Humorous Phases of Funny Bird Faces

About four years ago, in school, I decided to make a film that would include everything I wanted in a cartoon.

This was a mistake.

I packed way too many ideas into this cartoon and it just never got finished - the animatic is 12 minutes long! But one of the nice things about preparing for this film was that I designed a bunch of characters that would play small roles throughout the piece. One of these characters is named Greenbird.

When I designed him in 2002, he looked like this:

As you can see, he's not based on a real bird at all.

Here are some rough ideas of how he might look when emotional -

Looking back at these drawings, it is clear to me that there just isn't enough specificity in the design. The character would work as a graphic that could do funny walks and dances, but the design won't allow me to do any really intense and emotional acting. I mean, he has no facial structure!

Fast-forward to 2005.

In 2005 I decided to re-design Greenbird for television pitching. I decided that this time, I would begin the design by caricaturing an actual, specific bird. Well, Greenbird is supposed to be green - so I modeled him after a parrot.

I googled a bunch of parrot images, and here are some of the drawings that resulted:

I really like that sharp angle on the top of the parrot's head, so I tried to keep that in the design. I also realized that the tiny eyes are part of what makes a parrot look like a parrot, so I tried to keep those too.

This next step is the most crucial step in turning an animal into a cartoon animal:

Adding the hat and moustache.

How about a shirt and tie, too?

As you can see on one of my post-it notes, I realized that the little eyes were not going to be expressive enough. But everytime I drew the eyes bigger, I felt like I was losing too much of that original parrot.

Now I'm not exactly sure what happened next - I think I started focusing on the Preston Blair book more intensely in an effort to strengthen my skills in cartoon construction. But the following designs basically ended up being my final designs. I realized that soft and round shapes would animate much better than the designs I had been working on before, and also that with these new character constructions I would be able to study classic cartoons and apply what I learn to Greenbird more easily.

He now has facial construction...

And his body has volume....

And look, he can even turn around now!

This latest version of Greenbird is succesful, to me, because I can now put him in poses and twist him around and give him much more specific facial expressions that just wouldn't have been possible with the original designs. I really like the realistic parrot drawings, but I don't think they are as practical for cartoon animation.

The most fun of this whole process, actually, was drawing the real parrot and then trying to caricature its features! Here are some more drawings from that period:

No moustache!

I'm not sure if there is anything to learn from this post - but I just thought I'd share my experience designing Greenbird.

So what kind of processes do you go through when designing characters?


At 12:27 PM, Blogger christopher said...

Wow! These parrot drawings are amazing! Everyone of these are going up on my wall!
You've got to find a way to work in a Ren and Stimpy painted close-up with one of the more realistic parrot heads. They are too hilarious not to use.
Seriously, these amaze me. If by chance you need any references for owls I found a cool site www.owlpages.com with some great pictures. I'm dying to see more from this short! Thanks!

At 7:58 PM, Blogger Marc Deckter said...

Hey thanks Chris! I'm glad you like the drawings!

That's a great idea to make a super realistic painting of Greenbird - I'll have to try that in the future.

It's funny you mention owls because one of the main characters in this unfinished film is an owl. The pictures on that site you mentioned are great, but even better is the SOUND GALLERY! This female owl at the nest calling to the male sounds like it was made on an electronic synthesizer!

At 4:13 AM, Blogger christopher said...

Ha! It sounds like the noise a UFO taking off would make in a bad sci-fi movie! Thats awesome I just found the site the other day and haven't really checked it out completely yet. Thanks for the heads up.

Did you finish designing the owl for the film? I hope you'll be posting more about it!

That last drawing of greenbird cracks me up everytime. I vote for a painting of that one!

At 4:17 AM, Blogger The GagaMan(n) said...

These are great. I think you should of maybe kept the mustace in the final design, in my personal opinion. Superb parrort sketches =D

At 10:06 AM, Blogger Marc Deckter said...

Hi Chris - yeah, I love the sci-fi bird sounds!

I have a design of the owl from the same period as that 2002 drawing of Greenbird (the flat/simple one) - I'll try to do a post on the owl in the future. And once I get a free chunk of time I'd like to do some of those realistic paintings like you suggested.

Thanks for the comments!

At 10:12 AM, Blogger Marc Deckter said...

Hi gagaman(m) - thanks for kind words!

And hey, a vote for the moustache! I think I received some feedback from people that it wasn't clear that it was a moustache, since it really looks like a big thick black line zig-zagging.

But I think I prefer him with the stash too.....

At 11:02 AM, Blogger The GagaMan(n) said...

I was thinking more the really scuffy stash he has in those earier designs than the zig-zag one myself. I love that early design for some reason.

At 12:57 PM, Blogger Katie said...

These are all great, Marc...those realistic drawings with the hats and ties made me die though...they're so funny!! I can't wait for more posts!

At 7:35 PM, Blogger Marc Deckter said...

Hi GagaMan(n) - Oh, I see - the earlier scuffy stash! Thanks for clarifying. Sometimes when drawing that moustache I would think of it as a black pocket comb - like he could just pull it out from under his beak sometimes and comb his....feathers.

At 7:42 PM, Blogger Marc Deckter said...

Hey, thanks Katie!

A hat and tie are always wonderful additions to an animal's attire.

I want to see some of YOUR funny animal drawings! How about some girl birds?

At 8:03 PM, Blogger Kevin Langley said...

I remember reading this post when you first put it up but I didn't remember the final Greenbird design. I was probably at work and got sidetracked. That is really great I would love to see more of Greenbird. Any plans for him?

You probably won't even see this comment since the post is so old but I had to express the joy I felt when seeing it, Great job. I'd love to see more of your art along with those great screencaps.



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