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A Lesson on Character Design by ‘SpongeBob’ Artist Robertryan Cory

Robert Ryan Cory, a veteran character designer on SpongeBob SquarePants and Secret Mountain Fort Awesome, has posted a helpful set of notes from a character design lecture he presented recently to CalArts animation students.

The 15-page lecture is available both on Flickr and Facebook (the latter is recommended because each image contains additional notes and comments).

Cory and I worked together on Ren & Stimpy: Adult Party Cartoon what now seems a lifetime ago, and it’s fascinating to see how much of his teaching approach is rooted in John Kricfalusi’s approach to drawing. The concepts, of course, are not unique to John K.; they are general concepts of solid draftsmanship. But the emphases placed on certain ideas gave me a sense of déjà vu, everything from Cory’s explanation of the different types of drawing (educational vs. disciplinary vs. experimental) to focal and supporting masses, and the conscious placement of details in specific areas.

Cory has his own idiosyncratic approach—he has absorbed his influences intelligently, filtering them through his own style, and he has evolved his own theories about drawing over the years. But his underlying approach can be distinctly traced to the Spumco school of cartooning. Seeing him expound these views to CalArts students seems appropriate because more than twenty years after Ren & Stimpy the Spumco approach surprisingly still dominates the CalArts ‘cartoony’ crowd, too, even if their shows (Adventure Time, Regular Show, Uncle Grandpa, Gravity Falls) have superficially different styles than Kricfalusi’s.