Production Blog

FEBRUARY 24, 2011

Character Design

Happy New Years everyone. In this blog we’ll focus on the character development process that went into our movie. Redeveloping the character design for "War of the Worlds: Goliath" was an exciting process for me as the creator of the project and director. Having lived with this project for more than ten years, it was a dream come true to be able to finally begin to expand and develop on our original concept.

The process of arriving at our final character approach is a case in point.

The original designs produced by Brad Coombs back at Epoch Ink Animation in our first round of development were very strong and showed great personality for each of our main characters, but I had used Brad as a key stylist for so much of my studio’s work in the past, "Captain Simian and the Space Monkeys", "Roswell Conspiracies", Pearl Jam’s "Do the Evolution" music video and others, that I wanted to try something and somebody new.

So we approached four new artists, each of whom has a very individualistic vision in their work. We showed them what had been done earlier by Brad and asked them to take the same costumes and "feel" of the original character designs and interpret them in their own unique styles.

Sandra Khoo
One of the Malaysian talents we approached was the very talented and hard working Sandra Khoo. Sandra is the key character designer for the seminal Malaysian CG animated series, "Saladin" (look for this amazing series when it premiers next year!). I was immediately drawn to her graceful work when I came across some of her "Saladin" character studies that were posted on the walls of our Kuala Lumpur-based audio house, Imaginex Studios.

She jumped right in with her characteristic enthusiasm and soon these lovely designs begin flooding onto my desktop.

All of her characters resonated strongly as feeling, "human" characters with strong emotions and distinct personalities. They also had a real "feeling" of the 1914 era in their faces and uniforms.

You can see Koji's Japanese aristocracy and bearing very clearly in just those 3 small sketches. In the same way Jennifer's sensitivity and fierce independence come to life in this set of lovely drawings.

Abe's strength and maturity and Patrick's devil-may-care attitude are clearly delineated in this these few drawings.

Because our funding was Malaysian based we thought it only right to add a Malaysian to our set of main characters. So co-Producer, Leon Tan created the character of Shah, the son of a Malay Sultan and serene philosopher/warrior. Sandra was the first artist to tackle this new character and not surprisingly generated four sets of full studies of him for this new addition to our team.

All in all, Sandra brought a theatrical Disney or Dreamworks-like quality to the "War of the Worlds: Goliath”'s characters that was true to Brad Coombs original "take" on our heroes, but yet very different in its fluid and graceful line and vision.

Her work would have made for a strong character-driven movie, but I was reluctant to fully embrace it for several reasons. One was simply time. Sandra was committed full-time to the "Saladin" animated series for the indefinite future and it would be near impossible for her to shoulder the full character design and development of a movie with a literal ARMY of characters.

The other issue was one of a potential lack of stylistic compatibility with our intense CG built mecha. I was concerned that Sandra's more cartoony approach might be jarring when her characters were integrated with the movie's more realistic heavy metal tripods and aircraft.

Jose Lopez

The next artist we approached was a major L.A. based talent, Jose Lopez. Jose is a top character designer in the local industry having an amazing resume of character design work in video games, TV series like "Batman" and “Generator Rex” and a growing number of direct-to-DVD movies like "Green Lantern: First Flight".

Jose's work is stylized and edgy and very contemporary. All qualities that he brought to his take on the "War of the Worlds: Goliath" team.

In the end, Jose's characters felt a little too contemporary and broad. Again, the concern was how such cartoony designs would interact with the movie's more realistic CG machines and aircraft.

Still, with more "period" clothing and grooming Jose's characters would make an entirely viable approach.

Studio Climb
Studio Climb did their usual standout take on the heroes of "War of the Worlds: Goliath".

In the end, however, they felt a little too much like a painted version of Brad Coombs work. I liked the work that had been done, but was still looking for the "right" fit for our film.

Lee Seung Gyo
Finally, I approached noted Korean artist, director and animator, Lee Seung Gyo (AKA Director Lee) to do his unique take on our characters. Director Lee is noted for his powerful, massive, anime-influenced figures and designs.

The results of his initial work, you can see below.

To say that I was pleased by his “take” on our characters would have been an understatement. Director Lee had delivered a set of edgy, and cool-looking warriors that threaded the line between pure anime and the Western-influenced styling we were looking for. In addition, they were highly stylized, yet "realistic" enough to work with our CG mecha.

It did not take me long to realize that we had our character designer! The look of our film was beginning to gel. Now we needed a story to match our design.

Next:

Coming Up_
Blog 20 will feature another full production update on where we are at in the production of “War of the Worlds: Goliath” and come with lots of beautiful shots of some of the finished production cells. I’m very excited by the quality of what we’re getting in form our Korean animation team at Sun Min Image Pictures and I think you will be too!

Then in Blog 21 we’ll focus on our movie’s scriptwriter and feature a profile and interview with the highly talented writer/producer, David Abramowitz!

Production Blog