Can a polygon make you cry?
My answer is YES.
Is there a formula that could be put in place to ensure that each animated character will create an emotional connection with the viewer, thus inciting an emotional or cognitive response?
My answer again is yes, but in order to achieve this one would have to review who the intended audience is. In other words, one should understand fully who the narrative is directed at, and from that he/she should decide who the characters' archetypes will be. This will also determine what emotional response (fear, empathy, happiness, desire, loss, lust, etc.) should be created.
Using McLuhan's theory one should allow the audience to engage with the main character from whom they want a stronger cognitive response and interactive relationship, by building upon their own imagination. On the other hand, one should not allow the audience to engage with the other supporting characters from which one does not want an emotional connection, but structure these characters with high polygons and sharper imagery, leaving nothing to be imagined. Of course not to the point that we are designing lower resolution images to better the cinema experience, instead carefully structuring high polygon characters and using the characters' own archetypes as well as the narrative to manipulate the audience's perception and emotional state during the scenes where a cognitive response is desired.
Short 3D Animation Research Outcome