Monday, October 22, 2007

A comment that grew so large, it became its own post.

Howdy all,

Thanks for the interesting opinion piece Haine; I agree that it is a good idea to encourage discussion about all of this, and your post is a great start. After reading it I couldn’t resist chiming in with my respective opinions. Because I don’t have a tonne of time at the moment I will more or less limit myself to responding to the points you bring up in your thread, but at some point it’d be great to begin discussion on even more facets of Evil Stevil’s personality (as well as Death’s).

“neck extruding 90 degrees angle works really good and gave him anger look”

I totally agree; this was one of the best things to come out of our design meeting. In acting terms it seems like Evil Stevil’s character center would be in his head (he will lead with his head when walking etc.). This makes the decision to have it protrude forward not only effective in communicating his age, but his attitude as well. Centering him in his head is very representative of his stubbornness (like you mentioned), as well as his confidence and recklessness – he goes into things head first.

“his overall body shape was too elongated. I thought a man spending 50 years sitting on his chair doing nothing but building model ramp could be much much shorter and stubby”

This logic makes sense, yet, while I agree that he should be short and hunched over, I don’t like him when he is stubby. With the subtlety of live action I’d say it would be possible to have a stout Evil Stevil who at the same time looks old and frail, but in a cartoon I believe we have to make a choice between Evil Stevil looking stubby, OR looking old, broken and shaky. I have yet to see a stubby version of Evil Stevil that really manages to portray his age and creakiness, because visually stockiness communicates solidity and weight. For me a lot of the humour here comes from Evil Stevil looking way too boney, gangly, and decrepit to ever sanely consider doing his jump. The image of a thin old man snapping and contorting across the desert floor seems far more hilarious to me than that of a fatter man rolling and squashing.

To me, the key word in describing Evil Stevil’s stature is “wiry” – by all rights he should be dead, but sheer grit has kept him alive. He is hard edged, cantankerous, fiery and determined – I feel this kind of lean design best represents these harsh characteristics. His body is so old that it should be incapable of doing anything, but the pure strength of his will forces it into action allowing him to be relatively active – we just need to animate this action in a way that communicates the true age and weakness of his body in comparison to the vitality and power of his spirit.

The trouble with stubbiness: it is easily equated with jolliness, a comfortable life style, and other more laid back characterizations. (Evil Stevil barely eats or sleeps anymore; he just keeps working on the jump.)


If, as we discussed with DQ, Evil Stevil is a metaphor for life – living it to the fullest and never giving up – than to me the peg leg works because is a metaphor for sacrifice and determination. We don’t need to know exactly when or how he lost his leg, what is important is the fact that he was willing to sacrifice his own body parts (and potentially his life) to reach his goals. This makes the level of his fanaticism clear, and ties into the overall metaphor because sacrifice is a part of life (we all sacrifice for the things we want). Moreover, the peg leg visually states his determination: in stead of letting the setback of losing his leg get the best of him, he straps on a peg and keeps going. In addition, the wheel chair design that incorporates the peg leg develops the “life” metaphor by representing the kind of ingenuity and adaptability needed to survive in this unfair world. No matter what life throws at him, he will find a way to do the jump.

No one goes through life without experiencing failure, especially when you risk as much as Evil Stevil, so it makes sense that he will have had to overcome his share of accidents. The peg leg is a visual representation of this, and as such, is not only funny to look at but has justified metaphorical meaning. Evel Knevil himself broke many bones during his career (*see skeleton pic), and since this is a cartoon we need to take this concept of past injury at least one step further, and a missing limb is a visual way to do this.

“Because we have death's eye Hollow.. or just a black hole, I felt that having a full eyeball for Evil Stevil would differ the animation value from death.”

It seems like Death should have pupils for the sake of eye direction and acting, but that they should be inverse, with his eye holes being black (to maintain the skull look) and his pupils being white (or a light colour). In Photoshop or After FX we could easily make Death’s small white pupils slightly translucent and glowing for a more mystical and subtle effect. I have tried to include these pupils in my drawings of death, and I have noticed them in several other people’s drawings as well, so I assume there are a few of us on the same page about this. Also, despite his head being a skull, his eyes should be fully able to change shape and squash and stretch for a full range of emotions. It is like the “Disney-ite” that Pete talked about last year, allowing characters like Lumiere in Beauty and the Beast to come to life, despite being made of what should be a solid material.

“So I thought if we are keeping the dotted eye, maybe we can bend the glasses frame to add more emotions.”

Definitely! Keeping the glasses pliable to enhance expression is something I’ve been trying to push from the introduction of this design, but perhaps I did not communicate it well enough in words or in drawings. You can see some pliability in the rough drawings I did on the post-it here, but perhaps it is still too subtle:

I feel that with proper use of the eye brows, bending the shape of the glasses, and changing the design of the pupils within their frames, the expressive potential of Evil Stevil is unlimited – it will just take a bit of ingenuity.

I’ll be pushing for the floating pupils in the glasses solution, if only because it is a stylistic device that really cuts down on line mileage and makes animation easier, which was something that a lot of people seemed really concerned about. I agree, there may be more subtle, and potentially effective ways of handling Evil Stevil’s eyes, but this design is a compromise between maintaining some visual appeal, communicating Evil Stevil’s age through the thickness of his glasses, and coming up with something simple enough for everyone to handle in terms of animation.

Like Haine before me, I apologize for the length of my rant (if I had the time I would have written something shorter), and I thank everyone for putting up with it. I look forward to seeing everyone else’s opinions.

(P.S. Frank - here is that peg legged tap dancer I was talking about...)


Frank Macchia said...

great post Rory, i like the issues you and Haine have brought up...its a great discussion thats really inspiring me to dig deeper into evil stevil's persona...i agree with the peg leg works in two ways...both in aiding his character, and making him that much more visually interesting..hes a dare devil, he SHOULD have some injuries..why not exaggerate that and show an obvious external doesnt mean he's a bad dare devil, or that hes a failure...i dont think it takes away from his prestige...if anything...its a fast and obvious way to describe visually, the kind of life this guy has lead

and thanks for posting the picture of that tap dancer guy...i love the way it resembles a crutch

Rory Madge said...

Yeah, I like the crutch look because anyone who might have a problem with the peg leg being too pirate-like has no reason to complain about it. That said, it'd be a bit harder to draw.

Haine Kim said...

niceeeee post rory
this is the thing really inspires me to think further and deep into the character. In my post I was asking questions because I was little confused with our respective characteristics and the actual Visual of him. Now I get a perfect Evil Stevil!!
very nice post rory, really appreciate your opinions

btw I.. laughed at the picture,
feel guilty now :D