Lara Croft is an English fictional character and the protagonist of Eidos Interactive's Tomb Raider video game series. Created by Toby Gard, the character has also appeared in comic books, novels and a series of animated short films, and has been played by Angelina Jolie in two feature films. Lara is generally presented as a beautiful, intelligent, athletic, and somewhat reckless English archaeologist-adventurer who frequently ventures into ancient and hazardous tombs and ruins.
Lara Croft was designed as the lead protagonist of Core Design's video game Tomb Raider, which began development in 1993. Lead graphic artist Toby Gard went through about five designs before arriving at the character's final appearance. He initially envisioned a male lead character with a whip and a hat. Core Design co-founder Jeremy Smith characterized the design as derivative of Indiana Jones, and asked for more originality. Gard decided that a female character would work better from a design standpoint. He also claimed a desire to counter stereotypical female characters, which he has characterized as "bimbos" or "dominatrix" types. Initially, Smith was skeptical of a female lead because few games at the time featured them. However, he felt a female lead would to be a great hook, and decided to put faith in Gard's idea. Inspired by pop artist Neneh Cherry and comic book character Tank Girl, Gard experimented with different designs, including a muscular woman and a Nazi-like militant. He settled on a tough South American woman with a braid named Laura Cruz. Eidos management—the series' publisher—preferred a more "UK friendly" name, and selected Lara Croft from similar-sounding English names found in an English telephone directory. Along with the name change, the character's back-story was altered to incorporate a British origin.
One of Gard's main concerns was to animate the character realistically, an aspect he felt the industry at the time had disregarded. He sacrificed quick animations in favor of more realistic movement, believing that players would empathize with the character more easily. In the first Tomb Raider, Lara Croft's character model is made of around 230 polygons. The graphical limits at the time required the removal of the character's braid from the model. While adjusting the character model, Gard accidentally increased the breasts' dimensions by 150 percent. After seeing the increase, however, the rest of the creative team argued the change should remain. Core Design hired Shelley Blond to voice Lara Croft after the game enter the beta phase of development. Gard left Core Design after completing Tomb Raider, citing a lack of creative freedom and control over marketing decisions related to the ideas he developed, specifically Lara Croft.