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Mexopolis, Animation Studio
Illustration by John Hersey

Designing characters: El Machete


From:

Mexopolis, Animation Studio

with Jorge Gutierrez and Sandra Equihua

Video: Designing characters: El Machete

(Music playing.) Jorge Gutierrez: Designing a character for El Tigre had its own process. For example, the process on this guy was I had an idea in my head of what he was going to look like. And he is a skeleton villain and I wanted him to look like what Manny, our main character, El Tigre would look like if he had turned evil and all the goodness in him had been corrupted.

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Mexopolis, Animation Studio
1h 51m Appropriate for all Jan 29, 2010 Updated Sep 01, 2011

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Mexopolis is the husband and wife team whose animated television series El Tigre has defied all the rules and won eight Emmys. Jorge Gutierrez and Sandra Equihua personify the successful integration of personal creative vision and commercial success. Born and raised in Mexico, this dynamic couple has managed to blend their passion for over-the-top Mexican popular culture with digital animation techniques to create characters and stories that dazzle the eye and strike universal truths in the heart. This installment of Creative Inspirations takes viewers into the personal worlds and methods of this inspiring young couple.

In Bonus Features, we follow Jorge to an emotional reunion with his childhood idol, legendary Mad Magazine cartoonist Sergio Aragones.

Subjects:
3D + Animation Creative Inspirations Animation Documentaries
Authors:
Jorge Gutierrez Sandra Equihua

Designing characters: El Machete

(Music playing.) Jorge Gutierrez: Designing a character for El Tigre had its own process. For example, the process on this guy was I had an idea in my head of what he was going to look like. And he is a skeleton villain and I wanted him to look like what Manny, our main character, El Tigre would look like if he had turned evil and all the goodness in him had been corrupted.

This is the actual sketch that I did with a crappy pen while we were talking about the character. And then I took that doodle sketch, I brought it into Flash. And this was my digital sketch and then I go to my final ink and color and at that point, I finesse everything. I finessed all the little lines. Then it goes into what is known as a turnaround. The character gets cleaned up and we see what he would look like from every point of view.

As a character designer I said storyboarding is a hard enough job. I don't want my board guys to ever have to worry about designing anything. What I'm going to do now is I'm going to design-- Django of the Dead was the nephew of Sartana the Dead, the main villain on the show. And much like Manny, who had a father and a grandfather, Django has a dad, but we never saw the dad in this series. He's kind of mentioned and I always had an idea what he would look like. Because El Tigre had so many Day of the Dead characters, I've already done a ton of skeletons for the series.

And I got to play around with crazy proportions, the classic chubby guy, the giant guy with the giant jaw. The midget skeleton, crazy facial hair guy, so I have explored that universe a lot. So trying to figure out, okay, so who is this guy, right? He's got to be more powerful than his son and his son is pretty bad ass and he is got to be, because they are all Day of the Dead, skeleton cowboy themed. He should be a little bit themed to the western aesthetic.

I'll grab a really light gray and then I like my smoothing all the way down, so that everything looks crappy, so I don't fall in love with the details. I am only trying to figure out what my shapes are. All that matters to me now is his proportions. And because it's all crappy vector, I can pretty much play around with stuff and I can say like smaller legs makes it even more powerful. So in one hand, he is going to have a machete because his name is Machete and that's a giant knife.

The other hand, he is going to have an open hand. The other hand is going to have a fist and he is going to be holding his little sombrero. So let's say that's my sketch. All right! Super crappy. And then I do my second pass with a darker gray and I make my stuff a little bit smaller, my brush pen a little smaller, and I start sort of finessing my shapes and I am like okay.

So these are the eyes, that's the nose, and I think his top jaw is like a skull from an animal, so it's more beastly and more evil. So now kind of the head is sort of starting to come together. Of course all El Tigre villains have to have a moustache. I decided that good guys and bad guys have moustaches, because I felt moustaches had been wrongly represented as evil things and I wanted to give them a fair shot.

And so now starting to get my shapes a little clear, so I go into a darker, darker gray and I can start even finessing the stuff even more. And I start sort of cleaning stuff, finding my shapes, figuring out, where stuff is going to go. In our El Tigre universe we make sure all the villains had red eyes. Now I want to make sure my shapes read really clearly, but at the same time I want to have details everywhere.

And you can start seeing sort of the different choices I am making where maybe I wasn't thinking about stuff and I am starting to get a little more specific about where I want things to go. I like to use gradients to sort of imply depth and imply a little more volume and I like things to look a little dirty. So, instead of the skull just being white, I add little dirty sort of orangey stuff on the sides.

Same thing with his jaw. A gray jaw is pretty boring. So I am going to add a little bit of red in there to imply rust. And this is all sketch. Like this doesn't matter as far as how clean I am or how pretty stuff is. So, doing the beard, so why not add some crazier shapes? So after an initial rough sketch of Machete, I made some decisions. Maybe in the rough the sword was kind of wimpy and I made it giant, made the claws a little bigger and then after that it's ready to go.

Then the character will be inked with vector lines, all perfectly colored to match all the other characters. And again this is a character that we never got to make on the show, but here it is.

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