During my trip to Pixar last week to learn more about Brave, we were provided with some fascinating facts about the design of the characters. The studio has made so many technological jumps that the half hour of footage that I viewed far-surpassed anything I have seen come out of the studio before. From Merida’s insanely beautiful hair to King Fergus’ multiple layers of clothing that move together realistically, the design aspect in Brave is something to behold. After the jump, read more about the design of the characters and their clothing.
To put clothes on the characters, the simulation and art departments needed to work together to ensure that the clothes would move fluidly and accurately. Even one minor inaccurate movement can get noticed by viewers, which does not sound like a great deal, but when Pixar’s goal is for people to follow the story, the studio employees work meticulously to make it look so good that you forget you are watching an animated film. Once the medieval Scotland setting was chosen, avoiding multiple layers of clothing (which the animation medium has avoided for decades) was no longer an option – belts, kilts, armor, and fur cloaks were abundant. Making sure that one article of clothing moved well was strenuous enough – add a layer and the physics of how the two layers move together begin to seem daunting. King Fergus has “nine simulated garments that he must wear at the same time.” Clearly, there was much work to be done.
First, the artists draw up some rough sketches on what the characters could wear, depending on the setting. However, the personality of the character is what influences their clothing the most. One look at the fur cloak, body armor, and chain mail on King Fergus and the viewer connects with his warrior personality. Next, the simulation department begins to work on how the characters’ hair and clothing move. Simulation supervisor Claudia Chung knew that she would have her work cut out for her, specifically with kilts. Not only is a kilt made from just one piece of fabric – it is also folded over itself several times so that it stays attached to a character.
Meanwhile, shading art director Tia Kratter worked on the design details of the clothing (fabrics, textures, etc.). Each of the clans in the film wear a unique tartan, a pattern meant to symbolize unity and pride amongst its members. She had to create the tartans from scratch – they are entirely original. After the simulation department fitted the characters with clothing on the computer and programmed the physics of the movements to appear realistic, the shading artists took Kratter’s designs and added them to the various articles of clothing.
If the multiple layers were not complicated enough, the fabrics also needed to be made to look less perfect. Those who have worked in computer animation understand that the software likes to make everything appear perfect, which goes against the design of clothing in medieval times. When clothing is mass-produced by machines, they look perfect. On the other hand, when they are hand-produced, like they were in medieval Scotland, no two pieces of clothing are exactly the same. Philip Child actually developed a system where every single piece of yarn produced was irregular in color and thickness. Then, the yarn was woven together inconsistently in the computer, to give the clothing a more rudimentary appearance. Fabric could be woven tightly, loosely – whatever the situation and character called for, this innovation gave the employees a wider range of options.
Then, there is the design of the characters themselves. Merida’s hair may steal all the attention, due to its sheer volume and wild nature, but her mother Queen Elinor also has quite the sophisticated set-up. Below, check out some fun facts about the designs of the characters.
COSTUME CHANGE – With five dresses, plus a cloak, quiver, hand wrap and necklace, as well as torn dresses, Merida has a total of 22 different costumes. She also has five different hairstyles. Diva? Never.
GOOD HAIR DAY – Merida has more than 1500 individually sculpted, curly red strands that generate about 111,700 total hairs.
BIG STRETCH – If Merida’s curls were straightened, her hair would be four feet long and reach the middle of her calf.
UNWRAPPED – If Elinor’s hair were unwrapped, it would be about six feet, six inches long.
COMPLICATED KING – Fergus wears nine different simulated garments at the same time – each has its own movement that must be “simulated” by algorithms in the computer. His head hair and mustache are also simulated, as well as his sporran (pocket-like pouch) and scabbard (sheath for a sword). He has arm hair, chest hair, hair lining in his boot, as well as a full bear pelt on his bear-clawed cloak – all of which are simulated in some way.
LOTSA LAYERS – To achieve the mass of Fergus’ kilt, the drape going across his chest has eight layers of cloth folded over and interacting with each other and other garments. The left, right and back sides of the drape have six layers each.
TARTAN TIME – For each clan, artists at Pixar created a new unique tartan design.
TAKING LIBERTIES – The DunBroch tartan pattern (worn by King Fergus and family) is physically impssible to make with traditional tartan weaving methods.
HAIRY SITUATION – There are more than 100 unique hair/facial hair combinations used in “Brave” for human characters and animals. Each variant can appear in any of nine different colors, creating more than 900 hairstyle/color variants.
Stay tuned for more in-depth coverage of what I found out about Brave directly from Pixar. The film arrives in theaters on June 22.