Character Design: Thoris

First, I want to make a shout out to Meeka from Meeka’s Mind. I love reading her blog and she just recently posted a short story: The Christmas Roast. Along with this imaginative story, she has included some sweet technical drawings that went into the story. I love the depth of thought that went into her work; it reminds me of the process I go through, not being satisfied with a concept until it’s poked, prodded, and vetted.

Moving along, I really had a blast designing Thoris. I think I might still make a few tweaks, but I’m circling in on the final design.

I don’t remember how I came up with the character but the idea was to have one of the good guys elicit a sense of uncertainty and ambiguous motive. I knew I wanted to have some characters that looked very strange. In the future, beings will have such advanced technology, that they will be able to modify their physical form. I wanted some of the characters to make use of this, and Thoris has.

I knew I wanted Thoris to be obssessed with patterns. I started narrowing down on idea of having him be fixated on the number three. It gives him a cultish edge and rigidity of forcing his world through a dogmatic prism – one where every occurrence of the number 3 is an affirmation of his worldview.

This naturally lead to a few design guidelines: Three legs, three arms, three eyes, three-lobed brain. At the same time, I wanted him to have some throwback to an anthropomorphic form.

But despite having had a dreamlike inkling of what Thoris looked like, I never actually did a full sketch of him.

These cave paintings show some of my faint visions of what Thoris should look like.

Last Thursday I started throwing his design together. You can see in the picture above the concept for a human-like front leg and ungulate rear-legs. I considered putting the two legs up-front and only one behind, but it seemed too logical and too similar to the stance of a Major kite. Also note the broad shouldered design.

The broad-shouldered design

I followed this design for a couple of sessions and even went as far as animating how his torso would be composed of three pieces on a single axis:

Assemble the Thoris. We shall feast tonight!

I was happy with this design until I tried to place it in a scene. There was something wrong with it, the shoulders were too broad. He looked like a lumbering mechbot that should be lugging a giganto-cannon around and that didn’t fully mesh with Thoris’ personality.

So I started rummaging through some other concept sketches I did recently. Amongst a rough lineup of the protagonists I found this:

This raw doodle must have taken me 10 seconds to sketch out, but it was just right! It’s organic, weird, and unique. I love the sea-lion torso and sloping non-shoulders. It was so much more quirky and looked like the kind of affront-to-nature that Thoris would stage.

So I used the smoother, non-brutish lines and got these iterations:

The sleeker no-shoulder design felt better.

At this point I was pretty excited, he was starting to look way better. In the image above you can also see how I switched from a low collar to a high-collar design on the right. This design is much more dissonant. He looks both strange, because of the legs, and almost aristocratic, because of the high collar. This really goes well with a big ego :).

The final touches were smaller to the point that they might go unnoticed. First, I wrote into chapter 2 that Thoris’ head looks too small to house a brain, so I made the head smaller. The other was to turn the hind feet backwards. This looks creepy, but also allows his hind legs to be single-kneed, instead of ungulate, and still remain balanced. I thought of any animals that might have this configuration and immediately realized: Grasshoppers. Their rear leaping legs have a rear facing “foot”. This goes well with his high-collared “jacket” which also alludes to a grasshopper’s neckless head. The little geek irony here is that when his shoulders were broad, I felt like he looked a bit too much like the Grasshopper ‘Mech from BattleTech!

Final design with smaller head, rear-facing feet, and single joint knee (not fully visible). Note the human feet (creepy~~~)

Hope you enjoyed the journey as much as I did 🙂


Published by Sapling

I am writing/illustrating the work-in-progress novel "Free Drove". I am a science fiction and animation fan. My mind latches on to trivia readily and creates it just as easily.

3 thoughts on “Character Design: Thoris

  1. Hi Sapling! love the evolution of your Thoris, just one question though, how would he move? Looked up a grasshopper on youtube and those hind legs literally rocket it into space. Would he be capable of actually ‘walking’, or would he kind of hop like a back to front kangaroo? And no, I’m not being critical! If you look in the category called Vokhtah, you’ll see that I’m obsessed with creating alien creatures called Vokh and iVokh. 😀 They both have what amounts to two sets of arms…and legs like an ostrich. I really hope we can do some creature brain storming in the future. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Excellent question! The truth is, when it comes to walking, Thoris has options. The full on “rocket” hopping would be reserved for emergencies. Kangaroo style tail-and-legs is another. But for a stable walk that doesn’t involve a lot of up and down, I envision a scuttle where the lower part of the legs are doing most of the movement. I think I’ll have to animate this to fully work it out 😄.

      Definitely! Will look up your Vokhtah.


      1. I like the idea of a scuttle. Immediately brings up images of spiders and other fast moving insects. Would add a subliminal sense of ‘danger’ to Thoris. Keep me posted on the animation!

        Liked by 1 person

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