The 12 Principles Of Animation

1. Squash & Stretch

Momentum is a big part in animation. A ball hitting the floor collapses on itself ever so slightly, a liquid pouring onto the table spreads out wide. Things squash and stretch in real life when momentum is applied, so it should be over-emphasized in order to make your animation visually appealing.


2. Anticipation

Have you ever seen that clip of people ducking for cover because a train was heading towards them on a television screen? This perfectly demonstrates the ways in which an audience anticipates. When a character opens their mouth, the audience anticipates that a character will speak.



The position of your protagonist is vital; it defines where they are in the scene, how far objects are from the protagonist and where the protagonist is looking, you may even be able to sneak in some symbolism while your at it.


4. Straight Ahead & Pose-Pose

These are two methods of animating the same thing.

Straight Ahead animation means that you work on the animation in a linear fashion, so that the first frame you create is the first frame in the narrative. The animation may bend and stretch with the rhythm of the narrative.

Pose-Pose animation is created using certain frames in certain points. An animator will develop the most important imagery in the animation, then animate in-between these frames.


5. Follow Through & Overlapping Action

If you have ever been in a car that does an emergency stop, you know that everything moves in the same way. The car stops and you move forward because of the sudden change in momentum. Animation looks best when everything moves in the same direction. If a character is punches someone on the left of the screen, the character being punched will move to the left.


6. Slow Out, Slow In

This principle applies to practically all of moving artistry. Start an action slow and stop the action just as slow. Nothing ever moves at 100% speed instantly, it is not physically possible, so why should animation be different? Starting and finishing slowly refers back to the principle of anticipation; a character leaning forward implies that the character is about to move.


7. Arcs

All objects move in a swooping motion. Following the last principle, something will start slow, then speed up, then end slow again. All movement is like this, some arcs more striking than others, but all applying to the same principle.


8. Secondary Actions

A character who displays themselves in only one way is a flat, boring character. So, if you have a character who is in over whelming heat, that character should sweat AND sigh from exhaustion.


9. Timing

Timing makes an object or character’s physical appearance present. A petite pixie will move faster and more fluid that a monstrous machine will move. This is defined by the position of keyframes, either closer or further away from the start and finish of the movement.


10. Exaggeration

By this, I do not mean make characters have eels sprouting from their finger tips.(Although, that would be awesome to see.) If a character is angry, make their brow veritably furrowed. If a character is punched, make their mouth jiggle and slither about like crazy.


11. Solid Drawings

It is in very rare occasions that you will have to animate something that is supposed to look two dimensional. When animating, it is important to make objects appear as if there is another side to the objects and characters, one that the audience doesn’t see. Somewhat symbolic, in a way.


12. Appeal

Have you ever heard of the expression: “In an interview, the host will know if they want to hire you in the first 10 seconds?” Well, all visual media has a similar strategy. If you don’t give your audience something that is visually appealing, they’ll leave. I’ll show you three shots from three animated films, which one looks better:




(BTW: All of these movies came out this year… yes, really.)


And now for the second worst animated thing that you have ever seen.(Close runner up to Shark Tale.)


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