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:

  1. Fitting characters into age groups
  2. Adding supporting characters to your cast
  3. 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 attributes.)
  • 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 "cute" factor.
  • 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.

Assignment 10:
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 assignment.