Developing culturally significant characters

By Andrew Ayala

Speakers of the Cartoon Character 101 panel at L.A. Comic Con explained how voice actors and cartoonists give characters personalities to fit whatever standards are needed. The panel was led by Kiff VandenHeuvel and included guests Adam McArthur, Brandee Stillwell, Jennifer Muro and Doug Bensimon, who all gave their personal inputs and anecdotes.
“I never think about mistakes. Really just try and be true to whatever information, you are presented with. Based on the information you must formulate a character almost instantly,” said McArthur, voice of Marco Diaz on “Star vs. The Forces of Evil.” Panelists made sure to emphasize that improv, on-the-spot acting and ideas are extremely important for many reasons.
“Speak and fight like you’re right, but listen like you’re wrong. Sometimes you need to step into the world to see how others see things because the audience doesn’t have the same perspective that you do,” said Bensimon, manager of a current series at Disney TV animation. Believing that just because a person thinks that the voice or character they are creating sounds good isn’t always enough.
“Obviously there’s techniques, you need to understand the psychology of the character, what the character is like and how they will react to certain situations,” said Rosa Farre, Assistant Professor of Animation at East Los Angeles College. “When designing, you want to make sure that it isn’t just pretty, but does it fulfill the needs of the storytelling process. This is when you can see the difference between just designing a pretty character and one that people can relate to.”
Bensimon said that like in many other aspects of life, both sides must be seen in order to make sure justice is done to the character.
“You never know who is going to be standing in front of you at Starbucks. Finish your script even if you have to walk away from it. I don’t know how many times people asked me what I have and I would have to say I’m working on this but it isn’t finished,” said Brandee Stillwell, creator of “Sasquatch Detective.” “Have your files ready on your smartphone and always be prepared.”

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