The news that Disney had redesigned ‘Brave’s’ Merida because she was to be place in the Disney Princess brand got me thinking. What other characters have been redesigned in recent years and received wide spread media attention? What designs worked out for the better? And which ones failed?
Dora the explorer
In 2008 Mattel and Nickelodeon announced a new design for Dora the Explorer- as a tween. Designed for a new Nickelodeon show called Dora’s Explorer Girls, the tween Dora was not created to replace the original but to extend the brand into an older age demographic. Mattel and Nickelodeon had a very strong brand with young Dora, but now they wanted that brand to stay in a child’s life longer- they essentially created the older Dora because they wanted a piece of the Bratz market. Goodbye to her bowl cut hairstyle and t-shirt and shorts, this new Dora had long hair, more jewelry and leggings.
Did the new design work?
The design does have strong similarities to the original design, but the context of why the character was redesigned shone over anything else. Upon release of the new design there was a lot of criticism at the redesigned Dora, due to the fact they she had been made more “girlie”. Parents were not happy. Mattel had taken the jungle-trekking girl and removed her from that setting. Instead, they put Dora in the city with girlfriends who all looked glamorously similar.
After the success of the original series Ben10, which spaned several years and seasons (and not to forget a massive merchandise franchise too), The Cartoon Network decided to also attempt to keep up with their aging fan base- and make the characters older.
Did the new designs work?
In the several television series that followed, Ben was now 15 years old. But where Mattel and Nickelodeon had failed with Dora, The Cartoon Network succeeded. In the redesign of Ben and Gwen, they kept the design and essence of their characters the same. Keeping the integrity of the characters, the new designs didn’t deviate too much from the designs of the characters that they knew already worked so well.
By aging the kids, TCN had a chance to take the storyline into exciting new places. The original series was for a younger audience, so the story was light hearted and funny. By aging the character however, The Cartoon Network created a show that was a lot more serious and more in the line of with a “super hero” show.
In my last post I talked about how Disney has redesigned Merida to be a part of the Disney Princess merchandise brand. Like Merida, redesigns of Mulan and other recent additions to the gang have been quite widely criticized. Here are some examples of the ‘new look’ princesses.
Did the new designs work?
As the Disney Princess brand is all about glitter and looking “pretty”, the new designs do relate to the style of the brand as a whole. Disney has had given many of the females nose jobs, changed their skin complexion, and enlarged their eyes and hair. The main problem with bringing many of the female protagonists together is that they have had to destroy the integrity of several key characters to do so. Characters such as Belle, Pocahontas, and Mulan all fought against this type of female stereotype within their films.
While we are talking about Disney, Paul Rudish (of Powerpuff Girl’s fame) recently redesigned Mickey Mouse for a new animated short series.
Did the new design work?
Here is a redesign that works. This design harks back to the original look of character while characterizing him in a mash up retro/modern 1930’s style. First appearing in cartoon short ‘Croissant de Triomphe’ we see Mickey’s simplistic design used at it’s best. He stretches, squashes, and moves with a lot of newfound freedom. This design will allow Mickey to be completely annihilated in his adventures, while still retaining the cartoon-world immortality. The new design reminds us of the Mickey we used to love, and will make you love him as soon as you seen him on the scooter. Beep! Beep!
By looking at these several big branded characters it seems that redesigning is quite tricky and can be fraught with backlash from the public. Designs seem to work best when there is a valid reason for doing so, such as within a film or story. Redesigning purely for merchandise reasons can work too, but if it doesn’t keep the essence of the original character intact it will be harder for the public to accept.Read More >
Disney redesigns Brave’s awesome character Merida – and now she’s boring.
If you haven’t heard, Disney has recently announced that Merida will be joining the Disney Princess’ gang. She’ll be slapped onto the princess merchandise along with Snow White and Cinderella. This wouldn’t have been news really, as it has happened to many of the female characters over the years- but it has drawn a lot of criticism as Disney has redesigned Merida. Take a look!Read More >
With the 2013 relaunch of our new site and rebrand, we aim to create new illustrations based on a single theme each week. Sometimes we will pick the theme ourselves, but most of the time we will use a theme suggested to us by our readers. If you’re an illustrator, you’re welcome to join the fun by sharing your work on Twitter with the hashtag, #bearandbuffalo! Be sure to follow Bear and Buffalo on Twitter as well!
To view everything I have done so far, please have a look here.Read More >
I can finally reveal one of the book projects I’ve recently worked on! Hooray!
In April, Scholastic is releasing a junior fiction book by Kate Darling called Larrikin Lane. Part of their ‘Mates: Great Australian Yarns’ series, Larrikin Lane tells the story of a suburban family who own some mischievous farm animals. It is a great story about neighborhood wars, and there are plenty of funny moments.
“The farm animals next door make Mr Meyer very cranky. But Arkie has a plan. With Lola the sheep and Delilah the goat to help, what can possibly go wrong”
While working on this project, it brought up a lot of my own childhood memories of neighborhood gangs and farmyard adventures, and I really enjoyed reminiscing about some of the antics we got up to. Please make sure you go grab a copy of this one, as it is a great read for older children. To see more illustrations from the book, go here.Read More >
Ah March is here already. Where did the time go? The start to the New Year has disappeared among the flurry of new book projects- some with extremely tight deadlines! It is an exciting time, and I wish I could share with you what I have been up to. Time will reveal all, of course.
I’ve been getting asked a fair bit about Disney’s Oz the Great and Powerful, and what I thought of it. SO here is a good old rant. And boy, what a rant I am about to have.
(MASSIVE MASSIVE WARNING. There are a lot of spoilers in here!!! Don’t read this if you still plan to see the movie.)
Oz the Great and Powerful tells the story of how the Wizard arrives in the land of Oz. It is about how the Wicked Witch comes to be, and how Oz becomes ruler of the land. There are many good aspects of the film, but there is also a TONE of bad things about it too. Visually the film looks great. The concepts designers pull references from the original film but are still able to make it fresh. The main problem I found with the film was the story, and this is not because it was nothing like the books, but mainly because it just isn’t written well.
Character and environment design:
Even though this is meant to be the prequel to the MGM film, Warner Bros still own the copyright to 1939 The Wizard of Oz film. So Raimi had to be very careful in designing Disney’s Oz. There is no Ruby Slippers, no domed Emerald city, but everything else is there. And I think he did a great job!
The film opens in Kansas, before a tornado carries Oscar Diggs off to Oz. The sepia coloured Kansas is great- sticking to a visually language very similar to the original film. The tornado looked great too, but there was no build up to its reveal, so the strength of its arrival isn’t as strong as in the original film.
We also don’t get a good proper introduction to the city either (the film just gets on with things), but it does look great with its geometric solid shapes. The city looks strong and powerful, while still maintaining feeling magical. They’ve even kept the munchkin courtyard similar to the original movie and it was lovely to see the yellow brick swirl once again.
The artists working on the film haven’t forgotten the rainbow either. Rainbow arch motifs appear throughout the film in the form of rock arches and cloud formations. We even get hints of the rainbow in the background- the horses of many colours are grazing in the background of a scene along the yellow brick road. We also see hints of the rainbow in the glaring sunshine upon Oz’s arrival into the colourful world.
The character and costume designs were great too. They’ve created some very scary flying monkeys (oh the monkey screams are terrifying!), and they’ve even designed Winkies with big noses and deep voices.
Out of all the CGI elements I think that the best addition to this film is Finley and The China Doll. My favorite was the China Doll- as she is a spitting image of Dorothy from the original series of books. It was a smart way to add her in without really adding her. Overall the designs were fresh, but also consistent with the original film. It is a big shame the same can’t be said for the story.
The Wizard, China Doll and Bellhop:
The story was always going to be a tricky one to write, as it had to have a main character that was a very flawed man who had to be likeable. This new James Franco wizard is not the jolly and cheeky humbug from MGM’s classic, but instead is written as a selfish (and kind of sleazy) fraud.
While the protagonist is hard to watch, the allies he collects along the way (in the form of the China Doll and Finley the bellhop monkey) do allow the Wizard a chance for some character development within the story, and they also give the film some emotion and heart. These two CGI characters bring some great emotional scenes to this underwhelming film and feel more realistic than the adult counterparts. And maybe that is the problem with the film? Is the film lacking in heart and magic because the main character is an adult arriving in Oz?
“Romance and heartbreak in Oz? Oh my!”
To try and make a strong romantic relationship between the Wizard and Theodora in less than 10 minutes of screen time just doesn’t work. There is just no time for it. He isn’t in Oz for more than 10 minutes and they have a pash. Due to this, Theodora’s strong reactions to the Wizard’s apparent betrayal just don’t feel right. To make it worse, once she realizes that her sister Evanora has actually been manipulating her all along- nothing happens! There is no follow through.
The Wizard’s betrayal of Theodora really needed to happen later in the story, building the relationship and tensions further. The green witch needed to emerge at the climax of the film giving her appearance greater impact and validity. Instead what happens is that once the Wicked Witch is revealed she just hangs around her big sister screaming while her sister makes all the evil plans. She is no longer a strong iconic character that we all feared as children, but has become a sad little girl standing in her sister’s shadow. On Forbes website Erik Kain’s review sums the witch up perfectly: “The witch we’ve feared since childhood, since 1939 for that matter, is transformed into a petty scorned lover with a bad laugh. Her green face is only frightening because of how silly it looks. Her broom is no longer a trapping of her wicked witchiness, it’s a one-liner directed at her boyfriend of…well, one whole day.”
The role of men and women:
Even after all this negativity and criticism I have just typed, I do realize that it has already earned over $80 million dollars in the US alone, with a sequel on the way. There are some good things in the film, and I really hope that the writers think about what the are writing a little more in the sequel. The thing I do like most about the new film is that it will introduce the world of Oz to a new generation. A new generation of children and adults alike, who might will hopefully go hunt down an Oz book to read.Read More >
Hi everyone! I’m back for 2013 with a brand new website and online store! Hooray!
I hope you all enjoy the new website, and please remember that I will adding new little things to my online store all year, such as prints and hand-made toys, and picture books- so please make sure you continue to come back.
2013 is already looking to be a very busy year, and I’m very excited about my upcoming illustration projects. I wish I could share with you all some of the development work, but of course that will have to wait… but what I can share with you though is that in December 2012 I had a feature article written about my illustration work in the IA Outline Magazine. If you would like to read the article please go here.
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You may remember my attempts at hand sewing a while back with my hand-sewn chook. WELL for my birthday this year I was lucky to be given a brand spanking new sewing machine! Huzzah!
Since then, there has been no looking back and I am slowly learning what is what, experimenting with different fabrics and stitches. It has been quite a learning curve, but I have been enjoying it to no end.
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Happy Wattle Day everyone! Get outside today in the sunshine and go hug a wattle tree!Read More >
Remember a few months ago I participated in One Word One Day in Sydney’s ABC foyer? Run by the ASA to raise money for The Indigenous Literacy Foundation, illustrators and artists painted beautiful artworks. The word of the day for the Sydney contigent was TEETER, so we had to paint something that related to the word. This event took place throughout Australia over several months, and at each event a different word was chosen.
Here are my little possums teetering as they read.
On Septemeber 25th all the paintings will be auctioned off… but the bidding has already begun!
To view paintings by many famous illustrators such as Shaun Tan, Alison Lester, Ann James, Craig Smith please go here! Seeing the list of illustrators is alphabetical by surname, my name is right down the bottom of course. Hehe. You can place bids on this site too. So have a browse, make a bid- as all proceeds go to The Indigenous Literacy Foundation.
My illustration is a one off original up for sale! And I never ever sell originals, so bid quick. It is painted with watercolour paints and has pencil line work, and I LOVE IT. I really love the little possums I drew and really hope they find a nice loving home. So please someone place a bid for them (there are many bidding options on the OneWordOneDay website), otherwise I think I am going to bid for it myself… hehe.Read More >