I really dig watching actors play twins. As an animator I think it’s both fascinating and valuable to take note of the ways in which an actor, playing two roles, differentiates one character from the other by establishing and adhering to two specific vocabularies of movement (a term I have used on this blog a few times before, and I’ll use it again. You can’t stop me, you’re not my boss!).
Designing a language of motion that not only speaks to who that character is, but is also unique to that character is already something that I feel is an important element of an animator’s work. All the more so when animating characters who look alike.
To put it in 3D animation terms, these characters have identical rigs. Their T-poses are identical, their geometry, controls, and keyable attributes are exactly the same. So how do you, the animator– and, more to the point, the audience– distinguish one from the other?
Sometimes it can be as simple as defining a character’s posture. In The Double (one of my favourite films) Jesse Eisenberg defines wonderfully the doppelgangers Simon James and James Simon through posture and speaking patterns. This alone effects the way they walk, sit, and interact with their environment. A lot of mileage for what may seem like a minor change.
But personality differences can be a lot more subtle, and physicalizing those nuances requires a less obvious approach. The actor Josh Pence, who played the Winklevoss twins alongside Armie Hammer on set of The Social Network, said:
“Before preproduction I watched Dead Ringers. Jeremy Irons is amazing, and one thing that he talked about in an interview that I read was, the way that he could tell the difference between the two characters was where he put the weight on his feet. One of the brothers would have his weight back on his heels, if he was the other he’d be a little more forward, on the balls of his feet.”
Posing and weight can make all the difference. It can be simple, but it should be artful. Look for those opportunities to distinguish one character from another through movement, posture, centre of gravity, and attitude. Especially if they share a face.
I generally try to limit the number of posts that fall under the “something cool I saw on the internet” category, but these words of wisdom from legendary designer Saul Bass are just wonderful.
I want to take a minute to talk a bit about a thing I saw.
Disney’s Big Hero 6 is coming out shortly, and the trailers, clips, and promotional footage are littered about the internet. But one piece in particular caught my attention.
Below is a short series of character studies, demonstrating how each of the Big Hero 6 characters would enter a room and sit down. A simple task performed simply enough by each, yet no two characters do it at all the same way. As an animator, I love this. It’s a perfect example of showcasing clearly defined character personalities by building (and adhering to) specific vocabularies of movement. And that is very much my jam.
Drew this guy this morning while sitting in bed. His name is Toby Poguestaff. He used to sell cars in Sacramento, until he ran away to join the circus. Unfortunately he didn’t pass the audition on account of a botched human-cannonball routine that blew him straight into the lion tamer’s Buick, much to the chagrin of the bearded lady, who was sleeping in the trunk at the time. He tried to sell him a replacement, but dropped the keys down a storm drain, where they were eaten by an unnaturally large mouse wearing a nicotine patch.