Throughout the month our artists across the global studios share insights and BTS footage behind MPC’s most iconic characters.
Next up, Silvia Bartoli, our VES winning Concept Artist, unfolds the creation of Tuxedo Tom for kitty litter brand, Arm & Hammer.
In a cowboy world of talking cat heads on human bodies the key challenge for the concept art team was to ensure that the character blended as seamlessly as possible with the body, to create a high level of believe-ability and realism to allow the audience to accept the world presented to them and enjoy the humour.
Can you talk about the craft behind creating Tuxedo Tom?
Cowboy cats! whoo-hoo! Great teamwork is always behind each of our characters. We started with photoshoots of our favourite cats, good references are paramount, and this is true for each of our tasks, from modelling/sculpting to grooming to lighting and lookdev.
How did you get Tuxedo Tom’s personality right and differentiate from previous characters?
To me the real personality comes to life when my characters are posed or animated, whilst concept drawing, I work on a default/neutral pose, and I cannot wait to see my characters animated and alive! It’s like the character is there ready to get his soul injected into it and with it… its personality.
What was the biggest challenge when creating Tuxedo Tom?
Given these guys are placed on human bodies the challenge was to create heads that would seamlessly feel as organic as possible to the human upright bodies, yet being as feline as possible.
What sort of research and time is involved? How well do you have to understand the animal or human anatomy?
Research sometimes takes more than expected, it’s easier to study references for a long time, then jump on a sculpt, I design pretty quickly once my brain has absorbed the exploration.
Knowledge of the human or animal anatomy is absolutely vital… I’m not quite sure how it really works the whole ordeal…for me it is a sort of an illness I love everything that’s écorché, skulls and paleoethology since a very young age so I’ve never had to force myself into learning any of this, this is all so amazing and again vital in order to create believable creatures.
For these cats I went to collect all sorts of veterinary dissection references, nothing a faint hearted should ever see to be honest!
How did you give the character a ‘human’ feel and create the emotional connection?
We worked towards keeping our cat heads as realistic, or better, believable as possible and yet have the ability to express emotions in a more human way without breaking the creature feel, without going into cartoonyland and everyone was very happy with the results. One example was to reveal part of the sclera’s in order to have the cat eyes a bit more readable, some expressions were possibly anatomically difficult to achieve for a cat (they don’t talk that often aside from weird YouTube videos!)
What do you enjoy about CG creature work?
Beasts, beasts and more beasts, that’s my joy right there and feel quite lucky to have the chance to put my claws on them!
Who’s your inner self character and why?
I’m definitely some sort of beasty shapeshifter, because why not!