Composition for the 21st ½ century: Characters in Animation focuses on characters and their application in animation, illustration, games, and films. It covers various technical aspects of character design and their artistic applicability. This book analyzes in detail the purpose of these character design features and provides examples of their impact. Emphasis is placed on each aspect and how it affects and is affected by the narrative. Additionally, complex case studies that assist in explaining the successful use of these concepts in films and animation are included. This book is geared toward students; however, it is also reader-friendly for professionals. Composition for the 21st ½ century: Characters in Animation’s goal is to comprehend composition as an artistic tool and as a significant part of the professional character design process.

Key Features:

  • Teaches the complexity of composition in the professional character design process.
  • Closes the gap between praxis and theory in character design.
  • Explains how to produce believable characters that express their narrative in the visuals.
  • Discusses the need for artistic reasoning in character design.
  • Presents case studies to assist readers in understanding the process as they progress through this book.

Author Bio:

For more than twenty years, Thomas Paul Thesen’s career has been about learning and understanding the complexities of art, animation, and image-making, both in still illustration, drawing, and photography and in the moving image. He has worked in the industry as a character animator and visual development artist for companies such as Pixar, DreamWorks, and Sprite Animation Studios. He has also taught for many years at universities across Asia, the USA, and the UK.

chapter Chapter 1|7 pages

The Job of a Character Designer

chapter Chapter 2|7 pages

Visual Development Process

chapter Chapter 3|9 pages

Storytelling and Drama

chapter Chapter 4|17 pages


chapter Chapter 5|6 pages


chapter Chapter 6|4 pages


chapter Chapter 7|3 pages

Message or Theme

chapter Chapter 8|6 pages

Research and Concept

chapter Chapter 9|18 pages

Design Scale

chapter Chapter 10|8 pages

Pose and Communication

chapter Chapter 11|4 pages

Thumbnail Drawings

chapter Chapter 12|34 pages


chapter Chapter 13|4 pages


chapter Chapter 14|7 pages

Line of Action

chapter Chapter 15|46 pages


chapter Chapter 16|10 pages


chapter Chapter 17|3 pages

Tension and Compression

chapter Chapter 18|5 pages


chapter Chapter 19|4 pages

Movement and Twist

chapter Chapter 20|2 pages

Pivot Point

chapter Chapter 21|5 pages

Balance and Tension

chapter Chapter 22|5 pages


chapter Chapter 23|9 pages

Perspective and Dimensionality

chapter Chapter 24|2 pages


chapter Chapter 25|1 pages


chapter Chapter 26|10 pages

Light and Shadow

chapter Chapter 27|3 pages

Vectors and Directions

chapter Chapter 28|15 pages

Facial Expressions

chapter Chapter 29|2 pages

Extroverted and Introverted Pose

chapter Chapter 30|4 pages

Negative and Positive Space

chapter Chapter 31|5 pages

Body Ratio

chapter Chapter 32|3 pages


chapter Chapter 33|5 pages


chapter Chapter 34|10 pages

Line Quality

chapter Chapter 35|3 pages

Simplicity and Readability

chapter Chapter 36|3 pages


chapter Chapter 37|5 pages

Color Design

chapter Chapter 38|12 pages

Clothing Design, Folds, and Fabrics

chapter Chapter 39|1 pages

Style Pass

chapter Chapter 40|9 pages

Character/Model Sheets

chapter Chapter 41|3 pages