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This is a question a member of our Linkedin group "Characters" recently asked the many character creators in the group. She wanted to know what their personal bounderies are when it comes to considering what might, and what might not be offensive to ethnic groups.

An illustrator and 2D artist thought that ignoring obvious differences was just as bad as over-emphasizing certain stereotypical aspects. According to her, such obvious differences were things like predominant skin or hair color, for example. She added though, that making physical differences comical, could offend people.

The author and illustrator who asked the original question picked up on this point and stressed that race should only be portrayed 'as race', if a character's culture was the issue.

An American character designer and animator then said that there should generally be more characters of color in cartoons. He advised character designers to give it another try, if they drew something that made them feel uncomfortable.

This was followed by a statement from an illustrator who specializes in the children's sector. He said that what is needed are characters that look like the kids our kids go to school with... all of the kids they go to school with. He stated that we need to replace stereotypes with inclusive, respectful content, and called for heroes that all our kids could see themselves in.

In the light of comments like these, a European character designer said, "I just wanted to add that as professionals, whose products have the ability to influence public opinion, I believe that we have a particular duty to get this one right".

This lively discussion looks set to carry on, so why not share your thoughts on the issue... here.
 

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A character designer picked up on this point, when he said that skin color was actually a bad indicator for ethnic backgrounds. According to him, all main races, or 'populations', as he preferred to call them, include people of almost all skin tones. Melanin, he said, was not so much an indicator of race, as one that reflected climatic conditions.

A 3D modeler then said that ethnic characteristics should never be defining traits. He thought that characters needed to be illustrated by their actions, rather than their appearances.

He went on to say, though, that a purpose could be an exception to such a rule. If a character was needed to introduce an audience to a particular culture, for example, then its ethnicity would be relevant.

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Gillian Reid

Gillian's interest in her future line of work began when she was a child. Encouraged by her artistic family, drawing was something she always did, so at school, it was natural for her to study Art. When the time came for her to choose a career path, the closest job description she could come up with was “Cartoonist”, in spite of the fact that she didn't quite know what being a “Cartoonist” really meant. She did however know from growing up watching “Disney” shows and the “Simpsons” series, that what she wanted to do, was in fact animation.

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Growing up in Northern Ireland, there wasn't a lot on offer when it came to studying animation, so she moved to England and studied at the Arts Institute at Bournemouth, (now Arts University College at Bournemouth). Since graduating in 2008 with a BA (Hons) in Animation Production, her work has taken her to many different countries.

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In Nanjing, China, she worked as a character designer on the feature film “Back To The Sea”, (Glory and Dream), in Barcelona, Spain, she worked as an animation assistant on the feature film “Little Big Panda”, (Accio animation Studio), and in Luxembourg, (La Fabrique D'Images) she worked as a cut out character animator on the children's TV shows, “Grenadine et Mentalo”, and “Michel”.

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After gaining experience in several roles in the animation industry, she decided to focus on character design. “Great choice, and judging by her work, the right choice”, says Characters Engage.

To contact Gillian for work, please click here.

Check out her portfolio and regular sketch blog here.

To suggest books, email...

info@charactersengage.com

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