I decided I needed to simplify my character while still keeping the basic shapes and ideas from my last design, as well as refining my narrative to fit the character. Its all well and good to have an epic struggle planned out in my mind, but time is of the essence and since character animation is the focus of my specialist study 1, I need to ensure I can animate the action scenes well enough to connect with the audience rather than relying on gags such as hands popping off. With enough time and planning, that idea could possibly work well, but with how short my animation will be, I feel it'll probably disrupt the flow of the fight and feel disjointed, so I'm shelving that idea for now. Going back to the basics, I asked myself what the defining character traits of my girl needed to be, and I came to this conclusion:
1. She needs to be young and small. Youth will make her innocent and easy for all ages to identify with, not to mention more clumsy and inpatient with her long locks. If age has taught me one thing, its that I'm a lot more patient with my hair now than I used to be as a child or teenager. Making her short will also exaggerate her hair trailing along the floor and pooling around her, making it easier for her to get lost in it, so to speak.
2. She needs to be cute. Some may say this is a given in order to appeal to the audience, but the cute factor will serve a far greater purpose. That is- its so much more fun to Break The Cutie than it is to be mean to a mean, grisly looking character. A mean character deserves bad things to happen to him, but a sweet, cute character doesn't. I find this makes them much easier to sympathise and empathise with when bad things do happen to them, not to mention a whole lot more interesting. And hopefully, the humour of the little cutie getting attacked by her own hair will appeal to the people my age (who I imagine will mostly be male) who don't find cute things endearing and would rather see them squished anyway. This way I'm hoping I can get my character to appeal on multiple levels to all kinds of people of both genders.
With that in mind, I expanded my character research to look at squashed, cutesy character with large heads, expressive eyes, and very simple clothing. I especially like how the image below just has the character in a hooded dress and nothing else, its sweet, simple, and gives the character a charming innocence. Also, considering that my character will most likely start her day getting out of bed, its logical for her to have nothing on her feet.
(Atashi - Chobits)
(Pon and Zi)
(Town residents - Animal Crossing)
Below are my revised character designs influences by the new references I've gathered. I much prefer how this new design has turned out, and after showing it to several classmates and other people my age, I've gained a positive reception saying she's endearing and seems like she'd work well in the narrative I'm planning. I've drawn her in several different poses with three different pigtail hairstyles since I wasn't sure which would work best, and even now I'm honestly now sure... I think the bottom design with the low loose pigtails is probably the least suitable since, again, it'll be difficult to distinguish clear 'arm' poses with such loose hair. For now I'm going to ask more people in my target audience to vote of which hairstyle they prefer in order to get some feedback.