Date of Award

August 2021

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts (MFA)


Digital Production Arts

Committee Member

Eric Patterson

Committee Member

Insun Kwon

Committee Member

Victor Zordan


Animated films have no shortage of memorable characters. They are the subjects of the film and are designed intentionally to be appealing. They are also what sell merchandise, as evidenced by high-end collectibles created and sold by toy companies such as McFarlane and Sideshow. [58] [85] Put simply, audiences love the characters in animated films. That same appeal can be used strategically to aid endangered species. [49] Persons that have a positive attitude towards a particular animal are more likely to want to protect it by assisting in its conservation. [57] This protective instinct can be especially strong in the case of a lovable animated character. [82] [37] If the species is in jeopardy, it is as if the fictional character shares in the danger. To affect the greatest amount of positive change for an endangered species, a film may be made that includes among its main cast, a character representative of the species, whose character design departs from the actual appearance of the animal for the sake of maximizing appeal. This thesis focuses on the character design and model creation of a stylized Sister Islands Iguana for use in a hypothetical film production.This particular species was chosen based on its visual appeal and distinct features. The design and where it departs from the form of a real Sister Islands Iguana is derived from the work of Expressionist artists Franz Marc and Max Pechstein, scientific illustrators Charles Darwin and Thomas Bell, and examples from contemporary animated media. Reptiles are not the conventional image of cuteness. Stylistic modifications to a character’s appearance allow for said character to be more appealing than its real-life counterpart. This will increase the audience’s attachment to the character, which causes them to be more sympathetic to the plight of the real-life endangered animal. Stylization is already a common practice in the animated film industry, for both human and animal characters alike. Expressionism is about capturing the feel of the subject rather than a realistic representation. [59] A subject may be embellished or distorted to intentionally evoke certain feelings in the viewer. Scientific illustrations are quite the opposite. The purpose of a scientific illustration is to convey information while retaining accuracy. [38] It must be as faithful to the real subject as possible. In the case of animal illustrations, the work must include identifiers unique to the species in question, yet some details will inevitably be omitted, as no representation will be an exact reproduction. Combining Expressionism and scientific illustration will create a stylized model that “feels” cute and is also identifiable as a Sister Islands Iguana.



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