The Character Mosaic project grew out of an extraordinary lack of diversity in free animated character rigs for student and professional animators. Representation in film and art is essential for all viewers, whether they are viewing the media as a window or a mirror. While searching the Internet for free rigs to recommend to our students we discovered the vest, vast majority of available rigs were white males (see below). This did not reflect the mosaic of humanity that is seen in our students, their families, or our world. This void of characters ensures that film, games, and other animated media lacks diversity and representation.
Two easy to spot harms we observed and attempt to address with Character Mosaic include:
•marginalized students feeling uncomfortable creating characters who looked like themselves or who represented their cultures.
•many students using a white character rig and simply changing the texture to create a character of color without changing facial features and bone structure
We received funding through a NSF Advance RIT Connect Grant to hire students to build models and rig characters that were created in an RIT wide contest. The models were created, but unfortunately the rigs were not the high quality needed. Our progress was stalled, but I was able to hire another student who created a solid working version of Emerald (see below) which is currently available for download and use in Maya and Unreal.
This project needs to be revitalized and completed to begin equity in character development. I aim to have two more characters completed by August 2023. One of my goals is for Character Mosaic to become a central hub for creation and sharing of a wide diversity of characters allowing for increased representation in films.
These images are the Google search results for “Free Maya Character Rig” when we began Character Mosaic. The two characters circled in red are the only ethnically diverse character rigs. These images were the catalyst that led to the creation of Character Mosaic.