The goal is an illustrative look – more painterly than photorealistic – that is enhanced by hard-edged, toon-style shadows. What’s kind of fun is having a ton of detail in something like cloth wrinkles (as sculpted in Mudbox and baked into a normal map), but then having only a hard-edged, two-tone shadow describe it.
The rigging is pretty basic, but includes individual fingers and some vertex weighting for the eyelids so that the character can blink. More importantly those eyelid bones make it so the eyelids can conform to the eyes as they look around. This lets the character’s eyes be active without getting the crazy-eyes effect that results when too much whites-of-the-eyes are revealed as the character’s eyes rotate.
Below are some shots from my final animation.
Finally, here’s an example of the detailed construction that went into the rider and helmet:
And my concept art for the character: