“An elegant weapon for a more civilized age.” — O. W. Kenobi
I am aware that it is the year 2021, and that talking about Angry Birds now might look as anachronistic. Yet I still believe that these characters, especially their original incarnation, offer some very important lessons relevant for Character Designs and Branding.
Full disclosure: my first job in the gaming industry was at Rovio. I had a good fortune to be hired by them in 2012 when they were arguably at their peak. Back then I was just a novice game designer there without much say in how this franchise was treated. I did work on a couple of titles that were part of the Angry Birds franchise and made a series of prototypes, none of which ever saw the light of day. My time at Rovio ended after they shuttered their studio in Tampere, Finland. Therefore, my observations are just a tad bit different than the observations of an outsider.
I have to admit also that I still have a soft spot for these birds. The original Angry Birds game was one of the first breakthrough hits on, at that time, a brand new platform of mobile touch devices. For many people, especially the non-gamers, they remain one of the most iconic video game characters on par with Mario and Sonic the Hedgehog.
The focus on the simplicity of these characters offers some very valuable insights into character design. These lessons are often taken for granted and ignored!
Rovio as a company was founded by a group of friends and relatives in Finland, sometime in 2003. They had launched several games prior to hitting it big with the original Angry Birds game in 2009.
I am not quite certain who was responsible for the original design of the characters. To the best of my knowledge, Jaakko Iisalo, the design lead at the project, made the initial sketch of the birds. I am not sure, but I think that the graphics designer Tuomas Erikoinen created the version that ended up in the product.
The original franchise hit the peak of its popularity somewhere in the period between 2011 and 2014 when the company launched a series of spin-off games, an animated series, and a bunch of crossover collaborations with numerous partners ranging from NASA to National Geographic. Most noticeably, Rovio created a sprawling network of merchandising partnerships and Angry Birds characters were adorning all sorts of products from plush toys and clothing to soap and cosmetics.
During this period, Rovio greatly expanded the original cast of birds by adding Angry Birds Space, Angry Birds Star Wars, and Stella characters.
Sometime around 2015 to 2020, the original character set underwent a fundamental visual redesign, abandoning many of the characteristics that made it stand out early on. Most noticeably, the birds got arms and legs and more anthropomorphic bodies. This change was spurred by The Angry Birds' movie project.
In this text, I will focus on the original 2009 character design.
In my opinion, there are the three main components that made the Angry Birds so universally accepted characters, and these are:
Many of the most recognizable characters can be reduced to very simple shapes. Notice for example how Mickey Mouse, arguably the most famous of all cartoon characters, can easily be represented as a combination of three overlapping circles. Likewise, the head of Hello Kitty, another universally beloved character, can be reduced to an ellipse and two tiny triangles.
This same principle is applied to other areas of the design, from logo design to architecture.
The Angry Birds make use of some of the most simple shapes: circles, ovals, and triangles. Their silhouettes are instantly recognizable and readable even without any other graphical elements. The variations in size and combination of shapes can be used to create a variety of characters.
The shape of the characters is used to highlight their behavior, i.e. the function that they have in the game. Chuck’s Pointy shape implies speed and piercing ability. The Blues act as a cluster missile, which is indicated by the shape repetition. Terrence is the biggest of the birds. His bulk indicates heaviness, inertia, and destructive power.
The original flock of characters makes use of bright primary colors, red, yellow, blue, green, black, etc.
There is no subtle confusion of maroon or fuschia, etc. There is no ambiguity in identifying the characters by their color. These colors are eye-catching and easy to remember. Their names are a part of the vocabulary even of a three years old child. Furthermore, these colors are a part of even the most basic set of crayons.
This combination of simple shapes and primary colors creates characters that are instantly recognizable! Every child can reproduce his favorite characters, deepening the emotional connection and promoting the brand further!
In terms of their main function within the game, this choice of color is perfectly suited for the task. The saturated colors of characters allow good separation from the more pastel backgrounds, allowing the player to at a glance grasp what parts of the scene are active gameplay elements at which to focus versus the scenery. Surprisingly, this is something that so many game artists seem to forget very often!
“Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” — L. Tolstoy
Why is this bird so angry? — It’s angry because the Bad Piggies have stolen its eggs. This is the basic premise of the Angry Birds story. This is a perfect game intro. The question pops to mind instantly, upon hearing the name of the game. The answer is the start of the story, and the story is the beginning of the adventure.
Emotions are what make us human. Empathy is our ability to understand and reflect on the emotions of others. This is something that is inherent to the most profound levels of human communication. This communication is the start of the emotional bond.
Anger is an emotion that everyone can relate to. Everyone is angry sometimes.
This simple singular emotion sets the narrative framework from which the whole world is extrapolated. The premise is absurd, but it has all the needed elements for a compelling story. It sets up the motives of the participants of the story.
This is a setup for a conflict and it is this conflict that drives forward both the story and the gameplay. By taking on the control of the birds, the player himself becomes involved in this conflict, investing himself emotionally.
Establishing this type of emotional connection is one of the most important tasks of the first time user experience.
Contrast this with the relative emotional blandness of characters in the other casual games. These characters quite often serve less as actual drivers of the narrative and more as mere visual décor. There is very little characterization and consequently no emotional connection.
- Angry Birds possess the three important properties that have made them some of the most iconic video game characters.
- Basic shapes that any child can draw, and which create unique easily recognizable silhouettes.
- Colors, bright and primary that make them stand out in the game and also easy to describe and replicate by most basic tools.
- Emotion creates a psychological connection with the player and acts as a seed for the narrative.
- The combination of these three elements was key to the success of the original Angry Birds.
- The abandonment of some of these elements, namely the shape, probably contributed to the deterioration of the franchise.
Of course, there are plenty of examples of successful characters that do not follow this pattern. Arguably, Super Mario’s silhouette is very far from an instantly recognizable set of the basic shapes. This is not a foolproof recipe guaranteeing success, it is rather something worth keeping in mind!
What is the shape of Angry Birds? ›
The Angry Birds make use of some of the most simple shapes: circles, ovals, and triangles. Their silhouettes are instantly recognizable and readable even without any other graphical elements.What is the characteristic of angry bird? ›
He's always angry and bossy, though he tries to protect the eggs from being stolen by the Bad Piggies. He has two red feathers on his head and three other black feathers on his tail, hence the name Red.Who is the designer of Angry Birds? › What is the egg shaped angry bird? ›
Originally, Matilda is an egg-shaped bird who was covered in white feathers.Are Angry Birds male or female? ›
Like the team that designed it, the original flock of Angry Birds was mostly male. The sole exception was Matilda, the white bird that drops eggs when you tap the screen.What are 3 characteristics of birds? ›
All birds have the following key features: they are endothermic (warm-blooded), have two legs, and lay eggs. Birds range in size from the tiny two-inch bee hummingbird to the nine-foot ostrich (Figure below).What are 4 characteristics of birds? ›
- Beaks or bills.
- Oviparity (Egg-laying)
- An adapted skeleton.
Birds are endothermic and, because they fly, they require large amounts of energy, necessitating a high metabolic rate. As with mammals, which are also endothermic, birds have an insulating covering that keeps heat in the body: feathers.Why did Angry Birds get removed? ›
Rovio announced it was delisting Angry Birds at the end of February, due to "the game's impact on [its] wider games portfolio."Who is the biggest Angry Bird character? ›
Terence is a mystery. He is the largest of all the birds and uses his brawn when needed. He communicates only in deep, guttural growls and groans.
Why did Angry Birds remove? ›
At the end of February, the mobile publisher removed the original Angry Birds game from the store due to its business "impact" on the publisher's other games. On iOS, the game was renamed to Red's First Flight.What is red's real name Angry Birds? ›
Red (full name Red J. Bird, born in August) is the main protagonist of the Angry Birds series. He is a desert cardinal native to Bird Island with a short-tempered and rude personality.What color is the red angry bird? ›
The northern cardinal goes by many other names including the redbird, common cardinal, or simply cardinal. Like the scarlet and summer tanager, it belongs to the cardinal family Cardinalidae. Of all the birds that are red, the northern cardinal is one of the most well-known.What color is wood in Angry Birds? ›
Angry Birds (game)
In the original Angry Birds, and its Chinese version, wood is one of the three main types of materials in the game, alongside glass and stone. In this game, it is dark orange in color, and can be featured in many different shapes.
Danger Above 6-12 is the 12th level of Danger Above and the 117th level of Angry Birds. This level is marked one of the hardest levels in the game.
Ruby (also known as Female Red Bird or Girl Bird) is an unplayable bird who appears in the Hogs and Kisses episode of Angry Birds Seasons.What animal is Zeta Angry Birds? ›
Zeta is a tall purple anthropomorphic Philippine Eagle with green eyes, black eyelashes, and a curved lavender beak with three sharp teeth (two on the left side of the beak, and one on the opposite side) sticking out of it.Is the yellow angry bird a girl? ›
The Female Yellow Bird is a bird that is first seen in Angry Birds Seasons. She resembles her male counterpart, the Yellow Bird, but has eyelashes, different pupils, thinner eyebrows, lighter spots, and wears a blue bow on the top of her head (though purple in Angry Birds Seasons Free).Who is the girlfriend of Angry Bird? ›
Stella (also known as the Pink Bird or Girly Bird) is a character in the Angry Birds franchise.Which angry bird gets big? ›
In the Angry Birds series, Terence is called the Big Bird and the most powerful in the main flock. Terence is a huge red bird that resembles his younger brother Red. He has a silent yet logical personality as he prefers a peaceful life.
Is Angry Birds glass or ice? ›
Despite the game achievement referring to ice and the Mattel board game being called "Angry Birds: On Thin Ice," Rovio has revealed, via Twitter that the material is meant to be glass. There are unused blocks in some game files that indicate ice as a seperate material from glass.Is Angry Birds 2D or 3d? ›
While your typical Angry Birds game challenges you to tackle puzzles in 2D, playing it using AR adds a layer of depth and dimension to the gameplay.Is the angry bird a cardinal? ›
Red (full name Red J. Bird, born in August) is the main protagonist of the Angry Birds series. He is a desert cardinal native to Bird Island with a short-tempered and rude personality.What is the math in Angry Birds? ›
The Mathematics of Angry Birds Much of angry birds comes down to choosing the angle to sling the bird through the air! Birds initial angle out of the slingshot equals the angle between the horizontal and the stretched sling at the moment of release. The angle determines the path the bird will follow in the air. 9.What is the strongest angry bird? ›
Who is the strongest Angry Bird? Although portrayed in the movie as a legend that is way past his glory days, Mighty Eagle is considered the strongest Angry Bird in the franchise. He is also taller than other birds and has a guaranteed one-hit kill in any game level.Can birds break glass? ›
A bird can fly into a window and cause little to no damage. In some cases, you may only see a cosmetic mark. But it's also possible for a bird to crack or even shatter a window.Is Angry Birds 2 inappropriate? ›
The Angry Birds Movie 2 is an animated comedy that will appeal to Angry Birds fans. This movie has some adult concepts and a lot of slapstick violence. Therefore, we don't recommend it for children aged under five years. Also, we recommend parental guidance for children aged 5-7 years.Was Angry Birds 1 deleted? ›
At the end of February, the mobile publisher removed the original Angry Birds game from the store due to its business "impact" on the publisher's other games. On iOS, the game was renamed to Red's First Flight.Who is red girlfriend Angry Birds? ›
Silver (voiced by Rachel Bloom) is Chuck's younger sister who attends Avian Academy and helps defeat Zeta from destroying both Bird and Piggy Island. She later becomes Red's girlfriend.What is the black angry bird called? ›
Bomb, the Black Bird is the tritagonist in the Angry Birds series of games created by Rovio Entertainment and a recurring character in Angry Birds Toons.
What bird is red? ›
The northern cardinal goes by many other names including the redbird, common cardinal, or simply cardinal. Like the scarlet and summer tanager, it belongs to the cardinal family Cardinalidae. Of all the birds that are red, the northern cardinal is one of the most well-known.Is Terence a girl Angry Birds? ›
Terence, Jay, Jake, and Jim are the only male birds in Angry Birds Toons to have female voice actors. His sounds make him sound male. The fact that Terence only growls is a reference to hunter animals, such as felines.Is Angry Birds a physics? ›
The game is based on the laws of physics applied to projectile motion (parabolic motion), and its aim is to launch birds using a large slingshot to destroy pigs that are protected in different ways (Figure 1).