In this series, we’ll look deeper into some of the projects on Behance.net that were especially admired in our community. This time, we spoke to Jirka Väätäinen, a Finnish graphic design student in the UK. His “Envisioning Real Life Disney Characters” captured the imagination of Behancers – and was picked up all over the web (including on Reddit!) We spoke with him about his inspiration, and how he transformed these familiar characters.
What was your inspiration for this project?
I have always been interested in character design, as well as in the way people look and what makes them unique in their appearances. But the idea for doing these characters basically came out of nowhere; one day I just thought about exploring what the character of Ursula from the Little Mermaid could look like in real life. Having grown up with a lot of these characters, the sense of nostalgia made it such a fascinating and a fun personal project to explore and carry on with.
Can you describe your process in creating this project?
Being familiar with all the characters and having a clear idea of what I’m looking to portray, I start by finding appropriate inspiration from real life people and photos that somehow remind me of the character. Then, I start working towards my vision, and I basically pick a feature from here and there, manipulate it, and combine and blend different elements together. I guess you could call my method a modern day ‘frankensteining’. All of this photo compositing and manipulation is further enhanced by doing digital painting by hand.
Did you go through many versions and iterations before coming up with these final pieces?
No, not really. I usually have a strong vision on what I would imagine the characters to look like, so the final pieces usually come together quite easily. It’s usually just a series of small tweaks, not multiple versions that I need to go through. But surely, it all takes a lot of man hours to get my vision just right!
Did anything interesting happen as a result of the success of this project? (fans contacting you, job opportunities, blogs picking it up, etc).
Oh, definitely – it has been a very interesting time! I do get a lot of lovely comments on my blog, and have people emailing me personally. It feels great to know that so many people have been able to appreciate what I have done, and that I have inspired other creatives as well. And yes, blogs have picked it up, and I have been lucky enough to be featured on a bunch of great sites. I have also received some interesting job opportunities, but being a final year University student, sometimes it has been difficult to go along with these. All of this exposure also landed me an exciting internship that I will be looking to take on in September!
Do you feel that this project is “done,” or is there anything you’d like to improve on or change in the future?
I have wanted to keep the project as fun and casual as I could, so I have not put too much pressure on myself when it comes to this. Even though there are times when I wish I could have done something a bit differently, I think that all the characters that I have published are done. They’ve got their flaws, but with each one, I have achieved a point where I’m happy enough with the outcome to publish them. But it is an ongoing project, and I still might add a few characters to the series if I can find the time.