where the character driven industries meet


Character Topic

April 23rd, 2013

Huguette Pizzic

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What makes characters toyetic?



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"Given the media explosion that has accompanied the digital revolution, characters look set to proliferate"



Introducing Huguette Pizzic

Character Topic: What makes characters toyetic?



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On top of all the other things she does, Huguette is also developing a medium-length film called "Blue Bird".  At the moment, she's working on the character design, script and storyboard and tells us that she will launch a Kickstarter campaign for it, so keep a look out for that.


And if all that wasn't enough to keep her busy, Huguette also teaches Computer Art and Academic Drawing at the graduate school Bellecour/ESIA.


For more of Huguette Pizzic's wonderful work, please click the link below.



This question recently led to a lively discussion in the Characters Engage Linkedin group.


To begin with, an American consumer product executive said that characters have to be aspirational.  He explained that children need to want to be like the character, possess the things the character possesses, be the character's friend, or be able to act like the character.  When characters manage to inspire such aspirations, then products based on them tend to succeed.


The producers of animated feature films often struggle when it comes to licensing, simply because their characters do not manage to evoke such aspirations, he added.  Disney, on the other hand, tends to get it right.  Even with great successes on their hands, they will scale back their licensing efforts to avoid wasting time, money and energy, if they think that their characters aren't aspirational enough.


A European IP developer then asked,... "would you say that this holds true for characters from the other character industries such as comics, children's books, kid's TV and games too?".


In order to answer that question, you have to add demographics and awareness, replied the consumer product executive.  You can make it to the top of the NY Times Best Seller List, without having to sell great numbers of books, for example.  But if you then asked the general population of the USA wether they are aware of the characters in the book, many would not be.  If you tried to sell a product line on the back of such limited public awareness, chances are that your sales would not be great.  Eyeball numbers matter, the executive explained.  


In order to evaluate the awareness children have of characters, a subscription to "Cartoon Q", part of the "Q Score" metrics system, developed by Marketing Evaluations, Inc., (http://www.qscores.com/Web/Index.aspx) might help.  "Cartoon Q" quantifies the likability, popularity, and appeal of characters.


When asked which age group was most important, when it comes to toy licenses, the executive went on to say that things are in flux where that issue is concerned.  At a time when babies play with, and figure out how to operate iPads, it is becoming obvious that the world is changing.  Generally speaking though, he thought that the three to six year olds were still the most important demographic, despite these changes.


The IP developer then wondered whether there can be factors outside of the "Q Score" system that can make a character toyetic, such as a highly innovative way of engaging children, for example.  He also wanted to know what the reasons for the dominance of the pre-school age range were, when it comes to character based toys?  Did Pester Power have a part to play in this, or do kids of other age ranges generally use less toys?  


The consumer product executive said that nowadays everything is marketed according to overarching plans, rather than toys simply being cute or innovative, for example.  Movies, TV shows, books, and personal appearances are all aspects of the marketing mixes that support today's character based toys.  Pester Power, he thought, certainly had a part to play, given that children are almost preconditioned to want the popular characters, as a result of these marketing strategies.


If you wanted to launch your character in the marketplace, you would do some research to see what your competition might be, the executive explained.  If you then find that are up against five other characters and three of those are featured in movies, one is part of a TV show and your character is not supported by any movies, books, or TV shows, which characters will retailers prefer?  Even if an unsupported character is cuter or more innovative than others, it stands far less of a chance of making it.    


What do you think makes characters toyetic?  Join the discussion here:








Huguette Pizzic is a French illustrator, concept artist and self-proclaimed critter master.  Huguette tells Characters Engage that she has many strange characters and monsters living inside her head.  She knows them all very well, loves them, and just can't help drawing them.

Huguette works in a number of different fields, including illustration, character design, and graphic design.  She was born with a pencil in her hand, and, as a grown up, the pencil was still there.  Huguette loves to draw more than anything else, so she decided that her goal in life would be to work in the animation industry.


The great teachers at Emile Cohl Art School, helped Huguette hone her drawing skills in both traditional, as well as digital art, and she went on to graduate from Collège Georges Méliès, where she studied CGI (Maya and ZBrush).  In her spare time, Huguette also taught herself graphic and web design.


Huguette started to work as a freelance Concept Artist/Character Designer and as a children's book illustrator.  Her picture book "Au Monstre!", which Huguette both wrote and illustrated, was published by Eveil & Découvertes.  The book is made up of five funny little stories about monsters, their monster issues, and their goals in life.  


Huguette loves to stage slightly weird characters and imagine the world from their point of view.  While so-called monsters become normal, she switches roles, imagining herself to be the weird one.  That's Huguette's way to create. Working on projects like "Au Monstre!" is her way of saying, "it's great to see the world through the eyes of a child".  


Currently Huguette is thinking about signing up with an illustration agency, because when it comes to advertising work, she finds herself having to juggle many projects simultaneously.  When you are jumping from doing a poster for a festival one day, an illustrations for a travel agency the next, and designing a clock the day after that, she says it's hard to maintain any continuity.  Huguette hopes that an agent will make life easier.


A few things further complicate her career, according to Huguette.  In France, there are very limited opportunities for young concept artists in the animation industry these days, and children's publishing is in crisis.  Huguette is lucky enough to be able to work for indie animation projects, and for French storybook publishers, but she feels that publishers generally want to take less risks, which means less artistic freedom for illustrators.


Another problem she faces is making people realize that as a children's book illustrator, she can also do realistic art.  Huguette thinks that for many people, it appears to be difficult to understand that artists are not neccessarily restricted to working in just one style.

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Despite working on many projects simultaneously, her most important works in progress are her next storybooks.  The first is a story about a blind princess, which features traditional illustration.  Given that she usually works digitally, Huguette thinks that it's great to get back to traditional drawing for once.


The other two books she is currently working on are paper cut projects.  These books are a real departure from her usual illustration work, and allow her to reinvent her work, which to Huguette is essential in art.