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The Use Of Shapes In Animation

By November 25, 2020August 23rd, 2023No Comments

Have you ever wondered how or why some characters can describe a certain emotion in comparison to others? Or even just by looking at a character you can tell if they are the ‘hero’ or the ‘villan’? Well if you haven’t…we’ve got you thinking i’m sure. Yep you guessed it (probably by the title of the blog) IT’S SHAPES. When character designers are assigned a brief, they usually have shapes, angles and colours at the forefront of their mind. A good example of this would be Pixar and the use of shapes in animation to portray the emotions of the characters and to add to the storyline. UP demonstrates this via the Character Mr Fredrickson.

Mr Fredrickson is a ‘square’ character.

His face has been made larger than the rest of his body so that the viewer is drawn to his long, stern facial expression. Mr Fredrickson has a walking stick with tennis balls on the end which implies that the support he receives from the walking stick is stabilized by his memory of childhood. Whiles the rest of his aesthetic is square, (glasses, bow tie, jacket, belt, trousers) the tennis balls are circular representing softness and wholeness.

This picture shows Mr Fredrickson as a child.

At this age, he is designed as a circular figure. This shows a small boy who loves adventure. Everything within the young Mr Fredrickson is circular apart from his glasses which are hidden beneath his hat. The square glasses could symbolise that it is the only element that stays the same throughout his years, suggesting that no matter his maturity, reality will always be seen as the same through his eyes.

“Ellie’s face shape and character aesthetics still stays circular…”

Mr Fredrickson meets Ellie as a child. They first form a relationship and eventually, Ellie becomes his wife. Ellie’s facial shape and character aesthetics still stay circular which encourages the audience to think that throughout her life she stays soft and happy, and helps drive the relationship forward, bringing ideas of the constant forward motion of a wheel into association with the circular shape. Whereas Mr Fredrickson becomes more square but still has an element of the circle as he spends his life with Ellie. As soon as Ellie passes away, Mr Fredrickson’s smile is never there, there fore his face drops constantly frowning which exaggerates the square look on his face. This shows that he has become independent, without a partner and is forced to stand on his own. This also shows that his walking stick almost replaces Ellie to support him. Although Mr Fredrickson still has an element of softness about his face which is his nose. This supports his glasses which he has worn throughout his life through everything, going back to the fact that his glasses see all seriousness and he would not be able to see without them which also insinuates his circular nose supports his vision.

The house

…is also very square which shows that it is supportive and steady. It also includes a triangular look about it which inputs the idea of it being edgy and sharp. This makes sense because their home contains a lot of memories good and bad. This is completely forgotten when circular balloons are lifted from the chimney of the house and break away from its surroundings which could also resemble Mr Fredrickson letting go but also holding on to something that he loves (his home/wife) being supported by soft circular balloons.

To summarise

…the target audience at a glance is children but when deciphered in more detail, the target audience can be of any age. The reason the use of shapes in animation is so important when telling a story is that they create a connection with the audience by influencing emotion. Circles represent childhood, happiness or kindness and squares represent hardness.