Character design art by Len Smith

Character design by Len Smith


Teach (and trust) yourself – Len Smith

Animation character designer talks children's book illustration

"How do you keep someone looking the same from scene to scene?"

It's often the first question a beginning illustrator asks. And it's the first skills a professional animator must learn.

On December 13, Len Smith shared some of his best 'process tips' gained from his career as an animator, concept and licensing artist for cartoon studio Hanna-Barbera (where he started working right after high school), Disney, Disney Publishing, Disney Pixar and Mattel Toys.

Little Red by Len Smith



Len was the lead artist for the 'Toon Town' sequence of the groundbreaking Disney animated movie Who Framed Roger Rabbit.

Disneyland’s Toontown still uses many of his original concepts.

Len Smith ghost



Smith's work appeared prominently in The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, which won four Emmy Awards. For Disney TV he developed characters for  the series The Muppet Babies and TailSpin.

He has also illustrated many licensed character children's books, like the Disney book version of its popular Pixar film, Ratatouille.


And he had an assignment for us.

He asked to see our character's 'front to back' model sheet.

You know, those three basic views that show a story character 'in the round' and make him (her) easier to render through all a story's pages?

Here are the assignment's details: Draw three views, 'front-to-back' of the character. Your story character person, child, animal  – vegetable or mineral, too if that's the character.

Your character seen from the front, side and back. Or if you want to ramp up the exercise a bit  – 3/4 view front, 3/4 view side and 3/4 back, like Len's image below.

It can be a single face or a complete figure. Rough sketch or final art, whatever you can muster in the time available.

Len shared this link with the group for anyone interested in applying to work as an artist for Disney or exploring other career opportunities in Disney animation.

Check out Smith's own film and TV credits in the International Movie Database here.

And read more about Len's work on the Artistic Solutions and Productions (a concept and design company) website here.

Find out more about the Procreate painting app for the iPad.

Below are more examples of character 'model sheets' that Len shared with us.


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