A friend challenged me to an exercise in creative concept art – draw some Angry Birds (yes, as in the game). But make them cows. Angry cows.
To meet the brief, I took a look at the original Angry Birds characters. The main thing you’ll notice about these characters is how very simple each design is, in terms of outline (most are based on a circle) and basic body features. The other thing you will notice is how unique each character is and, therefore, how easy each is to distinguish from the other characters, even in tiny, screen form. Angry Birds characters differ markedly in one or more of the following:
- size – from the tiny Blue Bird to the Chubby White Bird and Big Red Bird.
- shape – many of the characters are based on a round body model, but some are egg-shaped or even triangular, with differing tail or crest configurations that make them recognisable even in silhouette form.
- colour – aside from Red Bird and Big Red Bird, all of the characters are swiftly recognisable by their colours, which is essential on a tiny game screen.
- personalities – even though most of the birds are, as advertised, angry to be sure, there are also ones that look worried and determined and even a bit crazy.
The following character sheet was my take on the brief:
Here, I have gone with different colours, shapes (while most are modeled on the circle, a couple have been modeled on the inverted triangle and on the trapezium), sizes and outlines in order to make each character distinct. I have also varied the personalities, from the angry red bull and crazy orange bull to the suspicious yellow pineapple-esque cow, sad blue Ankole-Watusi and sleepy Highland Cow.
Note – for extra cowish brownie points, I also looked up breeds of cow, searching for unique types that I could include as characters. The first two cows are Highland Cattle – these have wide horns and amazing, long fringes that make for interesting character opportunities. The central, blue cow is modeled on the Ankole-Watusi (these are incredible looking cattle – definitely worth Googling). The black and white cow is based on the Holstein-Friesian – the classic, spotted dairy cow. The pineapple cow … was not based on a real cow breed (sorry about that).
Below are the characters in silhouette.
Walt Disney animation (particularly in the early days – Donald, Goofy, Mickey Mouse etc.) designed their characters based around the principle that they should be unique enough to be easily recognisable in silhouette form. Thus, you can recognise Mickey by his ears (the distinct shape that is, even now, the Disney logo), Goofy by his teeth and hat and stance and Pluto by his narrow ears and whip tail and the bump on his head (as distinct from the shapes of other canine characters). The same holds true for character design (especially casts of characters) today.
Note – the twin cows (the green one and the black-and-white) have the same silhouette. If I drew these again, I would place the bangle on the opposite foot of one to make them unique in silhouette.
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