12 Basic Principles of Animation Widely Acclaimed

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Everyone must have found animation as the coolest thing in some part of their life. As a kid, everyone must have fallen in love with Disney movies or video games, where we all enjoy imaginary characters move and act as in real life. 

Have you ever wondered how these movies or games are created? The art of creating these is called animation.

What is Animation?

Animation is a technique of giving life to figures, where these figures are manipulated to appear as moving images. Today, most animations are made with computer-generated imagery (CGI). The process of animation gives an illusion of movement to drawings, models, or inanimate objects. Animated motion pictures and television shows are highly popular forms of entertainment.


12 Basic Principles of Animation

Disney’s 12 basic principles of animation were introduced by the Disney animators Ollie Johnston and Frank Thomas in their 1981 book The Illusion of Life: Disney Animation

The principles are based on the work of Disney animators in their quest to produce more realistic animations. The main purpose of these principles was to produce an illusion that cartoon characters adhered to the basic laws of physics, but they also dealt with more abstract issues, such as emotional timing and character appeal.

1. Squash and Stretch

Squash and stretch are the core of the animation process. It gives a sort of flexibility and elasticity to your animation. 

Let’s understand the meaning of squash and scratch. When an object hits the ground, the impact drawing is called scratch. And as it bounces off the ground, it will stretch in the opposite direction. 

The stronger the squash and stretch are, the smoother and bouncier the animation will look. Hard objects like a bowling ball require less squashing or stretching as compared to soft objects like a water balloon. 

As you squash and stretch an object, it is very important to maintain the volume of the object.

12 Basic Principles of AnimationSquash and Stretch

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=haa7n3UGyDcSquash and Stretch

2. Anticipation

Anticipation is the preparation for the action. An anticipation is an effective tool for indicating what is about to happen. For example, a character will squat down before pushing his body and legs up into a jump. The stronger the anticipation motion, the more cartoony and fluid the animation will be. The smaller the anticipation, the more stiff the animation will be.

12 Basic Principles of AnimationAnticipation


3. Staging

Staging is the presentation of an idea so that it is completely and unmistakably clear. Many times, it is overlooked by animators and unnoticed by audiences. But it is a powerful tool that can inform an audience about the character and narrative. 

Staging is connected to acting, timing, and setting. When an animator understands staging, she or he controls the attention of the audience and helps drive the story.

Three tips have been used that lead to audience attention to a targeted character/object.

  • Halves and Thirds: One easy technique keeps the characters of interest in the half or third of the camera frame. If you divide a frame of the shot in half or thirds and place the character in those sections, you control the attention of the audience while communicating the importance of that character.
  • Lines of Focus: By using the setting of the frame, other characters, and camera angles, one can create lines of focus that can draw the attention of the audience where you intend it to be.
  • Consistent Screen Direction: Screen direction is the direction that a character appears to be moving or speaking. Having a consistent screen direction is important to convey information to your audience clearly.

12 Basic Principles of Animation


4. Straight Ahead and Pose-To-Pose

It is a term used in animation that refers to a method that uses only the first key pose of a character and then continues drawing the character to create the desired motion. This process usually produces drawings and actions that have a fresh and slightly quirky look, because the whole process is kept very creative.

Straight ahead animation is mostly used for wild, scrambling actions where spontaneity is important. 

Pose to pose is a term used in animation, for creating key poses for characters and then inbetweening them in intermediate frames to make the character appear to move from one pose to the next.

Straight Ahead action is the drawing out of a scene frame by frame from start to finish, whereas in Pose to Pose the action is planned out by the animator using a few keyframes, and then the intervals are filled in.

12 Basic Principles of Animation


5. Follow-Through and Overlapping Action

Follow-Through and Overlapping action is a general heading for two closely related techniques which help to render movement more realistically and help to give the impression that characters follow the laws of physics.

Following through means that separate parts of a body will continue moving after the character has stopped. It follows the Law of Inertia (one of Newton’s Laws of Motion).

12 Basic Principles of Animation

The Law of Inertia states that an object will continue to be either in a state of motion or in a state of rest unless an external force acts upon it.

— Isaac Newton

Overlapping action is the tendency for parts of the body to move at different rates (an arm will move at different timing of the head and so on).


6. Slow-In and Slow-Out

This principle describes the tendency of things to come to rest, or to start moving, in a progressive way. According to this principle when we animate something moving from a stop, the spacing of that object needs to progressively increase until it gets up to a speed, at which point the spacing becomes relatively constant.

12 Basic Principles of Animation

And when an object comes back to rest, the spacing progressively decreases to zero.

12 Basic Principles of Animation


7. Arc

The visual path of an object or action is called an Arc. This could be the projectile of a bouncing ball, the path of a moving arm, and even the movements of mouth corners during a dialogue scene.

The arc is one of the most important tools to make movements realistic and pleasing to the eye. Due to the moving object’s inertia, its path should be smooth unless it’s being interrupted by an external force (e.g. impact). A smooth arc, like a dancer’s movement, is always eye-pleasing. On the other hand, an unintended broken arc can reduce the believability of the movement.

12 Basic Principles of AnimationArc


8. Secondary Action

Secondary Action is a movement that is dependent upon some other movement, generally referred to as an active movement. 

For example, when a character shakes his head, the head movement is the primary action and the movement of the hair and flappy hat are examples of secondary action. 

If you strip out the secondary action of the shot, the primary action should still be clear. It will likely be less interesting and less watchable, but still clear. Secondary action will help you create memorable animation that makes people eager to see.

12 Basic Principles of AnimationMovement of the tail is secondary action


9. Timing

The timing comprises many things in animation. It is the duration of action. It is the speed of action. It is the way actions overlap and secondary objects follow the main action. 

If the timing is off, too slow, too long, too fast, or too linear, the animation will not look realistic. It will be stiff, and even boring. The nature of the character, personality, or weight of an object will influence the timing of the animation.


10. Exaggeration

One of the most important things in animation is exaggeration. You can generally exaggerate in your animation a lot more than you can think. 

The nature of our human vision is that our eyes can only take in so much information at a time. When you’re working on a post, you’re looking at a still image of that pose, and you can see it in full detail. When that pose is implemented as a part of a moving animated shot, especially when it’s a breakdown pose, that pose is only viewed 1/24 th of a second.

Because of our persistence of vision, our eyes will see less of that most exaggerated pose, and more of the frames on either side of that pose that are less exaggerated versions of it. Therefore, you need to push the pose FURTHER than you think when you are creating it. It’s much harder to over-exaggerate than it is to under-exaggerate.


11. Solid Drawing

Solid drawing is the animation principle that makes the drawing looks Three dimensional and believable with Volume, Weight, and Balance. This requires the knowledge of drawing a subject three-dimensionally. With Solid drawing, you will able able to draw figures from any side, which will help in animating your drawing.

12 Basic Principles of AnimationSolid Drawing


12. Appeal

An appeal is the culmination of all the other principles mentioned above, plus extra. All the other principles are about creating believable animation, but we modify them to suit our needs.

12 Basic Principles of Animation

Appeal breaks down into two things: Order and Interest. Order is the design element/choice you make. It’s the pattern or logic you chose to apply to your movement, drawing, character design, layout, etc. Interest, however, is how you choose to keep the Order from becoming boring, it’s the variation, the surprise you choose to add to your pattern.


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