10 successful animated characters
Zoltan Miklosi shares ten of his personal favorite animated characters and their animations, looking at their designs and what makes them work for the audience.
In this article I would like to share my ten favorite cartoon character designs with you and try to explain why. This is very personal list, and not in order; each of them is my favorite one and completely different from each other. These choices are my favorite and reflect my style.
As a graphic artist my favorite topic is the human; an image without a human is a soulless image for me – they are only ambient and atmospheric. Nowadays the very distorted/stylized characters are popular in the cartoon movies; I know the reasons for this, but in my list I will try to avoid them because they are not my style. Rather, I like the lifelike characters like Don Bluth’s Anastasia, Disney’s Hercules, or Studio Ghibli’s SteamBoy, and so on.
1. Mezga Family – Dr Maris
This is the Hungarian version of the Bundy family (Married with Children). I think it is the best Hungarian cartoon ever created and it can’t be done better! It is a funny social criticism in a science-fiction adventure series about an average Hungarian family in the ‘70/’80s. The characters are typical Hungarian idealized citizens in the communist regime.
Dr Maris is like Dracula, with sharp-edged ears and hooked nose, pointed and sharp eyes, a half-bald head, thick body, and he almost always wears a suit. The suit covers the personality! He is a bad guy who always gets into trouble in the series. This makes him funny. He always tries to keep his dignity in every situation
In the real life he would be a very unpleasant guy to be avoided. His emotions are life-like; his motions are very detailed and realistic. It’s good to see how great the animators were in those times; drawing these very detailed figures by hand would have been hard work. The creators were Joseph Nepp and Bela Ternovszky.
© Joseph Nepp and Bela Ternovszky
2. Macskafogo – Cat City – Safranek
Mice and cats fight each other in this funny science-fiction adventure movie, Macskafogo. Cat City’s Safranek is a typical Hungarian office employee in the previous regime in the 70/80s. Thick body, huge head, he is like a match – his glasses makes him a bit intelligent but he is not that. He always bows in front of his boss; he is a bootlicker office employee. At home he tries to be a king and a well-situated, intelligent, and determined husband and father. Just like Dr Maris, he also must be avoided in real life, an unpleasant guy who always gets into trouble.
3. Roadrunner – Wile E. Coyote
Wile E. Coyote is a not-so-genius bad guy. In my childhood, whenever I heard its title music I ran to the other room to the television to watch the new episode of Roadrunner. It was funny to watch Wile E. Coyote’s amazed, exaggerated face when he explodes or falls down from the top of the mountain. The background and the figures are detailed enough and the animations are very funny and very well created, I love this cartoon series. Even though he wants to eat the roadrunner he is a lovely and funny character.
4. Lilo and Stitch – Lilo and Stitch
One of Disney’s great creations. I’ve seen all the Disney movies, and collect them. She is a lovely girl with a lovely alien who is like a dog. These characters are full of life and love each other, no matter what the other did. Lilo’s smile fills anybody’s heart with a warm feeling, Stitch the blue alien acts like a restless child and it creates great adventures for them. Blue is a perfect choice of color for Stitch and Lilo’s brown skin. The brown color represents the motherhood, blue color is the color of the male according to the meaning of colors.
5. Princess and the Frog – Louise the jazz crocodile
Louise the jazz crocodile is the typical example of the one track minded character – he is a maniac jazz lover. He always wants to jam with the jazz masters. He’s an amazingly funny character. Without him this movie would be much less. He is the whipped cream of the cake. His happiness is adhesive. Despite his appearance he has a heart of gold, no matter his sharp teeth revealed when he smiles; we know he is a good guy because he is childlike. He always smiles and makes me smile when he comes into my mind. He has the perfect design for a jazz crocodile; a huge abdomen, wide mouth with full set of teeth and short arms and legs. His huge abdomen makes him lovable, and the sharp teeth symbolize he is a wild animal with a childish brain. An unforgettable figure for me.
6. Big Hero 6 - Baymax
Baymax is the limitless good. His every action is in the name of the good. His white color and the spherical shape symbolize his innocent and harmless perfection. He can’t do wrong. We can’t see his facial expressions because he doesn’t have a face. He has only two black points as eyes but we always know what he thinks, shown through his mannerisms, and we imagine his invisible facial expression. His soft body makes him innocent and a lovely character. The designers and animators did perfect work! His huge power is from his love. Nobody could have designed a better character for this movie.
7. Anastasia - Anastasia
She is a beautiful girl in a beautiful Don Bluth movie. This is one of my mother’s favorite movies of all time. There are very detailed animations that make this movie perfect. Anastasia is beautiful, she fascinates the public. Every motion and gesture reflects her sophisticated character. It is stereotypical that girls with red hair and green eyes can be cranky a little bit and passionate and this property makes her a more attractive and interesting figure. The green color is the color of the female and nature and it has a relaxing effect.
8. L'illusioniste – The Illusionist
This is a movie about limitless love. The Illusionist and Madame Souza are the same character; the same soul in a different appearance in a different skin. Perfect drawings and animations make this movie unforgettable. I couldn’t choose between Madame Souza and the Illusionist, so I put both them into this list. Sylvain Chomet’s name is a good guarantee for the highest quality movie like Studio Ghibli, Don Bluth, Attila Dargay, Bela Ternovszky, and Joseph Nepp. The Illusionist is the perfect, elegant, gentleman; he has a hooked nose, small jaws, and long face that makes him a typical aristocrat, no matter that he is a bit unskillful when he does his tricks if he has such a great heart. The animators and designers did a perfect job; this figure couldn’t be better.
9. The Triplets of Belleville - Madame Souza
This is another movie by Sylvain Chomet. The unstoppable grandma is one of my favorite figures in this noir animation. She just walks ahead, across fire and water, straight to her aim. She does everything for her grandchild. She has thick glasses which make her pupils larger and easily readable for everybody, and which symbolize she is an old lady. Her cheeks look a little like her dog’s face, which means they belong together. Her kind face enhances our love towards her. Large pupil expresses huge love – she’s just full of love. The characters in this movie are very well drawn and the animations are perfect and very expressive. I just can’t recommend this lovely, brave, old lady’s adventure enough.
10. Battle Angel Alita - Alita
Alita is a typical anime cartoon hero. If you love this character you will likely love anime movies in general. She has great, lovely expressive eyes, a nice face with slim body and limitless power, which are the typical traits of anime hero features. I’m an anime/manga fan. I know this figure from comic books as well as the cartoon movie. I love both. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen the movie yet, the trailers promise a fantastic movie. I love Alita’s character. She can be soft and kind for her friends and she can be cruel for her enemies. Great character.
I could have written much more about my personal favorite cartoon heroes but I had to finish the article. As I mentioned earlier, it is absolutely a personal list and the characters are almost the same, but I could not leave one of them out. If you see these movies you will understand why I think they work so well!