Pixar’s primary goal in character design is the connection of the audience to the character through imbuing the characters with humanity, and focusing on their humanity is vitally important to creating this connection.
When designing their characters, Pixar artists need to know what to exaggerate and what to play down, what to add to give background and depth and what to do to develop personality.
Think about the meaning of the word ‘character’. You’re supposed to breath life into these things, make them appealing and give them the magic that will allow people to imagine what they’re like to meet and how they might move.
The character design process starts with the script being distributed, the words enclosed describing what a character is like. Artists then complete hundreds to thousands of drawings of what they thing a character should look like based on these. Directors then select the images that best fit the vision and then are developed to become a more finalised character.
Even though you might not notice, each character has a theme when it appears on screen. We want the audience to read each character instantly.
Designing Ellie and Carl
One of the strongest character designs to look at is Carl and Ellie from UP (2009). The two total opposite shapes of characters compliment each of beautifully in a wonderful relationship that only takes 8 minutes of screen time to convey, arguably one of Pixar’s greatest moments.