I realised recently that I’ve featured hardy any Pixar films on my blog so far, so I decided to change that today by writing a little about one of my favourite Pixar films Inside Out. This piece of character design concept art for Joy was created by Albert Lozano the character art director for the film. What I like about this particular drawing is it does a lot to express the unique qualities that make Joy and the other emotions different from most other animated characters. It also illustrates many of the specific qualities the character designers gave Joy so that she would better express her particular emotion and be an interesting and likable main character.
One of the most noticeable aspects of this piece of concept art are the small energy particles that radiate off Joy’s skin. When designing Joy the artists kept thinking of her as a little ball of energy and comparing her to sparklers and champagne bubbles. To reflect this inner quality of Joy’s the artists were constantly depicting her with a little aura of bubbles and sparks surrounding her. The technical side of the animation team knew that this aura of particles would be difficult and expensive to create, but director Pete Docter liked the idea, so he told them to try and if it got too expensive they’d cut it from the film. When John Lasseter saw the tests of Joy’s animation, he loved the particle aura and ordered it to be used on all the emotion characters. He felt this would give them a abstract “electro-chemical” quality. You’ll also notice that in this image Joy’s limbs bend in a cartoonish noodley way. This was another animation choice that was made for all the emotions in the film. As the embodiement of emotions they were allowed to bend and stretch in exaggerated caricature-like ways, something Pixar had never done before. All of these choices were made to clearly separate the emotions from the film’s human characters.
As an individual character Joy came with her own challanges. You’ll notice that Joy’s skin in this concept art gives off a bio-luminescent light. The character designers felt that since joy the emotion was associated with light, Joy the character ought to have a glow to her. Again the animators on the technical side of the film thought portraying this light in CG animation would be nearly impossible, but with a lot of hard work they did it. They made her glow a sort of replacement for her shadow, so that she was constantly shining light on the settings and places around her. Another unique quality about Joy is the star shape to her body, created by her very long limbs and spikey hair. This was the result of an effort from the character designers to have even the very shapes of each character’s body reflect ideas sorrunding that emotion as a concept. One of the few major differences between this drawing of Joy and the final character is her outfit. Here she wears a sort of play suit meant to make her seem like a more childish character, as Joy was also seen as the embodiment of childhood by the character designers. In the end, they had her wear her green dress instead, but kept her with bare feet to give a sense of childish freedom to the character.
Hope you enjoyed this look at a concept drawing of Joy and all the challenges involved in bringing the emotional characters of Inside Out to life.