How do. In an attempt to get on top of stuff what I should have blogged about already, today I’ll give you a quick overview of a job I did in the Summer, designing characters for Sunderland’s airshow.
Basically, I was called in to Sunderland Council, as they wanted some characters created that would appeal to kids and relate to the airshow. These characters would appear on merchandise, and would be brought to life as costumes – think “DisneyLand” I was told. Except in Sunderland. Walt Sunderland.
The Council knew a few things. They knew they wanted characters that were aircraft, as well as characters that were humans. The thinking behind this was that when the costumes were made, the ‘human’ could lead the aircraft around the event. They also knew they wanted characters invented around words that they felt were relevant to the airshow. “Exciting”, “Fun”, “Cool” and “Safe”.
Anyway. Enough guff from me. Here are some designs.
These are the rough designs for “Cool”, the pilot. We plumped for the first one. The other two seemed a bit American.
And this is “Exciting”, a Red Arrow that Cool was to Pilot. At this stage I was thinking of how the poor sod in the costume was to fit inside. This came out looking a bit phallic, frankly. In the end I decided to not think about that side of things and worry about it later. Which was a good decision, as it came down to the people designing the costume, and not me. Ha ha.
Next up, “Safe”. Ha ha! Look! He’s a geek! We went for the third drawing here, which, there’s not much point in denying, took inspiration from classic Aardman design, with the mouth especially. I think ‘Pirates’ was out at the same time, so I probably subconsciously had it mind. The Aircraft incidentally, definitely owe a debt to Pixar’s ‘Cars’. I don’t know if it’s possible to draw anthropomphic vehicles without them coming to mind anymore. Obviously they are different enough that Pixar can’t sue.
Well, this is “Fun”. Although drawing him wasn’t. Urghh. Look at them arms. What was I thinking? Anyway. Fun was based on a Black Cat Helicopter. I think I knew early on this would be problematic as a costume… how could you safely create those rotors? He looked very sharp as well – too many corners, and at this stage he was looking more like a cow than a helicopter that kids would like.
Having agreed on which characters we would go with, the next step was to realise them with some lovely colour… Above is Cool & Safe.
…And here are Exciting & Fun. I really tried to soften ‘Fun’ as much as I could, he’s a very podgy Black Cat ‘Copter now, but I was trying to get away with caracature, and I had those plush soft toys in mind that you find in the Disney store. At this point the council got excited and asked me for some more designs. They had realised there wasn’t anything for girls…
…and so here is a lady pilot. Sort of based around Emilia Earheart, a tiny bit. At his point we had forgotten about names, so she was called ‘Girl’ for a while.
…Meanwhile, this lady version of the Helicopter was just called Lilac. Because there wasn’t anything Lilac yet. Finally, we wanted to cover the Spitfire, and have an elderly character…
So I bashed this one out.
The Council got ‘Dodgy Clutch’ on board at this point, to oversee the transformation into costumes. Dodgy Clutch are an ace local theater company who do a great job with things like this. I last had an involvement with them waaaaaay back in 2000, when they created a stunning 30 foot high sculpture for Viz, which was a bus with all of the characters on it that got set on fire and burnt to the ground (deliberately, this wasn’t an act of vandalism, Well, it was. But it was allowed).
To help them along, I sketched the characters in turnaround. To start with I made some sculpts in plasticine.
Which I coloured in digitally! I photographed these from different angles to help me with the turnaround (and also because I’m never entirely sure that 2D characters will always transfer to 3D alright or not).
And that was that! I got to sit back and wait for Dodgy Clutch to work their magic. As it turned out, Dodgy Clutch charge a lot for magic, and also can only do so much magic in a short amount of time, so it was decided to concentrate all efforts on making the Red Arrows character. The Girl and the Pilot would also be made as costumes, but not with big foam heads, no doubt to the relief of whoever had to wear them.
In the end the Airshow was really good fun, and it was crazy to spot the Red Arrow character in the crowd. The images appeared in merchandise, including this postcard that kids could get the characters to autograph:
And finally, here are the final photos from the event. I think this was deemed a success, and so hopefully the characters will be back next year, alongside the designs there wasn’t the time or money to realise this time around. The Council were also looking at producing a wider range of merchandise, including kid’s books and all that, so fingers crossed. This was a really fun and rewarding project to be involved with!