Clone Wars

April 25th, 2008

So far, the new 3D Clone Wars tv series looks to be just as engaging and well-acted as the prequels. Too bad.

At least the character design is interesting…

Designer Kilian Plunkett says they drew inspiration from the look of the first 2D series, which was designed and directed by Genndy Tartakovsky, and looked quite a bit like his Samurai Jack series.

The 3D versions are a little irregular, but the cartoonier they get the better it works for me. It all reminds me of “urban vinyl” toys, as well as the new French school of 3D animation à la Gobelins and Supinfocom, as seen in Burning Safari and Sigg Jones.

In fact, I think that’s the key to this look — as the toys are often inspired by cartoony graffiti (and often literally designed by cartoonists and graffiti artists), so the new Clone Wars characters are based on super-flat 2D designs. Both are attempts to capture the essence of a flat design in 3D, instead of treating a drawing as an imperfect representation of an idealized form.

The toys, like these character designs, are generally modeled with large, gently-curving planes broken up by sharply angled edges. When lit, this results in broad surfaces of solid color and sharply-edged shadows.

Speaking strictly of the design, overall I’d say it works. Yoda in particular looks great, and I like the way they’ve modeled hair. It’ll be interesting to see some final animation, as what’s in there looks a little stiff… though we are talking about trails blazed by Hayden and Natalie the Amazing Talking Actors here.

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