The Twelve Principles of Animation


  1. Squash and Stretch

A very important Principle as it lends the illusion of weight to a character. It can be used in facial expressions as a form of exaggeration. This principle is used throughout animation, it could give a human character body weight or it could show how a bouncing ball acts.


  1. Anticipation

Anticipation is the pre-action, it’s bend in the knees before the jump, the pull back of an arm before landing a punch, it prepares the audience for what is about to happens. ‘A backward action occurs before the forward motion is executed.’


  1. Staging

A pose or action should capture the tone of the piece, how it feels, the attitude in relation to the story line Camera shots are a part of staging, they can heavily influence the audiences’ interpretation of the scene such as when a camera is looking down on a character it could show them as vulnerable as opposed to a camera placed at a lower angle looking up giving the impression of power. Every shot must be staged correctly to utilize the limited time of a movie. Don’t attempt to be too fancy with camera movements or positioning, it must be relevant so it’s easy for the audience to understand the action. Sets should not be over detailed so that the main character or item of interest is overlooked.


  1. Straight Ahead and Pose to Pose

With straight ahead animation, you begin drawing the character at the start of the shot and you work drawing to drawing to the end. This method can lead to loss of proportions, size or volume but it is fresh and can really captures a character’s personality; through the movement it shows. Pose to pose is carefully planned as it helps maintain proportions, it also helps the lead animator as they draw out the main poses and they can hand it over to the animation assistant to fill in the tedious drawings between


  1. Follow through and overlapping action

Nothing stops all at once, in terms of a human like character, when they stop their body parts must catch up with the main mass, this applies their clothes or any accessories they have, nothing stops all at once. Overlapping action is when say the body starts travelling in a different direction but the likes of hair stays flowing in the same direction. ‘DRAG’ is when something doesn’t keep up with the main body movement like a dress not moving exactly when the person does but moments after.


  1. Slow-Out and Slow-In

Fewer drawings will make an action faster whereas less drawings will make an action slower, by using less drawing you can ‘slow-in’ and ‘slow-out’ which softens the action. Not using slow ins and outs can give the action more snap and a comedic effect.


  1. Arcs

Arcs give movements more realism, the arms and legs of a human use arcs as they are on pivot, arcs allow an animation to flow better. You can imagine a pendulum swinging back and forth, it doesn’t jolt it flows. Even smaller movements such as eye movements are executed using arcs.


  1. Secondary Action

Secondary action acts to reinforce the main action. An example could be s fella prancing through a meadow, the primary action his legs skipping freely, the secondary action would be his arms swinging happily by his sides, even the slight tilts of his head or facial expressions or dialogue classify as secondary action, the action id the prance, the secondary action the body movements that come along with that. These actions should support one another.


  1. Timing

Timing gives ‘meaning to movement,’ it helps translate to an audience the idea being expressed. Timing as well as squash and stretch helps define the weight of the character depending on say how long an object might take to fall. Timing is very important, it can help translate a characters’ mood or a reaction, you can imagine a sad character trailing their feet along slowly. Ones and twos are used in animation, a drawing could be photographed on two frames, this is used most of the time, ones are more likely used for camera moves or for quick dialogue.


  1. Exaggeration

Exaggeration need not be excessive, it adds to the appeal of a character or action or any sort, in facial expressions exaggeration can be used so that the action reads better. Cartoons often use a lot of exaggeration which is often extreme which works for comedic purposes or getting the emotion or action across very clearly.


  1. Solid Drawing

Solid drawing gives the illusion that a character or object is three dimensional; gives it volume. we draw the character in 2D but how the lines are shaped will allow for the character to appear 3D.


  1. Appeal

All characters must have appeal whether they are a hero or villain, a mentor or a trickster. Appeal comes from an interesting that is not over complicated but reads well, appeal is not just achieved through drawing, it is also based on character development. ‘Like all forms of storytelling, the feature has to the mind as well as the mind’





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