The first step we took to begin "Pepe and Lucas" was to develop the main characters - the mime, the magician, and the clown. We only had a brief description of the story events and the world and it essentially boiled down to 3 street performers with different abilities who compete/fight for money/fight for the audience's attention. It would take place in a stylized world made up of entertainers living in an entertainment-centric environment. None of the "races" of entertainers would get along and would have constant turf battles, like the Sharks and the Jets from "West Side Story". There'd be outrageous battles, fight scenes, chases, comedy, and a romantic angle. My director wanted something nostalgic calling back to the days of vaudeville and the art deco era. Basically, the western world in the 1920's through 1940's. Other than that, it was pretty much a blue sky situation, which was fantastic.
Each character presented it's own unique challenge since the story was still in development, but the clown was perhaps the most challenging in that he would do the most changing and had to be the most appalling character at the beginning, but the most appealing by the end. We needed a character who was down-and-out, a slob, desperate for attention, and starving for success. He would be embittered by fading memories of success and essentially would have fallen in the world to the point of embodying the stereotype of an "angry drunk clown".
Looking back on these designs, I remember that I explored both European clown costumes and history as well as American style clown costumes and history. Even though many elements of the clown costume don't change over time - big shoes, wig, face paint, baggy clothes, and of course the red nose, the clown more than any of the other characters felt right in a more American style, depression era costume. You'll see in a later post that I created full color clean and dirtied versions of the characters. I found that a clown with a more contemporary look or color palette or European dress didn't read as "broken" when dirtied up, just dirty. His patches were the patches of a clown costume, not the patches of a life hard fought. The hobo clown look of the American Depression said so clearly that this was as good as it got. It really represented his economic position in life. In the end that was sufficient and we didn't end up texturing him dirty for the short. It also seemed less like a costume and more like someone's day to day wardrobe. The nostalgia of that time also made the clown feel much more like a forgotten person who hadn't seen a good day in a long time, like he was permanently stuck in the gutters.
In my next post, I'll load up the color steps we took to bring Pepe to a full color finished character concept.