Our journey accompanying the creation of Mila continues. After the story is set, it is time to give the characters their definite look. That’s when the character designers come.
On Mila, there are four: one character designer -Luis Grane- and three additional character designers – Pedro Astudillo, Beatrice Borghini and Matthew Bates.
A former student at the famed California Institute of the Arts, Matthew studied alongside some of the animation industry’s leading artists and animators. After starting with Marvel Productions, he helped refine the character designs for the popular Muppet Babies television series, with his first foray into feature animation with the Walt Disney Animation Studios in 1986. His character artistry can be seen in movies like Oliver & Company and The Tigger Movie. His success as a character designer inspired him to diversify his talents by expanding into the area of animation with Don Bluth Studios, a year later. Matt’s ability to adapt his craft led him to contribute animation to four major theatrical releases, including United Artists’ All Dogs Go To Heaven.
Now a respected animator and character designer, Bates is in high demand in the animation industry… where he met Cinzia Angelini.
Now, we let him tell the rest of the story….
AnimatedViews: How did you discover the Mila project and what made you want to join it?
Matthew Bates: I was working with Cinzia at the time and noticed the Mila poster in her office. After she told me about the project/film, I became intrigued with the story; and as a designer, I offered to help out.
AV: Would you explain your role as an additional character designer?
MB: I worked on all the secondary characters, adults and children. Based on rough incidental drawings, I would tie them down and do turn-arounds of the character. Then I would do an expression sheet as well as mouth shapes.
AV: How did you work with Luis Grane, the designer of Mila?
MB: I didn’t work directly with Luis. I worked with Luis through email and drawing notes.
AV: From then on, how did you create your designs?
MB: As far as the style in which Luis put forward, it was just second nature to me. I’ve worked with a lot of different styles before, be it at Disney, DreamWorks, Pixar etc… So, I just sat down and began to sketch until I captured Luis’s wonderful style. Until everything fit in the same world as Mila. The style was wonderful. It had an almost rough and sketchy quality. It really captured the period in which it took place.
AV: What tools do you use to create your designs?
MB: Definitely a pencil (No. 3 or 4 soft graphite). The style that Luis put forth, to me, called for it. (More like screamed for it!)
AV: In animation, character design is aimed at animators, for them to be able to animate the characters. What is the specificity of designing a character for animation?
MB: As a traditional animator myself, it’s about simplicity of design. Build simple shapes first. In a musical context, a composer will create a melody, or a theme if you will. When the composer is satisfied with this, then he can start to orchestrate.
AV: How do you translate a story (Mila’s and Cinzia’s) into a character’s design?
MB: For me it starts with a child’s mind and how she saw the world before everything began to crash in all around her. Not how an adult would see it, but through Mila’s eyes, which is very scary indeed. So the style would have to look almost like a children’s book, very childlike.
AV: What connection do you feel regarding the characters of Mila?
MB: To me, it’s all about Mila and the loss of innocence. It’s not as much about the other characters as it is about Mila and how the world is seen through her eyes.
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Our warmest thanks to Matthew Bates, Andrea Emmes and Cinzia Angelini!