If you were asked to remember a particular video game character from your childhood, what name would pop up in your head? Perhaps Nintendo’s Super Mario. Indeed, most of us remember this popular game from the 90’s. Aldric Chang, Founding Managing Director, Mediafreaks Pte Ltd discussed the nuts and bolts of creating, monetizing and popularizing cartoon characters.
Excerpts form his in-depth talk:
The most popular game characters
“Certain cartoons characters are classics in their own right. Everyone knows about Disney’s Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck. Super Mario is one of the icons of the gaming industry. When I analyzed Mario, I realized that they designed him as a very simple character and if you compare his past and present versions, his simplicity might be the key to his popularity. People could relate to this average guy image and therefore, was suitable for a game.”
What makes them good?
“The computer graphics have advanced a lot in the past two decades. If we compare the Super Mario game by Nintendo in the 90’s and look at it today, it has progressed a lot. This popular character stood the test of time and has advanced from its early 2D version to the latest 3D versions.
There are various important tips to design a character. One must learn to monetize the characters and prepare for character licensing. One should adopt good marketing tactics through the internet as it is a very powerful medium today.”
“Managing a cartoon character should be similar to managing the publicity for a real life artist. Consider creating and selling the merchandise all by yourself. It can also be done through licensing. Use the Internet to drive traffic to your website. But try not to make too much money through this. You might want to consider selling the character license.”
Preparing for licensing
“First determine whether your character is cool or cute. If it is cool then it might be for collectibles for your character. Licensing caters to the cute categories and if you have cool characters they meant for collectible or games. It also depends on the kind of connections you have.
With cute characters, it directly goes for cute merchandizing. As it caters to women and kids who are the largest market consumers for cute items. Outsourcing characters is also possible if you do not have good character designers on your team.”
Popularizing the character
“This can be done through video marketing. Mini animation clips of the characters can be used. You can create a blog or create communities on social networking sites about your characters.
The Lara Croft game’s timing was great. It made an entry in a time where in there were no heroines. Plus Lara Croft reflected the independent woman’s ideologies and shedding the stereotype of dependent woman, and she went to become a feminist woman icon. For guys, who wouldn’t want to play an acrobatic and adventurous woman’s part. Catching the right time to roll out the right cartoon character is important.”
The core product
“One question that we ask ourselves while creating the cartoon characters is, what is our core product. This is because many people are under the misconception that cartoon characters are used only for animated series and films. But this is not entirely true. In many cases there are other products you can consider like, Mashimaro- it could be for a game or a story book like Harry Potter, comics or merchandise etc. Therefore, you have to keep all these properties in mind while you create your character.”
Tips for creating a cartoon character
“Ideally a character should be able to perform across all platforms with the maximum magnetizing appeal. The demography of the product too, should be kept in mind. The character might be popular but will not fit the image of the product.
Traits and characteristics of the cartoon character too, are to be taken into consideration. So it is just not the exterior but also the interior of the cartoon which has to be looked upon. To do this, the designer has to get into the skin of the cartoon character and think how the character does this or that. It is not merely an artist’s job but also a profiling job. It has to go well with the property of the game and also the audience demography.
One of the most popular cartoon characters is The Simpsons. They are different for the simple reason that they are of a different colour tone, the shape and the way they draw the characters.
Every character you create needs to have a different and a strong personality. No point in creating a boring character. Every aspect needs to stress and made interesting. You have to think how your cartoon character will translate to 3D. Therefore, the concept has to be designed from the very beginning in a manner in which it will translate well from 2D to 3D. While drawing them in different poses, add various emotions to them. Put them in different situations. Colours play an essential role in communicating a character’s personality.
Most importantly a character should have a goal and dream to make them interesting.”