CAP 101 - Concept & Character Development
Lesson 5 - Aging Characters and Assembling a Cast
This lesson discusses making characters look their age, and making
a group of characters fit together. Objectives important to this lesson:
- Fitting characters into age groups
- Adding supporting characters to your cast
- Balancing characteristics of your cast of characters
In chapter six, Creating
Characters with Personality describes characteristics that can
be used to make a character fit into one of several age groups. As we
have seen before, Mr. Bancroft divides the universe into a spectrum, this
time based on a character's apparent age. The features he offers us as
characteristics of each age group are to be taken as more
what you'd call "guidelines" than actual rules. Actual features
for a character may override these features if the story requires it.
- babies - Typically short, wide, round, chubby figures, drawn
with curves instead of straight lines. Mr. Smith talks about characters
being so many heads tall, and Mr. Bancroft describes them this way as
well in this chapter. His designs for babies (newborn to about
a year) are similar to his designs for toddlers (children learning
to walk, to about three or four years old). Head and torso
about the same length, legs about half the length of the
torso: two and a half heads tall. Large eyes, but small ears and nose.
This starts a trend: as the character ages, the ears and nose
will continue to grow. Toddlers in Mr. Bancroft's designs are recognizable
by their hair, clothes, and teeth. (Babies have little or none of those
- children - Straight lines are introduced. Longer legs and shorter
torsos, compared to the proportions of a baby. Head and torso
are each about a head long, but the legs are about a head
and a half.
- teens - A teen can be about five heads tall: one
for the head and neck, one for the chest, one
for the abdomen and hips, two for the legs (and
a bit more for the feet for males, according to Mr. Bancroft).
- adults - This is the figure Mr. Smith refers to as the hero.
About six heads tall: head, chest, abdomen,
hip to mid-thigh, mid-thigh to mid-calf, and mid-calf
to foot. Eyes are a bit smaller, unless you are going for Mr. Bancroft's
- older people - The older a person gets, the more the body may
sag, bend, and lose vigor. Less hair, a bit shorter, largest ears and
noses of the groups
Every character in a story is meant to have an apparent age, and some
stories cover enough time that a character must age as the story goes
on. With this in mind, you should be able to establish a character's approximate
age with general features that will identify what that age is.
Assignment 9: Make age
spectrum drawings of one of your characters. Use the sketches
you have made before for source material of one
age, and create new sketches for at
least two other ages for the same character.
It may be easiest to start with your current
character version, and make one version older,
and another version younger. The three
sketches should be recognizable as the same character, but there
should be no doubt about the relative ages.
At the end of chapter eight, Creating
Characters with Personality describes drawing variances between
characters. As we have seen, characters can vary in shape, size, age,
attitude, basic good vs. evil, and more. In this light, we should reexamine
the cast of our production, and look for opportunities to make the characters
different from one another in as many of these dimensions as possible.
Consider what characters may have been left out of the initial story
treatment. Should we add one or more characters that can have different
looks from the others? If we add characters, they need to be appropriate
to the story. Make sure you are not adding characters that are not needed.
For example, I had an idea while watching the Lion
King. Did we actually need two characters: Rafiki and
Zazu? Yes, their actions are needed in the story, but couldn't we have
had one character perform both roles? If we did, how would that character
act? Would their scenes be different?
This presents an opportunity.
1. Examine the cast of your movie. Are any of the characters "wrong"?
If so, redo a character, and provide a brief pitch
for why you are changing the character the way you are. If not,
write a pitch for keeping the story the same as it is.
2. Are there any characters missing
from the story? If so, rough out a sketch
for a new character. Write a pitch for
this character, explaining the role they need to play, the kind
of character they need to be, etc. Hint: Yes,
there is at least one character missing. If you are not sure, think
about the first act of Treasure
Island, or Treasure
Planet. If you have started another story as a project,
leave it for now and come back to Mr. Bancroft's western for this