July 28th, 2015

Award winning Mill+ Art Director Jimmy Kiddell recently directed his debut project for Comfort, designing and bringing to life the latest additions to Comfort’s iconic ‘Cloth World.’

Jimmy initially setting up The Mill’s art department, and now leads a team of talented illustrators, concept artists and matte painters, as well as directing character based projects such as Comfort’s ‘Genie’.

Jimmy tells us what it is about character animation that makes him tick, and what challenges it can present:

Why is character animation the best creative medium for you?

I love the fact that you can do anything in animation even if it's bonkers. Exploring the tone and finding the right interplay for each performance is very rewarding. It's fun developing the animation style and I usually have a very clear vision of how I want things to look. It's also a great team sport.

What is key when designing and bringing to life a new animated character?

Believing in your character and being clear about who they are and how will they relate to others. I ask myself if the audience will engage with them and if they are entertaining to look at. If characters make you smile (even if they're evil) then it’s a good start.

What are some of the challenges you faced on the Comfort project when developing the Genie’s character?

Making him appealing and charming whilst maintaining an air of mystery with explosive energy was a challenge. 

He needed to be able to fly around in a small space, change size and transform into radically different shapes, which other comfort characters clearly can't do because they don't squash and stretch, or defy gravity.

Are there any nifty techniques you can use in character animation to help achieve the final effect?

We turned off motion blur to give it the crispness of stop motion animation and created really stretched shapes for the genie to compensate for this. I also decided to buy some wood, wire and fabric to build a rough 70 cm high set and a basic genie model for lighting colour and texture reference, this proved really useful.

Do you ever use 3D printing when working on character based projects? Is there a benefit to this?

Yes we have. It helps everyone understand the design more fully, which is a big bonus for the whole team. We can use them on set to aid staging, composition and lighting possibilities. Also when you pick up a model with a big heavy head that you've previously only seen on a screen, you think differently about how it might move.

Who is your favourite animated character?

That's a very difficult question as there are so many brilliant characters to choose from. I love Baloo from the original Jungle Book and Jake the dog from Adventure Time because every one needs a friend who helps them forget their worries and makes them dance. 

Jimmy has also been involved in the character creation and animation of Audi ‘Hummingbird’, and most recently Cif ‘Sleeping Beauty

See the behind the scenes of Cif here: