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Character Topic

July 31st, 2013

"Art Story", by Aaron Blaise and Chuck Williams

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What makes characters memorable?



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"A good character is like a mirage. Despite the fact that it's a displaced reflection of reality, we get taken in by it, thirsty as social creatures like us are for other people"



"Art Story", by Aaron Blaise and Chuck Williams

Character topic: What makes characters memorable?



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The Characters Engage Linkedin forum currently hosts a lively discussion on the subject of 'what makes characters memorable'.  


At the beginning of the discussion, a Serbian Lead Programmer thought that conviction is important.  A character, he said, needs its own set of values and goals to be both convincing and memorable.


The owner of an American animation company echoed his point about goals, saying that characters can engage us, if their story provides them with clearly defined goals that are important to them.  What makes the characters memorable is the external and internal struggle they have to go through to achieve their goals.


He went on to say that the internal struggle is of particular importance.  None of us are what we want to be, and a protagonist that manages to reflect our own imperfections and insecurities, has the power to grab our attention in a profound manner.


A European IP Developer agreed. Backstory, especially for characters from linear narratives, he thought, is vital for making characters memorable.  


In games, though, there seemed to him to be additional ways of achieving memorability.  He recounted a conversation, he once overheard, in which  two twenty something students were talking about a game they had both played, as kids.


He said, "they described a villain who would attack and kill, seemingly out of nowhere, and both said, with real vigor, "I hated that guy!".  The fact that he could end their quest that way, was something they remembered, and obviously still strongly disliked him for".


The animation company owner replied, saying that in older games characters were often relatively neutral, so that the player could embue them with their own personality.


As the novelty of games wore off, though, games progressively embraced story and character basics.  He thought that, as games developed, they became increasingly interested in character development.


Picking up the earlier point about villains, he added that an important thing to remember about antagonists is, that they are the heroes of their own journey.  This means that the rules of character development apply to villains, just as they do to protagonists.  


The IP Developer then said that other factors could also play an important role in making characters memorable.  Appeal can be important, if you consider "Hello Kitty", for example, because in her case her appearance is almost all there is.


A Canadian Technology Specialist also wondered whether there is a category of characters that manage to achieve memorability without the need for deep character development.  Do "Hello Kitty", "Sonic the Hedgehog", and "Pacman" belong to this category, he asked.


Returning to the discussion about character development, an American Games Writer made the point that, to her, specificity, boldness, and exaggeration, were important.  Memorable characters, she thought, have specific characteristics that leave a strong impression.  Unconventional, amusing and quirky characters are more easily remembered than the ordinary, humdrum variety.


An American Animator then summed his views up in three words.  According to him, the things that matter, when it comes to making characters memorable are relatability, vulnerability, and adversity.


The IP Developer responded by saying, "brilliantly boiled down, and for protagonists from linear narratives, I agree.  In other media formats and character industries, and as far as other character types are concerned, I think the list needs to be a little more varied".


But what do you think?  Contribute to the discussion... here.










"Art Story", under development by the Disney animation veterans Aaron Blaise and Chuck Williams, is an original animated feature film about a boy and his grandfather, who get stuck in a vast and imaginative world of paintings.

“Art Story” is among the first family-focused, animation feature films to explore the special relationship between grandparent and grandchild, through a delightful comedy staged within the world of masterpiece art.


The young boy and his grandfather get stuck in the vast and imaginative world of paintings.  Jumping from Van Goghs, Picassos, Eshers and many more, the two unlikely companions, in their quest to get home, must journey into vast, imaginative, painted realities, each complete with its own rules, challenges and quirky, fun characters. 


Aaron's and Chuck's number-one priority is to make an entertaining, compelling story, with characters you love and who propel you through the film.  This one is for the whole family... funny, emotional, and thrilling.  


The Kickstarter site for "Art Story" features a 3-minute video introduction and is full of colorful artwork, information about the characters, the story, the production plan, and more.  You can view it online at:



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It's structured like a hilarious, character-driven buddy picture ("Planes, Trains & Automobiles," "I Love You, Man" etc.), but takes place inside the world of some of the greatest master paintings of all time, where the characters change their appearance to match the style of each painting, and meet lots of wildly entertaining characters.  




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Aaron Blaise and Chuck Williams, the creators of "Art Story", are two 20+ year Disney animation veterans.  Blaise co-directed & Williams produced "Brother Bear," Disney's 50th animated feature, which garnered an Academy Award nomination for Best Animated Feature.  Prior to that, Aaron served as supervising animator on the mega-hits "Aladdin", "The Lion King" and "Mulan".  He also was an animator on "Beauty and the Beast" and "Pocahontas".  Prior to his work on "Brother Bear", Chuck produced several other shorts and headed up the special projects division at Disney Feature Animation.  His other credits include "The Lion King", "Aladdin", "Pocahontas", and "Beauty and the Beast".




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