Feb 15

Disney's spherical characters

Category: Design,industrial design,Linux,product design   — Published by goeszen on February 15, 2016 at 8:36 pm

steamboat willie, vincent and bb8
Steamboat Willie, VINCENT and BB-8, a journey from Mouse to Robots.

Do you notice the similarities between the above characters? When you see them side by side it's quite obvious: their basic shape is spherical, an orb. Their body is a ball.

Just look at Disney's very early rendition of Mickey Mouse in Steamboat Willie. Stemming from Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, Ub Iwerks designed Mickey's lower body around a ball-, or cauldron-like base structure, with cylindrical short trousers.

Disney's foray into sci-fi in 1979's movie "The Black Hole" had V.I.N.CENT, a laconic-smart robot with a familiar shape. Vincent is a hovering ball, with cylindrical structures on the bottom, resembling legs. A very clever Disney design, probably by production designer Peter Ellenshaw.

And finally, Star Wars 7 features a little robotic friend as well: BB-8. The story is that BB8 is based on a napkin sketch of director JJ Abrams, yet his/her's body shape is perfectly aligned with classic Disney character design. As a blend of Lucasfilm's R2D2's dome head and the Disney ball, BB-8 is probably the perfect design-metaphor for Disney's Lucasfilm acquisition.

I think we could mention another iconic robot, Pixar WALL-E's EVE here as well. Although her body is more of an egg shape, she shares the technical enigma of how she actual works with BB8's motion drive or VINCENT's anti-grav hover generator.

If you're interested, see what The Black Hole's Maximillian and BMW's have in common.

An one more note: in 2024 Disney's Copyright on the original Mickey Mouse character expired. It's been 70 years, would you think..? Well, good World, be nice to our favorite Mouse.

More interesting stuff to read:
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Where the Aeron chair came from
Disney's spherical characters

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