Today’s post is the first in a series of Masterpiece Monday posts I hope to create periodically throughout the summer. I love Big Hero 6 and I am super excited for the new Big Hero 6: The Series that comes out this Fall so I want to do one post featuring a piece of concept art of each member of the team before the show premieres. Today’s concept art is an early character design for Gogo Tomago by the film’s lead character designer Shiyoon Kim. This is actually part of a set of very dark character designs done by Kim that I have been in love with since I first saw them (I’m a big Gorillaz fan and I swear Gogo looks like she came straight from one of their music videos in this piece). If you’d like to see the rest of the set you can find them on his webpage. I love imagining what this darker version of the super hero team would have been like.
As the film is based on a comic book set in Tokyo, much of the film’s art style takes its inspiration from Japanese culture, especially from Japanese manga and anime. The idea of East meets West was also center-most to all of the artists in the film was epitomized in the film’s setting, the fictional city of San Fransokyo, a San Francisco rebuilt by Japanese immigrants after the 1906 earthquake. This design concept can be seen in this drawing of Gogo, where Western military gear meets clothing inspired by Japanese ninjas. In incorporating East-Asian elements to the character designs it helped that the lead character designer was Korean-American artist Shiyoon Kim, who was very proud to incorporate some of his culture into the character designs.
Gogo was conceived as the tough adrenaline junkie of the team. Animators referred to her as a female Cline Eastwood type, effortlessly cool and silently stoic. Gogo is Disney’s first Korean character, and was a bit of a pet project for Shiyoon Kim because of this. He designed her with Korean “tough girl” stereotypes in mind and studied female Korean speed skaters for inspiration. He also gave her a shorter and stockier body type than is typical for animated Disney women, basing her on a very specific kind of korean body-type called “radish legs”. Keeping with the East meets West inspiration, Kim also based his designs of Gogo on female San Francisco bike messangers, in particular their style of dressing and their many tattoos. You can see that this particular concept art of Gogo depicts some of these potential tattoos, although they did not make it to her final design. In the end, it was Shiyoon Kim’s drawings like this one that I feel most contributed to Gogo’s design.
I hope you enjoyed this look at a rejected design for Gogo Tomago from Big Hero 6. Although I love the design of her real supersuit, its fascinating to look at this concept art and imagine what a darker and grittier version would have been like.