Thoughts on Brand Mascots As Characters

They’ve been around for years and for many, they’re a part of their childhood, or even their entire lives (I’m looking at you, Snap, Crackle and Pop), but mascots are an interesting bunch of characters, aren’t they?

Think about it, they’re ostensibly characters, but their appearances are often limited to 30 second commercials and perhaps some rudimentary comics on the packaging (or when you sent in so many coupons and 3.99 p&p).

The reason this struck a chord with me is because I came (or rather stumbled) across the twitter feed for Chicken of the Sea, who apparently have, as their spokeswomen, the Chicken of the Sea Mermaid.

Yup, the mascot for a tuna company is a mermaid. A bit of a conflict of interest there if you ask me, but I’m not one to judge.

Anyway, it’s kind of interesting to see that she not only has her ‘own’ twitter feed but a Facebook page too with almost 99,000 ‘fans’ on the latter.

It makes me wonder how the public really feels about such characters. I mean, we expect the ones in TV shows to be fully developed, complicated and conflicted beings. But our standards for commercial characters are so much lower.

Is it because we only see them for 30 seconds at a time, or is it more likely that we see them as exceptionally shallow; created for the single purpose of selling us stuff.

Of course, we often forget that characters in TV shows and films sell us stuff too, it just isn’t as blatant as an actual commercial.

Some of the longest-lived brand mascots have evolved well beyond their initial function. Indeed the 1980s saw brands and mascots descend upon TV and film like never before. Now the lines were seriously blurred between spokesman and character, even if the quality of both were similarly flimsy.

Or how about real characters shilling stuff?

Do we have a certain tolerance for Bugs and Daffy filling the role because it’s more of a sideshow for them?

Brand mascots and spokespersons are an interesting study area as they inhabit a unique culmination of art and commerce. Getting the balance right between the two is hard.

What are your thoughts on brand mascots and characters?

 

Some Kim Possible Character Details Which You Know Are Awesome

For the record Kim Possible is one of the best characters ever to grace a TV screen. So it should come as no surprise that her character constructions sheets, which came by way of Art of Animation and Inappropriate Banjo (both on Tumblr), are no less interesting.

Kim’s a fascinating collection of sharp points and swirling curves that oh so cleverly allude to her double-sided life as an ordinary student and ass-kicking heroine.

Here, we see some of the finer points of her character design in her hair, which undoubtedly adds much grace to her movement in the action scenes.

It’s always great to see these kind of things, especially as they essentially offer us a peek into a character’s soul (per se).

A Character’s Style Doesn’t Mean You Need To Follow In Their Footsteps

Character Sundays is probably going to take a break until the New Year. Sadly, school deadlines have sapped the necessary time to write a decent post these past few weeks, so there’s no point in doing a half-assed job on something you really like.

Instead, today, here’s a sketch that was posted a good while ago by Jovanna Davidovich on her blog.

Whether it really is the case that Breandan’s design was influenced by these two is up for debate, but I would hazard a guess that the resemblance is certainly striking.

The interesting thing is that Kim Possible and the Secret of Kells share practically nothing in common except Brendan! He’s a great example of how you could potentially use something as inspiration and move in a completely different direction.

Just something to keep in mind 🙂

Character Sundays: Master Cyclonis

Not to be repeating myself or anything, but seeing as it is October now and Halloween is just around the corner, it makes sense to take a peek at some of the darker characters in animation. Today’s post is from this past June when I had a look at Master Cyclonis from Storm Hawks.

Debuting a few years ago on Cartoon Network is a Canadian show produced by the best-named studio I have come across to date: Nerd Corps. Based on the planet Atmos, Storm Hawks centres around a group of rag-tag young adults who wish to gain the same respect that a previous iteration of the group had.

The premise of the show is that the planet is composed mainly of atmosphere, with various rocky “islands” as the only areas where people live. Each island or group of islands are considered different countries or kingdoms. As with most shows, there are good and bad ones with the show focusing on the confrontations between the two.

Kids shows generally seem to keep within a fairly narrow range when it comes to villainy. Evil businessmen, dark wizards and overbearing authority figures are all the standard fare. However, the vast majority of them are male. Exceptions generally include shows aimed at girls or with girl leads. Which makes Storm Hawks the exception, it’s a fairly gender-neutral show with a mixed group of lead characters and plenty of variety in the supporting cast.

Of interest today is the leader of the ‘bad’ side, collectively known as Cyclonia, headed up by Master Cyclonis. The reason for focusing on her is that she is a rare character, a female baddy, and a fairly heartless one at that. The official description is as follows:

Diabolically intelligent and a master of crystal transformations, the Queen of Cyclonia is hell-bent on extending her new kingdom by force. Extremely paranoid, she only trusts her shadowy henchman, the Dark Ace. Her Talon thugs are in constant fear of falling into her disapproval, which happens a lot.

Master Cyclonis is unique in that she is the same or of similar age to our protagonists. She is not some wrinkly old hag who is clinging on to her throne, she is very much the opposite, looking to widen her influence and consolidate her control over Cyclonia, the lands she rules and beyond.

Often seen wearing a cape and hood, Cyclonis appears dark, in effect concealing her powers from those around. Such a disguise of sorts could be seen as an attempt to subvert or trick the unwitting. When in battle or angered, the hood retracts into a headdress-like set of petals that emphasize her heightened mood. Her comparatively tall stature reinforces her position over others.

While some people have speculated that Cyclonis embodies the ‘goth’ style (see above), I would have to disagree. Yes, she dresses dark clothes, wears what appears to be heavy amounts of eye shadow and has pale skin, such features only serve to contrast her appearance with others and to indicate the dark nature of here character.

Master Cyclonis (like all the characters in Storm Hawks) displays a lot of emotion through her eyes. They’re large size are put to good use as they narrow to convey anger, displeasure or both and widen to illustrate her surprise. Her heavy eyebrows emphasize these emotions.

As a character, Cyclonis displays all the hallmarks of a classic villain including a lust for control and power, a careless attitude towards those who serve her, a demanding attitude and a lack of tolerance when it comes to failure.

Repton: I couldn’t care less about your plan, Cyclonis! What’s in it for the Raptors?
Master Cyclonis: Untold riches to start.
[Cyclonis zaps Repton]
Master Cyclonis: And I’ll promise not to crush your measly little Terra Bogaton.

Much more than your usual bone-headed bad guy, Cyclonis is conniving and clever. She is not just a skilled fighter but is also intelligent enough when it comes to her style of attack. While physically she is comparable to the Storm Hawks, she is also crafty enough to engage in psychological warfare. In one particular episode, she plays on the fact that Piper is the lone girl in the group and is only thwarted because of Piper’s superior intellect.

While her character inspires a lot of fear, it does draw upon pity. Ultimately she is a lonely character not unlike Lord Voldemort in Harry Potter. Yes, he has untold power and people at his disposal, but as Harry points out in The Order of the Phoenix, he is a lonely figure who has been and will continue to be isolated because of his demeaning nature and his unquestionable evil nature.

Master Cyclonis adds a lot of complexity to an otherwise decent series. The fact that she is a female adds to the unnerving nature of her character, the fact that she is also quite ruthless is belied by her age and her level of skill and mastery in the art of fighting is proof of her stature.

If you have not already, she is well worth checking out as a villain.

 

 

Two Links: Characters and Theme Tunes

A short post today due to time and other constraints but not to worry, I have two excellent links to send you to.

The first is by Ron over at Flooby Nooby where he discusses characters and why they are so important. I couldn’t agree more so you should head over there yourself to read this excellent post.

Secondly, Chris Ledesma has a very informative post over on his blog, Simpsons Music 500, where he discusses the disappearance of melody in today’s theme tunes and why this changing they way that music is used in films. It’s a post that certainly makes you think about the (potentially) serious consequences if things keep going the way they’re going.

Why I’m A Sucker For Mysterious Characters

I’m not quite sure why, but I have an affinity for characters that are somewhat mysterious or secretive. That’s not to say I like characters who are double agents or who conceal themselves for nefarious purposes. Oh no, it’s the shy characters or those who are hiding something out of necessity that I find the most intriguing.

Take for example the poster below:

Via: flickr

Yes, it is Jenny Wakeman (or XJ-9) from the Frederator series My Life as a Teenage Robot. Notice how she is in silhouette, which adds even more mystique to her figure, as if the shadow is concealing something about her character, which of course it is (hint: she’s a robot).

There are plenty of other example throughout the animated universe, too many in fact, to list here. However they inhabit various places in TV shows and films, from protagonists to sidekicks to members of the supporting cast.

They add a lot to any show or film for a simple reason: they make the audience think.

Mysterious characters represent a discord with their surroundings of which other characters may or may not be aware of. In any case, the audience is almost compelled to put the pieces together or to speculate on the reasons behind such circumstances. Much the same as Lisa Simpson mulling over the enigma that is Nelson Muntz and why that make him even remotely attractive.

This is the key to why I find them so interesting, they give me something much more than the performance on-screen and in so doing, increase my enjoyment immensely.

Another great example is Megara from Disney’s Hercules.

A wonderfully complex character who hides a secret from the hero that is hidden for much of the film. we are forced to guess the reason for her connection to Hades for quite a while as we are kept guessing her motives. Only once they are revealed do we see and can appreciate the complete character for who she is.

Initiating thought within the audience is a key way to maximize their enjoyment. Mysterious characters are a superb way of doing that because they allow for the audience to both connect with the and to ponder the character in a way that is outside what is presented on-screen.

A Look At Master Cyclonis: A Rare Famale Villain

Debuting a few years ago on Cartoon Network is a Canadian show produced by the best-named studio I have come across to date: Nerd Corps. Based on the planet Atmos, Storm Hawks centres around a group of rag-tag young adults who wish to gain the same respect that a previous iteration of the group had.

The premise of the show is that the planet is composed mainly of atmosphere, with various rocky “islands” as the only areas where people live. Each island or group of islands are considered different countries or kingdoms. As with most shows, there are good and bad ones with the show focusing on the confrontations between the two.

Kids shows generally seem to keep within a fairly narrow range when it comes to villainy. Evil businessmen, dark wizards and overbearing authority figures are all the standard fare. However, the vast majority of them are male. Exceptions generally include shows aimed at girls or with girl leads. Which makes Storm Hawks the exception, it’s a fairly gender-neutral show with a mixed group of lead characters and plenty of variety in the supporting cast.

Of interest today is the leader of the ‘bad’ side, collectively known as Cyclonia, headed up by Master Cyclonis. The reason for focusing on her is that she is a rare character, a female baddy, and a fairly heartless one at that. The official description is as follows:

Diabolically intelligent and a master of crystal transformations, the Queen of Cyclonia is hell-bent on extending her new kingdom by force. Extremely paranoid, she only trusts her shadowy henchman, the Dark Ace. Her Talon thugs are in constant fear of falling into her disapproval, which happens a lot.

Master Cyclonis is unique in that she is the same or of similar age to our protagonists. She is not some wrinkly old hag who is clinging on to her throne, she is very much the opposite, looking to widen her influence and consolidate her control over Cyclonia, the lands she rules and beyond.

Often seen wearing a cape and hood, Cyclonis appears dark, in effect concealing her powers from those around. Such a disguise of sorts could be seen as an attempt to subvert or trick the unwitting. When in battle or angered, the hood retracts into a headdress-like set of petals that emphasize her heightened mood. Her comparatively tall stature reinforces her position over others.

While some people have speculated that Cyclonis embodies the ‘goth’ style (see above), I would have to disagree. Yes, she dresses dark clothes, wears what appears to be heavy amounts of eye shadow and has pale skin, such features only serve to contrast her appearance with others and to indicate the dark nature of here character.

Master Cyclonis (like all the characters in Storm Hawks) displays a lot of emotion through her eyes. They’re large size are put to good use as they narrow to convey anger, displeasure or both and widen to illustrate her surprise. Her heavy eyebrows emphasize these emotions.

As a character, Cyclonis displays all the hallmarks of a classic villain including a lust for control and power, a careless attitude towards those who serve her, a demanding attitude and a lack of tolerance when it comes to failure.

Repton: I couldn’t care less about your plan, Cyclonis! What’s in it for the Raptors?
Master Cyclonis: Untold riches to start.
[Cyclonis zaps Repton]
Master Cyclonis: And I’ll promise not to crush your measly little Terra Bogaton.

Much more than your usual bone-headed bad guy, Cyclonis is conniving and clever. She is not just a skilled fighter but is also intelligent enough when it comes to her style of attack. While physically she is comparable to the Storm Hawks, she is also crafty enough to engage in psychological warfare. In one particular episode, she plays on the fact that Piper is the lone girl in the group and is only thwarted because of Piper’s superior intellect.

While her character inspires a lot of fear, it does draw upon pity. Ultimately she is a lonely character not unlike Lord Voldemort in Harry Potter. Yes, he has untold power and people at his disposal, but as Harry points out in The Order of the Phoenix, he is a lonely figure who has been and will continue to be isolated because of his demeaning nature and his unquestionable evil nature.

Master Cyclonis adds a lot of complexity to an otherwise decent series. The fact that she is a female adds to the unnerving nature of her character, the fact that she is also quite ruthless is belied by her age and her level of skill and mastery in the art of fighting is proof of her stature.

If you have not already, she is well worth checking out as a villain.

 

 

Animated Characters: Request for Subjects

My schedule’s been out of whack for the past couple of weeks but now that it’s back on track, I’ve decided to that every Sunday post should be a look at a particular cartoon character.

So consider this an open request for recommendations for characters. Yes, I have plenty of ideas myself, but it’s also nice to ask the readers to see what they think.

Well, what do you think? Leave some recommendations in the comments below 🙂

PS. Yes, this is a lazy Sunday post; the result of spending 18 hours on the go yesterday and a nap this afternoon!

What Makes A Strong Female Character?

It’s no secret (or maybe it is) that I find much to celebrate in female characters, especially lead female protagonists who are also strong female characters. There is much to commend a show with a female lead, especially one that does not pander to traditional ‘girly’ notions.

Which is important to note because there is a certain belief that boys are not attracted to content with a female slant. Nothing could be further from the truth. There are no reasons why a boy can’t also watch the same shows as girls, there is just a very strong societal pressure when it comes to these kinds of things. Boys do ‘boys’ things and girls do ‘girls’ things. There is no or very little middle ground around the crucial ages.

What are the crucial ages you ask? They are the ages of 6-10, where children are most ripe for commercialisation. They are of course, subject to and receptive of more advertising than any other age group, and advertisers are in no mood to alter the status quo. That’s why you get girls toys and boys toys with unisex toys limited to board games and the like.

There are a few female protagonists out there that can serve as role models, the one above is one, below is another one.

What makes these characters strong? How about some of these traits:

  • Decisiveness
  • Independence
  • Resourcefulness
  • Leadership
  • Companionship (with boys too!)
  • Intelligence
  • Understanding
  • Vulnerability
  • Thoughtfulness

Do Jenny and Kim share a few of these? You bet! You’ll notice that I did not mention looks nor did I mention interests. As much an emphasis as our society places on looks, they are not the be all and the end all when it comes to characters. Look at Bessie Higgenbottom from the Mighty B (below). Being attractive ain’t her strong point but her character as a whole is.

What interests the character isn’t important either. Female characters can be quite capable of enjoying or not enjoying girly things. There is also the other extreme to consider where the character is a tomboy. Nothing wrong with that (it worked for Helga in Hey Arnold) although pulling off takes care. Sam from Danny Phantom is a good example, she hangs out with the boys but also enjoys her own, more girly  things in private.

The point of this post, I suppose, is to challenge the notion that female characters and protagonists must conform to certain boundaries when portrayed on TV or in films. That is not to say we need to ban all girly shows, far from it, they have their place too. Just that we should be able to see more of a balance when it comes to content. Boys and girls do enjoy different things, but they also enjoy a lot of the same things too. Something for you, and the networks, to think about.

 

 

Do Cartoon Characters Work Their Way Into Your Life?

Via: Cartoon Brew

While reading Amid’s post about the upcoming exhibition of so-called street art at MOCA in Los Angeles, a thought occurred to me. Is there a reason why there is animation in it at all?

What I mean is that, why on earth would such street artists choose to use animated characters? As Amid points out, some have graduated to using their own characters, but the majority will use well known characters (from perhaps some big, evil corporation).

If you think about it, it seems somewhat obvious. We do seem to have a strong attachment to the cartoons and cartoon characters from our youth. Is it a subconscious yearning for the old days? I’m not sure (but feel free to post your theories in the comments below).

I would argue that characters do tend to work their way into your life as a child and they do tend to reside in the ol’ noggin for the rest of your life. They also represent a certain time that you may like to hold dear or perhaps you identified with the character as a youngster. For artists like the ones in the exhibition, cartoon characters can represent a whole host of things, either from their own personal lives or from their work. Either way, they seem to find artistic value in the characters far outside their original purpose.

What is clear is that cartoon characters pop up all over the place. I’ve seen plenty of 18 wheelers with a Tinkerbell sticker on them! I’ve also seen plenty of old folks wearing a Disney sweater or baseball cap. They are surely well outside the target demographic for such things, right? But is it really that surprising to see such things?

All of this is a sign of the relationship that animated characters form with ourselves. If you need any proof, just think about the last time you saw someone some Saved by the Bell merchandise. Such stuff is pretty hard to come by. Now compare it with all the Ren & Stimpy stuff out there. I think the answer speaks for itself.

Are the Characters the Only Good Thing About Anime?

Three (or four) of the most intriguing characters of any anime series.

Way back in sometime last year, I wrote a post about anime that seemed a wee bit condescending on quite a few levels. In retrospect, I suppose I was referring more to the fan culture surrounding it  than to the animation itself.

Long story short, I recently began watching Witchblade, the first anime show I’ve watched since I bought Neon Genesis Evangelion on DVD a few years ago, and I have to say that I appreciate anime in a much different way than I used to.

Now, I notice that I pay much less attention to the likes of plot, animation and setting and much more attention to the characters themselves. Now perhaps that’s just me, although I tend to judge a film/TV show on the characters more than anything else.

So that led me to begin wondering whether in the case of other anime; is it the characters much more than anything else that provide the appeal of this particular kind of animation?

I mean, why would I find a character in an anime show interesting? That I don’t know, although if I were to hazard a guess it is because anime characters are more complex and layered than their American counterparts, for the most part that is. There are plenty of US and European shows with just as complex characters too.

Such depth naturally allows for a lot of character development throughout a series and helps keep the viewer coming back every week. It’s a bit unlikely that American viewers are coming back for the voice-acting, right? I wouldn’t. (Not to detract from the voice actors who do marvelous work, it’s just that unless your Dan Castellaneta, I’m unlikely to be watching the show for your voice alone).

While there is clearly a story to tell in Witchblade, it is the characters more than anything else that has kept me hooked on the series.

Is it the same for you, or is there something else about anime that keeps you interested in a series?