Friday, March 28, 2008

Mommy's Little Monkster

Trying to keep the gears moving has become priority. Ace provided a nice way to restart the machine that is my brain, now it's time to start moving around the other pokers in the fire too. Potential work is afoot, and I need to get sharpened back up asap. I pulled out a few exploratory Monkster sketches from the later part of last year. At a certain point I hit a great stride with this character. Drawings were constantly on model, and he was starting to come to life. In a lot of ways he's my Mickey Mouse or Kermet the Frog. Just like Walt and Jim thought of their creations, I think of Monkster as a living being. I find myself singing in the car with his voice quite frequently. It just kind of happens. When I struggle with his facial features, I look in the mirror and make faces of my own. Monkster is the personification of my mischievous side, and the troublemaker that I was always afraid to be. He's everything I'm not, just as I am everything he's not.

It's been interesting doing research on this design. Coming across interviews of former Disney animators like Fred Moore and Frank Thomas, who are 2 of the draftsmen responsible for the sleek lined and well proportioned Mickey Mouse we know today. Both men were responsible for redesigning Mickey at key points in his career. I found resonance in Fred Moore's redesign of Mickey in 1939 in particular. Fred was in part responsible for Mickey during the production of "Fantasia" and the first person to give Mickey pupils in his eyes.

Can anyone tell why this redesign was necessary?

Expression. Pie eyed Mickey was not able to emote enough emotion for Uncle Walt's liking and for Mickey's movie star debut, acting was key.

Now compare 1930's Mickey to the Monkster sketch above. Pie eyes.
I ran into a lot of the same problems they had to have run into at Disney's in the late 30's. Trying to get Monkster to emote more has been quite the task. Why not just redesign Monkster? Well, I'm stubborn and I like Monkster the way he is. He came out of my head with pie eyes, and pie eyed is the way he's gonna stay. The design flaw doesn't mean the character is to be given up on, no. I just view it as a challenge.

In trying to find contemporary characters to mimic, "The Animaniacs" were a huge help in my studies. I know the mere mention of those characters makes any animation historian cringe, but say what you will. Their design flaw was a huge help in trying to overcome Monkster's. It's so far so good I think. Take for example the 2 quick sketches below (Forgiving the flipper hands on the one on the right):

I see thought, organic thought. You can see wheels turning as if he's a living, breathing thing. Particularly on the left. Look at the stretch, and gesture that is going on there. I can hear him talking already. Any moment he's gonna try and trick me out of the pudding snack from my lunch, I can feel it.

More of these sketches to come. I'm trying to dig out some of my sketch pads from last year on Monkster and The Canopy as we speak.

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