's mixing it and maybe that's what the story is, but maybe something's jumping up out of that soup. So when I was working on Mystic Manor, we had Albert, the monkey, and we knew he was gonna be mischievous. Albert's a good natured character, but he's curious. So in one scene he's opening up the music box letting this music dust escape, but then as the story goes along we keep putting Albert in more peril. So he's hanging on this pole, and he is poking his finger in the mouth of this little baby Venus flytrap, and unbeknownst to him, mama flytrap is behind Albert and is about to chop his tail off. You have to immediately read, "Oh Albert is going to get hit with an axe here," right. So we've got Albert pinned up against the wall, there's darts and arrows and stuff pinning him up against the wall, and a little axe that has just, you know, missed his legs. It does not need to be a beautiful drawing. It can be stick figures. I always felt like I needed to be able to draw very well to do that and I can't draw all that well. So, I think, I use puppetry too to try those interactions and sort of try to try to mock up a character. So the ability to wrap some cloth around your hand, to see how something would move, you can you can really get very far with very little. It just serves as a tool to help communicate what it is that's going through your character's head. Character sheets are particularly useful for designing animatronic figures when it comes to the motions they will perform. Such as where will they bend, rotate, squash, or stretch. With animatronics, we have to define very precisely how each part of the character will move. In Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout, Rocket shows up in the pre-show room of the attraction. And he comes in and it's completely unexpected and he kind of starts making his way around the room. You see his tail, you see his hand, and then finally, Rocket shows up. He hits his head on a pipe and he starts to explain what's going on in this thing and how he needs your help on this mission. So this is the functionality that the Rocket figure has, right. He can, you know, he has this ability to bend at a pelvis. He has this ability to bend inside of his torso and his head nod and turn and tilt, and these various different things. And we use all of these together to design the criteria for what Rockets gonna do. And to ultimately this is what we'll have to have to work with in the actual performance. Every movement a character makes from a head turn to a knee bend, is called a function. We'll go into more detail about functions in the next video So the character sheet, is both an artistic tool and a technical tool. It's the agreement between the creative and engineering teams about In the next exercise, you'll have the chance to analyze some character sheets from Imagineering, as well as to develop one for your own character.