Although (live action) options are mostly also considered before making the final choice to solve things with visual effects, it was quite evident from the start that a CG creature would be the right approach for Dragon Girl.
The dragon is one of the main characters in the film, required to perform a whole range of actions and emotions hard to obtain with a puppet or a 'man in suit'. Both were used for referencing and placeholders by the way, but the final on-screen appearance is created with a digital 3D creature.
The first step in getting to a full 3D/CG character is the design. Experienced and talented Dutch character designer Wouter Tulp took on the challenge of coming up with a design that incorporated both 'cuteness' and a reptile-like characteristics.
Both were used for referencing and placeholders by the way, but the final on-screen appearance is created with a digital 3D creature.
Maarten Verhoeven is known for his impressive Zbrush skills and experience with dragons and other fantastical creatures and characters. He sculpted the dragon model.
As the final rig of a character is used by many animators over a considerable length of time, in many different scenes and with different demands, it should be thoroughly tested before it enters the real production pipeline.
'Rig wrecking' is the process of stress-testing the rig, trying to find the limits and see where, when and how it 'breaks'.
A rig provides the controls for animators to bring life into a character by giving it different poses over time. A bit like how a puppeteer operates a marionette puppet.
Rigging a character is another specialism that requires technical understanding of how a model behaves under different circumstances, but also how the animators will use it to create the performance of the character.