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Christmas Stars: The Character Design
The design of Arthur Christmas began with the characters. "For us, it's all about character,” says producer Steve Pegram. "We never say that we want the film to look a certain way – we find the personality of the characters, and the look follows.”

Tomov agrees: "Once the characters are created – when we know how stylized or realistic they are – we can start creating an environment for them to live in.”

For the character designs, the filmmakers first turned to Peter de Sève, a well-known illustrator and animator, for a first pass at what the characters might look like. From these early sketches, character designer Tim Watts translated the inspiration into a full-fledged character that could be animated in three dimensions.

"We always start with drawings,” he explains. "When we had a drawing Sarah liked, we'd take it to the sculpt stage, to explore how those proportions would work in three dimensions.” On many CG-animated films, this modeling is done directly in the computer, but for Arthur Christmas, Watts did it the old-fashioned way: with clay. "Sarah was very involved,” says Watts. "I remember having a model of Grandsanta and I'd be sculpting in front of her, adding a bit more on here, cutting away there, as we spoke. It was quite interactive.”

Of course, the lead character is Arthur. "He doesn't realize how he appears to everyone else,” says Watts. "Everything he wears is unhip – he has his horrible Christmas sweater. We made him skinny, so the sweater just didn't fight right.”

For the big man himself, Watts says that he created a Santa with "an archetypical look, but also a wide-eyed, deer-in-the-headlights gaze – he just doesn't quite know how these new-fangled ways took over the operation.”

When a model is approved, it is scanned into the computer and cleaned up. "We remove the lumps and bumps, and it gives the animators a solid shape to work with,” says Watts.

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