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Designing the Incredible Hulk

Character designer Aaron Sims talks about the production process of The Incredible Hulk and the creative decisions behind the look of the Hulk and Abomination.
June, 14th, 2008by Raffael Dickreuter

Hulk designed by Aaron Sims for the 'The Incredible Hulk'.


Tell us a bit about how you got involved in designing Hulk as well as Abomination
My team brought the project to my attention (having avid comic fans in the studio helps) and I began to see the potential and the challenge in the character. It wasn’t just a green monster we were going after; what I was interested in was the transformation and the release of Banner’s dark side and that struggle between the two. I also hoped I would get a shot at the Abomination as well. Leader was a bonus, too!

How early on were you involved in the process?
I started on this before there was even a script, pretty much right when it was decided to make the movie. [Marvel/Universal] had gone through several iterations internally and needed that push into the real world. I brought grounding to the character that the director, Louis Leterrier, needed to feel the Hulk in the physical world.

There have been many versions of the Hulk to date, from comic books, the first movie, the TV series etc. What design choices were made and was there a main inspiration for the design you came up with?
The inspiration really came from the comics, searching through character’s history and working with the director to find that Hulk everyone wanted to see.

What is the most challenging part redesigning an iconic character that so many people already know?
The challenge was to create the character that was at once familiar yet more intense and physical than we had seen before. That is why we spent so much time with the comics, going through the most intense emotional parts of Hulk’s story as well as every drawing and iteration that had ever existed.

early design..

Can you describe a bit how Hulk evolved from the early designs you did till the final one that ended up in the movie?
I started with a more basic human look but still keeping with the iconic Hulk and it grew from there. After that, I went really over the top to see how far we could push it, and then pulled it back to what you see in the movie.

What kind of tools and workflow did you use in the design process?
I did most if not all my designing using XSI to rough it out then detailing in Zbrush, rendering back in XSI, and finally Photoshop on top of all that. This gives me the most control in dealing with studio notes and vast changes on the fly that the character has to go through before it is approved.

Did you just design the Hulk or you also provided the final model to the post houses that would end up using it for final animation?
I did design the Hulk and the Abomination in 3D; then, after the director was happy with the direction, delivered that to the visual effects house to start building from there. It is a huge asset to the production to have the 1-to-1 model. Not only does it saves the project from reinterpretation, it also saves time and money. The character doesn’t have to be built again.

Abomination looks different than in the comic books, what decisions were made to come up with the design?
The Abomination went many different directions. Some at the beginning were closer to the comic, but everyone felt it didn't make sense to what happening in the movie. They wanting it to look like it was growing from within and the bones and muscle would break through the skin.

early design..

If you compare Abomination and Hulk there is obviously a big contrast. From a design standpoint what is a good approach to distinguish between a hero character and a villain?
It's always different for every project, but for the Hulk and the Abomination the goal was to make the villain seems bigger and meaner than the hero—to really make it look like there is no way the Hulk could win a fight.

Any message you would like to give out to Hulk fans out there?
I know every fan has an idea of their perfect Hulk, so it’s a hard thing to create for everyone because of that big range of “the perfect Hulk”. So I hope it's at least good enough for some of the fans.

early design..

early Abomination hand design..

early design..

early Abomination concept..

final Hulk design..

final Abomination design..

Read part 2 of this interview with Aaron Sims.

The Aaron Sims Company
The Incredible Hulk

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Created by Raffael Dickreuter.