Defence of doctoral thesis in the field of Scenography and Costume Design, MA Maarit Kalmakurki

The title of the thesis is: Digital character costume design in computer-animated feature films

MA Maarit Kalmakurki will defend the thesis "Digital character costume design in computer-animated feature films" on 10 December 2021 at 12:00 in Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture, Department of Film, Television and Scenography, in lecture hall B, Otakaari 1, Espoo and online in zoom.

Opponent: Prof. Drake Stutesman, New York University, US
Custos: Prof. Sofia Pantouvaki, Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture, Department of Film, Television and Scenography

The public defence will be organized via remote technology. Follow defence:
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In the defence arranged at campus, the organiser may check the COVID19 certificate of the participants, depending on the number of participants present (more details at: --> Public defences).

Thesis available for public display at:
Doctoral theses in the School of Arts, Design and Architecture:

Press release:

Throughout the history of Hollywood animation, the design of costumes has been folded into the process of character animation rather than being created separately by a costume designer. The animators often act as auteurs of character and costume design, where the process and decisions behind costumes are integrated into the character development phase. As a result, the ways that costumes are designed and their importance for animated character identities and storytelling remain relatively unknown. This pioneering doctoral research brings to the fore the topic of costume design in animation and illuminates the hidden stages of character costume design in computer-animated films. The thesis identifies the role of the costume designer through six films that have employed and, importantly, credited a costume designer as part of the production.

The study argues that costume designers are vital collaborators in film production pipelines. Their involvement during the script development phase allows the writers and animators to respond to costume-related ideas more quickly, which benefits the films’ production time and budget. In addition, this type of collaboration enables the character costumes to better link to films’ narratives. Costume designers enhance a character’s visual appearance via specific colours, textures, and costume construction. Even though digital costumes are made via animation software, their creation heavily involves physical material exploration. Costume designers explore physical fabrics and garments in their design development, but these tools are equally employed when animators make costumes digitally. Costume designers are also an important part of the process when animators study real garments on a real person in movement. Animators examine the physical qualities of the costume, such as texture, weight, and drape of fabric, for their digital reproduction.

The results of this study highlight the different stages of costume design in computer-animated film production as well as the benefits of collaboration with a costume designer. This work contributes to a broader discussion of characters and their believability in contemporary computer-animated films and suggests different ways costume design in animation increases the visual appearance of characters and their connection to films’ narratives.

Contact information of doctoral candidate:

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