the-grimm-adventures

Okay so recently the trailer for Coco came out, and we saw this design:

It’s no secret that this isn’t a very good design. There are many elements here that are off: the fact that she is clearly designed to look like a skeleton, yet has fleshy lips and hyper realistic eyeballs; the fact that the eye sockets are so enormous and cavernous like two black holes ready to swallow up the rest of her face; how the eyeballs themselves are just floating in dead space and how glassy and bulbous they are; how she has big, long eyelashes coming out of the hollow sockets. Overall it looks like they couldn’t decide if they wanted her to look alive or dead and so they chose both, and it resulted in a poor design. Now I won’t say the rest of the film is bad or anything, it’s not even out yet, so I will be restricting this to only design stuff. We do’t even really know how the other skeletons in the movie look like. So, I won’t pass judgement on the rest of a film I and the rest of you have not even seen. This isn’t going to be about anger over the whole Book of Life issue, other people can write stuff about that if they’d like, but I won’t.

So the problem here is that they tried to hard, I think, to make her pretty or cute (as they always do with girl characters) and they did so by using their regular go to for cute characters, which is big eyes. And Disney and Pixar spend probably too much time and effort into making not only huge eyes, but hyper realistic ones. But skeletons don’t have eyes, so of course this would look weird. That is the main issue here. I will call your attention to another character who is supposed to be a pretty woman with big eyes who represents death, and that is La Muerte from the Book of Life.

So here we have a design that is meant to be a pretty woman who reminds us of skeletons without actually being a skeleton. She’s clearly not human but clearly not meant to look actually dead. They do this by giving her a human face with essentially sugar skull makeup and pale white skin. But this works with the style of the film. Another reason they did this was probably so that they could give her more intense expressions, as skeletons don’t have facial muscles. 

This is how character designers made La Muerte look good as a dead character. They probably decided “She’s a god and doesn’t have to play by the same rules as humans, and also it’s a cartoon, we can do what we want.” I personally think that the Book of Life was also pretty lazy about it’s woman character designing (an issue that infects much of the animation industry, so it’s not just them) and it, like Disney is very guilty of the big eye issue we’re seeing so much of in animation these days. But it’s less of an issue here partially because it’s a much more simple style, so the detail doesn’t go into every pore on her face or giving her really intense eyes, it goes into other stuff like clothes or patterns on the characters’ skin. But I digress.

Okay, so we’ve established why La Muerte looks fine, but how about another example, one that’s supposed to be a literal skeleton? There are some in this same film that work. Manolo for example.

He looks clearly like a skeleton, yet has expressions. We the viewers know that in real life skulls don’t work this way but we suspend our disbelief. He is not designed with any realism and it works for his design, making way for details in other places. He does not have lips or hyper realistic pupils. Manolo and the other skeletons in the Book of Life are designed well for their purpose, to be expressive and to look cute and still look dead without looking like a horrifying monstrosity. They don’t have eyeballs but instead have little glowing orbs in their eye sockets. These are minimal and simple, don’t distract the viewers, and most importantly look natural in the style of the movie.

If you want other examples that do not pertain to Dia de los Muertos, we have plenty. Ones who don’t even have eyes like the ones in Book of Life. Just look at early animation, there’s tons of skeletons who look fine. Or Grimm from the Grimm Adventurers of Billy and Mandy, no problem there. Or Jack Skellington from the Nightmare Before Christmas, probably one of the best examples. 

Jack is an apt comparison because not only was he designed to look cute, but Disney actually originally requested that the designers give him eyeballs because they thought he would be too scary without. The artists said no and it worked out fine; he does not look frightening, he looks natural and cute and the fact that he has no eyes is fine. He still blinks, but this is to keep him from looking too uncanny, as a face that has that much time on screen without blinking would be a bit unnerving. He is expressive and most importantly SIMPLE. He still is clearly a skeleton but has life in his design. 

This woman in the trailer for Coco is uncanny looking. They go for a very sunken face shape, much closer to a real skull shape than Jack, Manolo or La Muerte have, yet they give her giant gaping eye sockets, and her eyes are just floating there. My main point, though, is this: Disney and Pixar’s go to design elements are failing them fantastically. Not every character design calls for giant bulbous eyes, sometimes that just looks plain bad. And recently they’ve been getting even worse, yet never seem to try to fix it. And believe it or not, I’m not writing this just to harp on Dinsey and Pixar, and I am not talking at all about what people have been saying about the plot being too similar to Book of Life and all that. Really I’m just sticking strictly with design stuff right now, and trying not to be biased about it. But that woman in the Coco trailer looks awful, and there are so many solutions to the problem that can be reached very easily, as I mentioned. And this may seem a bit trite and silly to be complaining so much and so in depth about a design that shows up in a trailer for like two seconds in a film that hasn’t even been released yet, but this is a major problem with Disney right now. They restrict their designs by reusing and rehashing and always using the same design elements until BOOM. We get this: 

All I’m saying is that it doesn’t look right, and it’s pretty lazy and I’m sick of the whole big eye thing. Every character doesn’t need that super intense eyeball thing they keep doing. By the way, I don’t think that people shouldn’t see the film or anything like that because of this, I think it deserves to be seen. But it’s already shaping up to be a bit mixed up. And also skeletons shouldn’t be this difficult to design. We’ve already figured out how to do that and make them still look cute, it’s not a foreign concept. This is a bad design. Do better next time. Rant over.

I’m making a bulletin board at my library to feature web series.  Any suggestions for my list?

(* marks those I have not yet seen but are on my to-watch list, ** means I’m currently watching it) I’ll be doing it this summer for next school year, so stuff coming out this summer is fair game. And it will be up all year, so…)

[EDIT: Italics are new additions to the list.  Also, I’m already going to run out of room, so unfortunately I’m not including series like Kissing in the Rain or I Didn’t Write This]

SHAKESPEARE
• Nothing Much To Do
• Lovely Little Losers
• Jules & Monty
• Any Other Vlog
• Call Me Katie
• Kate the Cursed
• Midsemester Night’s Dream
• Like, As it Is (New As You Like It)*
• Much Ado About A Webseries

JANE AUSTEN & BRONTES
• The Lizzie Bennet Diaries
• Emma Approved
• Autobiography of Jane Eyre
• Elinor and Marianne Take Barton
• Mars and Elly*
• Welcome to Sanditon*
• From Mansfield with Love
Project Dashwood*
North Hangin*
Northbound

CHILDHOOD CLASSICS AND FAIRY TALES
• New Adventures of Peter and Wendy
• Green Gables Fables
• March Family Letters
• Misselthwaite Archives
• University Ever After
• Grimm Reflections
• Further Adventures of Cupid and Eros

MULTIPLE BOOKS/CHARACTERS
• The Jane Games
• The Writing Majors
• Classic Alice
• Tell-Tale Vlog
• SHAKES

GOTHIC
• Carmilla
• Frankenstein M.D.
• Notes by Christine**
• The Late Nell Avery

OTHER
• In Earnest
• Nick Carraway Chronicles
• Jamie Watson and Sherlock Holmes
• Baker Street*
• East and West
• Masked*

3

The Grimm adventures of billy and mandy, Courage the cowardly dog and Beetlejuice… Well… No wonder why I became a Freaky-Goth-Girl 😂

Not that I’m complaining… I love my weirdness! 😝 ❤🙌👍