We know that there will be a time where a client would like to re-brand their logo, as well as their direction. To me, as I continue to learn, I feel that animation and graphic design share the same kinds of challenges and goals. Like logo designing, character design requires lots of redos and sketches, in order to find the exact character design for every particular character. How does the audience read the character? Will all the information and history of the character be showcased within the design alone? What about the voice? Does the voice match well with the design, to where people don't have to look at the design to hear the voice? Character design has always been my interest for many years, and seeing we have been doing redesign for the last few weeks, I wanted to share my thoughts on the redesign of one of my favorite characters: The Joker.
Now, I am sticking to the realm of Batman: The Animated Series, as there have been many redesigns for the comic books and graphic novels. It was an extreme challenge to make the Joker look like a menace, but to keep him fun and entertaining for young audiences. Here's the first design that Producer and Designer Bruce Timm and his team showcased to us in the early 90's:
White skin, big grin with yellow teeth, and the eyes surrounded by black outlining. Not to mention a square chin and a sharp pointy nose. It was a complex design, but it did get the job done. Not to mention bringing an interesting look to the character. The eyes is what grabs the audience, and the Joker's cohorts on screen. They were very gestural, expressive, loose, and quick. Just like his moods and his laughter. In this design, the look is sharper and more defined, as he is laughing from the theatrical release Batman: Mask of the Phantasm:
Both designs were my favorite from Bruce Timm. They were way better than the ones he went with, when the series needed to be redesigned for a more simpler approach:
The moment I saw the new design for the Joker, I was disappointed. I could not help but be reminded of the look of the Warner Bros. and Sister:
The black eyes with white ovals was not impressing me, and I thought was sad is that the red lipstick smile was gone. Completely. I did not read the Joker at all, he did not look that menacing to me as the previous design. It does make it simpler to animate (like graphic design, animation desires simple shapes in order to animate). I felt that he did not get his point of across when he wants to look crazy. He did have some sharp looks when he was not happy. Still, this redesign was my least favorite.
In this last example, we see the Joker taking another direction, where there's a bit of a mixture between the first two designs. This appearance here is from Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker. His red lipstick smile comes back, as well as his yellow eyes. The black areas around his eyes are not thick compared to the first design. The chin more pointy than square. And his smile is scarier than the first two designs. He definitely looks like somebody you don't want to mess with. While I do like this design, I just feel that he wasn't looking like he was having fun anymore. It was just more of doing business, and keeping it that way. :/ However, I would pick this design over the Animaniac-inspired version. Any day.
Now, some people might ask me why I didn't talk about this design of the Joker:
Reason being, this Joker design was not done by Bruce Timm, as well as it was for a different series outside of the Batman: The Animated Series realm. Not to mention that I don't want to spend two blog posts explaining my disgust for this character's design. I abhor it. Extremely.
Now, maybe many didn't know, and some or many do, that Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker) did the voice of the Joker. Like graphic design, animation needs good concept for both the direction of the characters and their voices. Here's Mark Hamill explaining his take on the Joker:
As another bonus, here's four minutes worth of Mark Hamill laughing as the Joker, in many different scenarios. Really observe what Mark meant about using different pitches in order to get the right mood for the scenes:
I hope you enjoyed this post, and that you may find it interesting. :)