Applying expression to a character with no mouth

One of the most beautifiully played out films I ever watched is Wall-E.
I think it’s a real masterclass in character design and emotion.
Watching the two main characters Wall-E and Eve (“Eeev-a”) develop their relationship from their initial, less than rosey start, is a joy.


As a writer and character designer what I take from this is the enormous challenge in applying mood and expression to a character with limited facial features. It’s almost all in the eyes.

Wall-E will ‘slump his shoulders’ (lower his neck) when deflated and sit upright (raise his neck) when excited or shocked. There’s clever use made of the hands as well. We often see Wall-E ‘fiddling’ his fingers. Most notably when he’s watching the old movie. His adoration for the images on the screen is played out beautifully with the marriage of the eyes and the hands.

My current children’s story about a lonely lunar repair droid borrows heavily from Wall-E.
I was determined to draw Floyd without a mouth. Speech isn’t important to him as a repair droid. I wanted to display his mood without using a mouth.
As the story develops and another character appears all of the speech is handled by them. Floyd can remain mute and we see his reaction in his eyes, hand gestures and general body shape.

I fired up Quicktime and recorded a short video of me sketching out some ideas for Floyd using Mischief on a Mac with a Wacom Cintiq.

Great fun. More on Floyd soon.