Animator’s Secret: How to Design a Cool Female Character

Who was your favourite cartoon character as a kid?

Who was your favourite cartoon character as a kid? No doubt that question brings back memories of your childhood and maybe your favourite episode or adventure of the animated lead.


But here is an interesting follow-up question, was this character male or female? If you think of the classic characters you may think Homer Simpson, Mickey Mouse, Popeye or Fred Flintstone. Yet just as important to the storyline are their opposite numbers: Marge Simpson, Minnie Mouse, Olive Oyl and Wilma Flintstone, adding a female perspective as a contrast to the often less thought out actions of the male character.

But what about female leads? Despite a handful of examples, Eliza Thornbury, Betty Boop, Mulan and Wonder Woman for example, there are very few female leads in popular animation, but with very little reason.

When it comes to creating a character, the first decision you may tackle is whether they should be male or female. This may seem trivial, but getting the right gender for the character can mean the difference between hitting messaging with precision or completely missing the mark.

Choosing to use a female character brings a huge number of benefits and lets you work a number of different angles that can often be missed in traditional animation. This article has been created to help you understand how to develop an animated female character and where they can be used.

Educate and Entertain

Using a cartoon ‘hand drawn’ type of animation is another great way to incorporate a female character into your brand. This can add a familiar visual impact, similar to those of old-school cartoons. Again this is a great way to explain a message or to work through an educational situation that can help people learn about a given subject.

This has been used countless times in education, from animated explainer videos in schools through to the Horrible History children’s books. One good example of where this has been applied is in projects where a serious message needs to be communicated to children in a fun way.

Take a look at this case study of a educational video series that needed to be created to educate children about the history of engineering. The female character is used to generate a fun counter to the male character, adding this element of comedy as well as using mix of genders means the episodes are likely to appeal more to a variety of child viewers.


Not only can an animated female character be used in explainer videos, but they can also be used to add a fun, friendly, sometimes provocative vibe to advertising. A female character used across advertising is likely to appeal more widely to a diverse audience.

This can be applied well to appeal to primarily female audiences when your product is focused on that particular market, for example female clothing or beauty products or where your brand is hoping to expand into that market.

One great example of where advertisers have caught onto the potential power of female animated characters is the introduction of Ms Brown to and M&M’s adverts. The addition of this character has let M&M’s appeal to a new and previously untapped market.

Serious Business

The animations from the past decades will bring back memories of funny adventures and silly voices, such as the mishaps of Wile. E Coyote or Daffy Duck’s articulation disorder but animation doesn’t have to mean ridiculousness. In fact using animation to communicate a serious message can work incredibly well; this is partly due to the removal of human emotion from the equation and allowing the animation studio to focus solely on communicating the key message in hand.

One example of where ‘serious cartoons’ have worked very well are with explainer videos, especially those that are used to explain new products, services or businesses. These are prevalent on platforms such as Kickstarter, you can take a look at one example here. This video shows well where female characters can be used to explain a product; these are based on the real life owners of the business. By creating animated videos of them means that both money is saved on expensive production as well as being able to add more colour and liveliness to the video.

We have also seen this work very well in this example of explainer video where a female character is used to tell part of a brand message. Here we see a female character used alongside a male character to tell an important story that a brand wants to communicate. This works well as the mix of characters appeal to a wider audience.

As we can see using a female animated character can be used in a variety of situations to add a different point of view, different strengths and more varied approach to explainer videos, adverts and educational content. By considering the different aspects of the target audience you can judge whether the content would benefit from a female character and how they should appear and act in that content.

Written by Frankie Caplan

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