Monday, May 5, 2014

Character Relationships

Staging personalities together in a way that brings out their personalities is a quality Frank Thomas was very good at. He knew well that having contrasting attitudes among characters helps to create interesting situations. Playing them off each other brings out their emotions and identities.
Frank’s characters always come off as sincere, real types, because they are based on actual life observation. No tricks, no formulas…instead his animation reminds everyone of somebody they encountered in their lives.
Above, Fauna and Merryweather contemplate the idea of raising Princess Aurora secretly in the forest. Fauna adores the idea while Merryweather has her doubts. 

In this drawing from the unproduced short film The Laughing Gauchito Frank faced the challenge of having the main character act with himself in a mirror. This becomes more of a technical challenge, since the reflection moves exactly like the Gauchito, just in a different perspective (a problem that obviously doesn’t exist in today’s CG animation).

Ichabod Crane dances with Katrina. Frank explores various staging ideas that show Ichabod’s pursuit and Katrina’s willingness to play along. 

A pirate on Hook’s ship threatens Smee. The pirate’s force dominates this situation, while Smee is portrayed as intimidated and helpless.

Here Captain Hook corners Smee, a great visual for action and reaction. 

In this little doodle Jock and Lady share a moment in which either one is interested in the other's thoughts. They both lean toward one another to examine what’s on the other’s character’s mind.
Jock seems to offer comfort, and Lady is willing to accept it.

The Three Fairies have just sent Aurora into the forest to pick more berries. Now that she is gone they immediately go on with their business to prepare for a surprise birthday party. Flora is leading the way (right in character), while Merryweather closes the door.

Pongo has just picked up Lucky, who was shivering in the cold snow. He has no problem carrying the little pup, who is helpless and limp as a flower sack.

Easy to read attitudes in this character composition. Wart is flabbergasted toward the affection this strange girl squirrel is showcasing. I love her little arms holding on to Wart, and keeping him from moving away (temporarily).

King Louie shows ape like behavior when examining Mowgli’s head for any kind of insects. The boy naturally is annoyed and tries to free himself. A great scene, Frank did every single drawing for it.

Baloo takes a liking to Mowgli, who has not yet accepted the bear as an ally. Eventually he comes around, which is part of the joy of The Jungle Book.

Here is the link to an earlier post on this subject:


  1. I still do not quite understand how to work the timing of two different characters at the same time, then I do the animated sequence separately and then I scan it with the animations on the edition. Is it wrong?

  2. Beautiful drawings and explanations, as always :D

  3. Interesting how simple Frank Thomas' exploratory sketches were. Just a line of action and an indication for a head in some cases.

  4. It's be interesting to see you write a little bit about your own staging problems and solutions. I imagine Lilo would have been tricky because she's a bit stumpy and it isn't in her character to stretch out like Roger Rabbit would. And even Roger Rabbit must have been tricky to stage because he moves so quickly. Fascinating stuff.

    1. I would say that Roger Rabbit was easer to animate, because you could do almost anything with him. Not with Lilo, she was holding still a lot, which is tougher to keep alive.

  5. The bedroom scene with LILO and stitch were great examples. IMO