Animation Designer

Animation design really involves three different parts that make up the entire topic: backgrounds, characters, and props. Each is designed by a separate group of designers. On a feature film, these things are all designed once, at the beginning of the production, but on a weekly show like "The Simpsons," things have to be created for each episode.

If the script calls for something that has been seen before somewhere in the history of the show, the design is pulled and given to the animators and layout people, but if the writers have created something new, then it has to be designed from scratch.

Backgrounds are needed when a new setting is used. The designer creates what is the equivalent of a master shot, a view that encompasses the entire set, including everything called for in the script. If, for instance, the script called for a monorail cockpit, then the designer draws a straight-on view of the cockpit, showing all the dials and lights and details where they are supposed to be. The designer does one of these master shots for all new locations, and these are given to the background and layout artists for use during the next step.

At the start of a show or movie, all the characters are new, so they all have to be designed. In the case of a TV show, new characters appear each episode in the form of "guest stars" or just additions to help the story line along. The design of these characters is done in two steps. The first step is the actual drawing of the character from the front. This is the main look of the character, so it is the most important. Once the initial design is approved, the character undergoes a process called turnarounds. This is when an artist, usually someone who specializes in this procedure, takes the straight drawing and reproduces it several times. Each time, though, the artist changes the angle slightly—in effect, turns the body around, so when finished, the animator has a reference of what the character looks like from all sides. It's like watching a model spin on a runway. In fact, the sheet is used as a model, and all the animators must keep to it to ensure that the character's looks stay the same from scene to scene.

Prop design, as you've probably guessed, is the design of anything that is used by any of the characters. If there's a remote control being used to change a channel, that has to be designed by someone.

Once the model pack is approved, it is passed on to the animators whom the director has cast, or assigned, to the various aspects of the project.

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