Ai LIVE: Joshua Leonard shares insight into character design
December 16, 2021
In this episode of Ai LIVE, character designer Joshua Leonard sits down with host E. Vincent Martinez to talk about how he got started in animation, the things he felt helped him in his art, and hints at his upcoming Netflix series, “Team Supreme.”
Leonard knew what he wanted to do when he first enrolled at the Art Institute of Atlanta. As a freshman, he created Leonard Studios as a production company and bought the LLC, allowing him to do his own character design and offer animations services to various media companies such as Netflix, Nickelodeon, or Cartoon Network. He also worked hard to be an A student and show his instructors that he took his studies seriously.
A course he credits with helping him with character design was a 6 hour long anatomy class. He believes that the better you understand the human form, the better story you can tell. For Leonard, character design and conception often begins with a story in mind, and he will expand on the ideas from there. Despite digital art being his main focus, he still doodles on pen and paper, often while being out and about, to capture ideas.
While working for a company like Netflix may seem like a leap from attending classes, Leonard notes that, for him, it often feels like what he would do in school. He says that while working with directors and producers, you can’t take criticism personally; they’re trying to improve your art. Though the process does vary from company to company, most of the time, the creative team knows what they’re looking for when they want a new show.
One of the shows Leonard is producing for Netflix is “Team Supreme,” a show where a group of kids utilizes their various medical differences to save the world. While the show itself is in production, the concept has been around since 2009. Leonard’s friend had a son on the autism spectrum, which intrigued him since, at the time, he didn’t understand the condition. As time went on, he found himself unhappy with the diversity and inclusion of kids with disabilities in animation. “Team Supreme” came about because Leonard wanted to fill that gap. He jokes that if he wasn’t an artist, he’d be a doctor due to the amount of research he did for his characters.
One piece of advice he would give to future animation students is to push through the fear of failure. If you want something, you have to prove how badly you want it, even when life gets hard or makes things difficult. It’s a mindset that has served him well, and is advice he gives to his own children.
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