Help me design and paint a creature that’s suitable for the younger viewer
Francesca Pinkley, England
Aliens and monsters are always fun to do because you can let your imagination fly. However, certain markets demand that you pull your wings in a bit. Children’s publishing can be like that, in my experience.
While many 12-year-olds and above may not be easily shocked, younger minds aren’t usually ready for images such as slavering, fanged terrors. Most publishing houses I’ve worked with impose guidelines to protect children from such things. Presentation and approach are key. Look at the characters from multi-million blockbusters such as Monsters Inc. Their cartoon styling and humour transforms them to child-friendly fare – despite the presence of fangs, claws, tentacles or anything else.
Making a character look funny is a tried-andtested method, but even with this you need to moderate content to avoid anything that’s too adult in nature. Accepted practice is that the younger the audience, the less threatening content needs to be.
This makes it a fun challenge, though. Your alien can still have claws, fangs and tentacles. You must present them in a way that’s unlikely to traumatise. Look at real-life creatures. Consider textures. Would a snake be less frightening, if instead of scales it was furry and soft? More like a draft excluder with teeth. Consider colour. Is a pink crocodile less scary than a dark green one? While slimy isn’t necessarily scary – just look at B.O.B., the sentient jelly from Monsters vs Aliens.
I try out bright colours and a wallpaper-like pattern on the body. A younger audience would enjoy seeing this. A creature loosely based on something between a slug and an anemone is my starting point. Version two is more threatening, and three more threatening still. Colours matter.