Thursday, June 21, 2012

Designing the Old Canterlot

When we got to the layout phase, we had to face a very difficult challenge:

Our story takes place in the ancient Canterlot, about 1000 years ago. After checking the "Friendship is Magic" episodes carefully, we concluded that Canterlot is not fully entablished (visually speaking).

So to sum it up, we had: one Castle, some hints of the city and a taste of the old times from the "Family appreciation day" show, courtesy of the memory of Granny Smith, which was sweet, but not much to work with.

It was the time to be imaginative and taking some design decisions was a must. We wanted a vertical look upon the old town , for which a citadel structure was mandatory meaning that the castle would be surrounded with ramparts of some sort.

The reason for us wanting very high buildings (for the time) was to create:

A) Create certigo when we would show Luna flying around the town
B) Contrast with the eventual children (Foals), to make clear that the city is not a friendly place for them.

Also one last tiny detail was to be taken in count; this is OLD Canterlot (like we said, about 1000 years ago), so it had to show a very old city, with a "rich" and a "poor" zone.

Luckily for us, we had just what we needed , and that is Santiago de Compostela (Galicia, Spain), which is very close to Spiritto's hometown.

Santiago was the Main reference for the Rich zone of Canterlot, while Betanzos (also close to Spiritto's home town), was the reference for the poor neighborhoods.

Here you can see some of our initial design sketches. While Richard worked digitally, I decided to take the old fashioned way and draw in my sketchbook. Of course, the photos were just a reference for architecture. We needed to incorporate a lot of FIM style elements in those buildings, and adjusting them to have a stable look, for their residents are ponies, not humans.

In this sketches you can see our initial drafts for the city architecture and logic (my husband even drew a map of the whole environment, to make sure that continuity and style would flow nicely through the animation).

All this work finally lead to the depiction of Ye Olde Canterlot, as you can see in this Layout sketch

And here is the final painted background.


  1. Oh, um.... I hate to let you down, but I don't think Canterlot Existed back then, in pre-banishmet times. If you did watch s01ep02-02 carefully, you would notice, that ancient Ruins in the Everfree Forest were called "Old Castle of Royal Pony Sisters". This is the last place where Element were seen and who used them last time? Right, Princess Celestia. So, we have a pretty much solid ground to safely assume that Sister live in this Castle before the Conflict happened. It is also a widely accepted theory in the fandom.

    More than that, if you take a look at Canterlot's design - you will see sun everywhere. Almost no moon symbols or insignia, which just supports the point Luna wasn't there (she was forgotten) at the moment of its foundation.

    But yeah, I do understand why did you went for one place of action, even if it is contradicts with the actual story. This way it will be much more easier and compact, consistent from the standpoint of animation/storytelling process (since animation is short).

  2. Or maybe there was a city around the OCotRPS, but in the millennium that followed it's abandonment, the rest of it collapsed into the ravine surrounding the ruin? Or maybe Celestia totaled the city but couldn't bring herself to do the same to the castle.

    Regardless, the art looks fucking gorgeous.