Introducing: Mr. Crow…John Crow

So this is the last character I will need for my little story…Mr. John Crow. He may or may not be coming for your soul, but if he is, he will be as unnervingly polite about it as possible. He’s pretty much your standard “death” character, but I stayed away from the “grim reaper” look to give him a little more “swag”. (I came up with the term “dead-man Swagger”). So, rather than the standard, black cowl and robe, or the Top-Hat and black suit, I gave him a Fedora and a pimptasticly deep purple suit along with some slick, long-tipped shoes. The other thing you may notice is that he is wearing a clerical collar…Why?
I did come across an interesting little story, more like a theory as to how the term “john crow” came about.
It is said, it was named after an Irish clergyman, the reverend John Crow who lived in Port Royal in the 1680’s. According to the story, he gave an unpopular sermon exhorting transported prisoners to submit to the authorities. The bird’s appearance reminded his audience of the priest, so they gave it his name in derision. Source HERE
However, it is just a theory, as it has no concrete proof. No one really knows where the term “John Crow” originally came from and when it began, however, I thought it would be interesting to add the clerical collar as an homage to the story. More than likely, I’ll stir up some controversy too. Some may argue that this is a good thing, but, we’ll see.

I knew I wanted a sort of dark, shadowy character for my story, a sort of villain who would be Akoulah’s polar opposite. I also wanted something Jamaican, to hopefully quell the critics who say my stuff is too foreign (I’m Foreign, so deal with it). I then went through pages of online archives to search through Jamaican folklore and look for something I could use. I then thought up…John Crow. The term “John Crow” is popular among Jamaicans. It is actually the name given to a large species of turkey vulture. This bird is deeply ingrained in Jamaican culture and folklore, and usually associated with such niceties as ugliness, evil and disgrace. It’s appearance is usually thought as an omen of doom and if one is seen perching atop a house, it is thought someone inside will likely take “the big sleep”. What better villain than Jamaica’s own scorned vulture. Now, I suppose most people would immediately go for a visual representation of a bird, but after researching the origin of the name, I was convinced to focus more on the name and create a human-like character…albeit, an undead human-like character.

The first thing I did was model an anatomically correct skull, and for a while, I was happy with it. I had originally modeled a top hat, but soon realize that the image of the skull and top hat was too common….ESPECIALLY amongst tattoo enthusiasts…SHEESH! So, I gave him a Fedora instead.

Then, I had to travel for the holidays…and while away, I began to take a good long look at how this skeletal character with the anatomically correct skull would fit in with the rest of the characters. He didn’t. The over-realistic nature of the skull stood out when compared to the cartoony nature of the other characters. Plus, the heightened creep-factor would give kids nightmares for days. Ok ok…It would give regular people nightmares for days too. So, a redo was in order. I went for something more stylized, something that would still give him that creepy feel, but yet have that cartoony edge that balanced out his malicious countenance.

Now…about his clothes….Maya nCloth is a BITCH!! There is always the option of smooth binding, to make things a little easier. However, I really wanted to let the viewers know, that he was nothing but bones…So I wanted to make his clothes bag, sag, drape and flop around his scrawny limbs to really hammer home that fact. Just to do that 40 second monologue, it took me days of running cloth simulations and cache after cache of tests, failed tests and more tests before I got it even close to right.

Animating with cloth is pretty much like this: You animate the character “naked”…that is, just get the movements down pat. Then you run the cloth sims one by one and see if there is any bunching, poke-through or intersecting caused by some off movement. That movement then has to be fixed or nCloth nucleus settings readjusted, and the sim run again. Yeah…fun, fun, fun.

Now, animating a character with a skull for a face, poses some pretty interesting problems. For one, there are no lips, so no smiling, frowning, sneering, snarling etc. So I had to use his eyes and the movement of his head and body to exaggerate his intentions and emotions (if he has any…he’s undead after all). Also, because of the way the eyes are set in those gaping sockets, they tend to give the illusion that he may not be looking directly at the camera at times. I know his head is made of bone, but I had to make his “eyebrows” move, or else there would be no expression at all.

So, now for the monologue itself. When I create a character, I always sort of imagine a voice for them. I had a particular one in mind for Mr. Crow, but have yet to find someone who could do it well…so here’s the fun fact: I had to do his voice. It took be about an hour’s worth of coughing, clearing my throat and drinking water, before I got a take I could use. It does not help that I am lacking that extra edge of testosterone that would greatly aid my cause.
So…If anyone out there knows anyone who can ACT and do a voice close to this one…hit a girl up…just be aware…there’s no pay involved…I’m doing this on NO BUDGET. :/

So there is Mr. John Crow… an undead preacher collecting souls in as polite and as creepy a way as possible. In a way, he is still doing “the Lord’s work” yeah?

I will be doing some fixes on Boris, this new computer configuration has really made it easier to not cut corners.
In the meanwhile enjoy Mr. Crow trolling on your life…..

Yes, he has an iPad…….but I still don’t 😡


6 thoughts on “Introducing: Mr. Crow…John Crow

  1. lol This is awesome! did i say this is awesome? cause it is! I actually understood what you were saying in terms of the animating the character naked part and the clothing after (Animation conference ftw).
    I know of one gentleman who would be excellent for the voice over, but one downside -__-. Link me if you’re interested though. Awesome work.

  2. great stuff…. love it ….first time on your blogg … know nothing about the background of animation so all this info is a learning experience for me

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