Animation character

10 Anime Musicals With The Best Character Designs

Sing 2 demonstrated that audiences still have an appetite for animated musicals. While Disney may have a hold on the genre, there are plenty of other fantastic images that have brought something truly jaw-dropping to cinema. Creating visually compelling characters in this context is a difficult challenge.

These musicals set in an animated format have successfully crafted characters whose appearance helps shape their personalities, tell the narrative of the film itself, and contribute to the overall iconic status of the project. There are so many other magnificent artistic marvels, but these examples demonstrate the range of talent within the industry.


Hercules (1997)

Meg and Hercules look at each other with love

Hercules came out during a period of revival at Disney. With the studio’s heyday seemingly behind them, some real gems had been released, including this one. Each character design is vibrant and looks like a modernized iteration of authentic Greek mythology. The symbols used in particular are steeped in history.

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From the original characters to those already immortalized in legend, the gods and heroes of Hercules each exhibits such unique personality traits emboldened by their visual presentation. There’s nothing conventional about these designs, with Hades in particular standing out, with his fiery skull animated perfectly to match the character’s emotion.

Moana (2016)

You're welcome Moana

While the songs of Moana are truly phenomenal, the detail and attention that has gone into creating these characters should not be overlooked. Disney made it imperative that the culture they represented on screen be encapsulated in the costumes and character elements.

While the team had to produce fantasy monsters and deities from mythology, they also grounded the film in the reality of the village Moana belongs to. The natural elements that were incorporated into their wardrobes, along with the use of tattoos, really helped elevate the piece.

Long Live (2021)

gabi hold vivo

Long live is a genius creation from Sony Pictures Animation, which features a talking monkey and a teenager, delivering one last song from a deceased musician to his former lover. It’s a moving tale, but the unconventional storytelling is immediately demonstrated through the character designs.

There’s a level of realism here, but from Gabi’s colorful hair and clothes to the upgraded versions of the animals involved, including Vivo and Lutador, a lot of things are balanced. The film’s palette is taken to the extreme, and the artists involved have ensured that these characters’ wardrobes have so many tiny details that say a bit about their story.

Encanto (2021)

The Madrigal family hugs on Encanto

Encanto is one of the most popular films to come out of Walt Disney Animation Studios in recent years, thanks to its portrayal of Colombia, gorgeous writing, and stunning animation style. Each character and their costume reflect their abilities and role within the family.

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Dolores is a perfect example, with slightly more pronounced ears and audio symbols marking her clothing, representing her gift of hearing everything. The materials and techniques for creating these garments are all very grounded, but there is a magical quality to them thanks to the flowing shapes and vibrant palette choices.

Sing (2016)

Voice of Taron Egerton, Reese Witherspoon, Letitia Wright, Garth Jennings, Tori Kelly and Nick Kroll in Sing 2

It is fair to say that the output of Sing taken many by surprise. But the combination of a hilarious script and brilliant voice acting sold this family film. It’s a big ask for Illumination, to create so many animal-inspired individuals that feel animated and alive, with designs that speak volumes about their personality.

While other productions have struggled to find a way for the animals to emote in this type of setting, the stylized nature of the animation opens the door to all sorts of physical cues. The costumes are perhaps the most surprising element, with ordinary clothes making the situation all the more fun. It’s a brilliant combination of skills at play here.

Anastasia (1997)

Anastasia receives a gift from her grandmother

Anastasia from 20th Century Studios is a bit odd in movie history, given that it’s being developed by a team that isn’t often known for its animated musicals. The story of the Russian princess is understated and the visual style stands out from its competitor from the house of mouse.

The richness of clothing within the royal family is something to admire, as is the graininess of the characters in the real world. As a villain, Rasputin’s ominous appearance is genuinely haunting and a departure from other antagonists of the genre.

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

2020 Nightmare Before Christmas Jack and Sally Halloween Costumes

The Nightmare Before Christmas is a rather different type of animation piece, given that it uses freeze frame techniques rather than the traditional pencil and paper method or modernized computer technology. This physical art allows for such realistic precision in the character creation process.

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The gothic tone of the play is greatly reflected in the costume choices of these personalities. Tiny details like the high collar on Jack’s costume or the stitches on Sally continue to add little moments of storytelling to a movie that already carries so much storytelling through its songs. The bizarre array of characters across the image is all iconic in its own way and completely imaginative.

Coco (2017)

Michael and his family

A Pixar image that dives directly into Mexican culture and the Day of the Dead, coconut had a lot to balance in this fantasy story. With the real world and the land of the dead represented on screen, there are two very different types of character presentation here.

From Miguel’s family to the skeletal appearances of his ancestors, these characters stand out thanks to their clothing choices and odd body humor. It must be said that the way Miguel himself slowly transforms is an important part of the image and a difficult element to achieve visually. Pixar succeeds while adding something very artistic to the afterlife.

The Lion King (1994)

Rafiki talks to Simba in the field at night on Lion King

The Lion King is another example of a cinematic experience that had to somehow add human emotions to a range of realistic animals. The stylized nature of this production is a perfect example of how this obstacle can be overcome. Contrary to Sing, there are also no costumes to use here.

Somehow, although this is a collection of animals, each one is instantly recognizable. Simba is defined by his mane and kind eyes, while Rafiki’s cheekiness sets him apart from other on-screen primates. These character designs will forever stand the test of time and the live variation demonstrated just how intricate these designs are.

Frozen (2013)

Frozen songwriter reacts to girl singing Let It Go at Ukrainian shelter

Frozen and its sequel anchored itself in the legacy of Walt Disney Animation. It’s one of the most successful franchises because audiences have embraced this cast of intriguing and magical characters. This ethereal quality is showcased through Elsa and Anna’s outfits and designs.

Of course, less than human characters like Olaf and Sven also became extremely recognizable due to the way they were animated with such kinetic energy. The personality of each character is evident, and the princesses’ royal clothes are of magnificent quality.

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