Road to Echo: Designing Cato

Work In Progress / 05 October 2020

Cato is the mischievous bully of the film that acts as the main antagonist by picking on Echo for who she is and what she looks like. 


Because of his bully-like nature and the fact that he is the class troublemaker, I gravitated to the monkey as the animal I would start basing the design off of. I also looked at apes for some of the facial features specifically as I am purposely meshing the two animals together and taking different straights from each one. Nailing Cato definitely happened more in the actual sculpting than it did in the initial concept phase.


I played with how far I wanted to go towards the monkey vibe without losing the child-likeness of some of the features. The final base of the model came in somewhere in between the two extremes and really came into it's own when I added some of the sculpted fur, which can be seen in Thomas Leaf Monkeys. Because of his more antagonistic-like nature, there are more triangles in his fur.One of the areas I paid close attention to is the legs for when they will be deformed. Monkeys can be extremely athletic and acrobatic, therefore I wanted to take the time to get the proportions right for gangly limbs that wouldn't completely break when I began to rig. The "pockets" on the knees are there for when the leg does deform, it deforms in a cartoon-like way similar to how Abu would move in Aladdin


I do my hair in Maya with the topology I wanted compared to Zbrush, therefore I had a base for the hair in place for Zbrush and exported that out to start blocking out hair strands in Maya. The result is a side-swept hairdo that gives Cato a more rambunctious personality. I took advantage of the smooth mesh preview options here a lot as well to get the defining edges I wanted. Once I had the hair where I wanted it, I converted the mesh preview into polygons and took down the number of subdivisions from the default 2 to 1.

After modeling the rest of the body in zbrush, I took the model into Maya again to retool the body and shirt. The zbrush model didn't have a tail since it was easier to attach a long cylinder in Maya at the very end.


Texturing is still an ongoing process as originally, I envisioned Cato as a brown monkey with a pale skin. After getting some feedback and looking at Neo and Echo next to Cato, I realized that I had a theme of primary colors going that I could push into a defining personality for Cato. As a result, Cato's hair color became more of a blonde color on the hair and a off-white body. I took special care with the face to play with subsurface scattering potential, and for additional hair detail I used the same anisotropic map trick I had mentioned earlier when texturing my other characters. I did have to tweak the sideburns in Substance to get the effect to work more, however, due to how I'd UVed that piece.


While Cato's overall textures are being finalized, I applied a lot of what I'd learned from previous builds to this model when it came to construction and UVing. Having skin be a massive role in Cato was a great chance for me to push the stylization more, and I'm eager to see how he'll express himself soon.