Animator Lana Simanenkova is inspired by the weird ways people move

“I’d say my style sits somewhere between the Moomins and 90s American cartoons,” says animator Lana Simanenkova of her vibrant, characterful figures. “I try to make my characters quirky, recognisable and appealing without adding too much detail and lean toward bolder shapes and movement.”

Originally from Estonia but now based in London, Lana is a senior creative at animation studio Animade. Working in a busy studio has really enhanced her personal work, she explains, as there’s always always a slew of personal projects being worked on at Animade so there’s always ideas bouncing around. “Having people more technical than me around helps me not be stuck on the software side of it which gives more time to get good ideas flowing,” Lana tells It’s Nice That.

Lana’s work with Animade has seen her work for the likes of Facebook and Dropbox, bringing a sense of humour to her jolly figures largely through the charming way they move. “A lot of it boils down to actually going out, observing people and using those situations in a slightly changed form when it comes to implementing it into a drawn character,” says Lana. “I take the tube to work so even the tiniest of movement out of the ordinary can seem funny there.”

When working for clients, Lana starts a project with a vague idea and works out what kind of character would suit the subject matter. “I lasso shapes around in Photoshop until it starts looking aesthetically pleasing and more importantly animatable,” Lana explains. “I go from there into Photoshop frame-by-frame animation and do final touches and comping in After Effects.”

In Lana’s personal work the process tends to happen the opposite way round, developing the character first and then imagining environments or scenarios for them to exist inside. “I’ve got such a backlog of characters now they always end up getting used on a project or a client job in one way or another,” she adds.

From jiggling mamoths to overenthusiastic banjo players to hugging mates, it’s observation that Lana says is key to making funny work. “Everyone has their quirks and habits that may seem normal to them but can be absolute comedy gold,” she says. “Its fun to see a character try to do something and failing at it and going from small funny movements to the exaggerated pay off at the end really works.”

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