In working with the Catstone team in designing the REACH world, several important considerations arose from early discussions. The world needed to be a recognisable environment (not too fantastical or abstracted), but stylised in a way that would encourage its reading to be metaphorical rather than too literal.
Since we were exploring sensitive issues and topics, we wanted to create a world in which our characters felt inclusive of all different types of people, and that viewers would find aspects of the story they could relate to, without needing to see themselves represented directly.
Rather than recreate the real world we know into the animation, we created one that is familiar, however the characters are less representational. In this world, problems are solved in unique and engaging ways, allowing people to draw parallels between their own situations and those reflected in the narrative. This also placed us in a position to utilise a more illustrative approach to convey complex thoughts and ideas through visual metaphors and parables.
Our initial drawings led us to design simplified character forms that felt endearing and relatable, without being caricatures or too comical.