12 principles of animation!


The twelve principles of animation are the basis of all successful animation, character based or otherwise. Obeying this small but significant set of rules will mean be the difference between good animation and great animation. Created in the early 1930’s by the Walt Disney Company, the twelve principles transformed animation from a mere curiosity into an art form. These rules help to better portray the emotion, comedy or drama of the scene. Here they are written with the original hand drawn cell animation in mind. Each will apply just as easily to any other form of animation. Note: This list is in no specific order. All principles are equally important.

1. Squash and stretch: – Employed to give an indication of the weight and volume of a character or object as he/she/it moves. Generally uses deformation of the dynamics of a character for a comedy effect.

2. Anticipation: – Used to announce the surprise of the motion to comeand in turn guide the audience towards the area where the motion will take place. Generally a backward motion occurs before forward one. The backward motion is the anticipation for the impending motion forward. “Tell the audience what you are going to do. Do it. Tell them what you just did”.

3. Staging: – Translate the mood and intent of the scene into movement and position of the characters. Using a variety of camera angles and shots also helps intensify the meaning of the scene.

4. Straight ahead / pose to pose• Straight ahead – The animator starts with the initial drawing or object position and progresses through the animation frame by frame. This offers spontaneity within the scene. • Pose to pose – The technique of breaking down the motion into a series of key poses. This gives continuity to the scene and helps the animation movement to flow around the important areas of the animation.

5. Follow through and overlapping action: – This is the after effect of a movement, generally in the form of bends and overlaps. If a person comes to a halt, then their loose clothing and long hair will continue moving for a further few frames.

6. Slow out and slow in: – The effect of a sudden acceleration or deceleration in motion. This is essentially achieved by varying the number and spacing of ‘drawings’ between key poses. Increasing the number of ‘drawings’ towards the start and end of a motion means that the central motion appears faster in comparison to the beginning and end action.

7. Arcs: – All actions, with few exceptions, such as the animation of mechanical objects, follow an arc or slightly circular path. For example the movement of a character and in particular their limbs follows a circular path, never a linear one. Arcs give animation a more natural action and better flow. Consider simple movements as similar to a pendulum swinging.

8. Secondary action: – The smaller motions, which back up the primary defined motions. These subtleties add to the overall believability of the motion.

9. Timing: – The precise amount of time spent on an action by the character. This adds to the impression of feeling within the scene. Also used as a generic term to describe the timing of anything within the animation, whether the time of interaction of a character or the time scale of a particular scene in relation to the whole film.

10.Exaggeration: – Exaggeration in the motion, responses, poses and expression of an animated subject can add to the portrayal of the scene’s intention. Consider slightly over emphasizing or over acting a scene.

11.Solid drawing: – Weight, form, solidity and balance in the depiction of your subject all help to make its properties evident and believable.

12.Appeal: – A human, animal or any other object must connect with the audience. The audience must care about the situation the subject is in. To do this the subject must be given a well developed character and have an interesting personality.

Taken from: http://bbvista.leedsmet.ac.uk/webct/urw/lc5116011.tp0/cobaltMainFrame.dowebct by Darren Wall.


In week one we where given the first two of the 12 principles, solid drawing and staging. We were given tasks which we did, then were assest in the lesson. I have put these all on my blog to record what I have done and to annotate accordingly.

I was quite surprised about the finished design of my hand, since I wasnt allowed to look at it whilst I drew it. It just goes to show that you can acheive a decent enough picture without looking and totally concentrating on the object you are drawing.

Here we had only 30 seconds to draw a male and female figure, so I had to get the main blocky bits in and then go in afterwards put in the detail, but i ran out of time.

Here I had gone onto posemaniacs.com and studied the human figure at 30 and 60 seconds. I did 10 of each to show how blocking in forms is very useful in quick observation. I felt the 60 second drawings went better as I had more time to look and observe the figure before starting to draw.

We were asked to draw Darren holding a fire extinguisher to show how staging is important, to show what is happening, and to get the most out of a character to show the audience clearly without confusion. I felt that the side view was the best as it is clear to see what is going on and how the character is standing and what he is holding.

Here we had to create a silhouette of Darren kicking a ball, to show we can show the audience that you dont need to see everything to decide what is happening. I felt that the side view was best again, as you could see the ball and his leg going to kick it.


We were asked to draw what a ball would do on a trampoline when it bounced. Obviously there would be arcs involved to make the ball look realistic. We could add in some squash and stretch to make the ball seem flexible when bouncing.

This is what a bowling ball would do, because it is hard, there would be no squash and stretch, but there would be a little arc when it hit the ground.

Straight ahead, Pose to Pose and Timing

We took these photos into apple motion and created a scene from the house to the coridoor and finishing with the devil. I found it quite hard at first, but went throught the tutorial and it was easier once I got used to the software. I didnt save the end product so I cant show it on here, but I can do another one in my own time and put it on here.

With these pictures we were told told draw two key frames and add in the inbetweens. I also added slow in and slow out and how many frames a second, just to make it more clear if I created this for real. I found it really useful to learn about how to do inbetweens and not to assume anything.

Coin tests!

We were told to use timing to create different videos of coins. This is the template I used.

I first made a video of myself in Stop motion to get an idea of timing.

I tried another technique by making the coin bounce, I used arcs and timing to make it seem to bounce.

Slow in/Slow out and Anticipation

Here is the anticipation of a man trowing a ball. I showed the arrow of what direction his arm will move.

This is an overarm throw and I have shown again the direction of movement.

I also created in Stop Motion myself throwing a ball, which I dont have to put on here but i can do it again and put it on here.

Follow through, Overlap and Secondary action

Here is my picture of Pluto, I had to draw in his ears and tail, taking into concideration secondary action. His tail is inbetween his legs as tails move on there own in flight because his legs are in the air.

Here we had to draw someone bowling a ball and showing the secondary action. We also showed the follow through of the ball leaving the hand.

Here we had to observe people outside and draw their secondary actions. So I drew someone talking on a phone, playing with her hair and someone talking with their hands. People dont know they are doing it, but everybody messes with things when they are “still”.

I also ceated a man in 3DsMax and moved his fingers and feet whilst he was reading a book. I dont have it to put on here, but I will do it again so i can put it on here.

Exaggeration and Appeal

We were told to draw three people and exaggerate it to make it more obvious to an audience. I drew a ball bouncing, someone falling, someone running, and someone yawning. I felt that if you do exaggerate their movement the it looks more realistic in the cartoon world.

These are a character that I designed. We had to chose a household object and bring it to life using all of the 12 principles. I started to describe her and her personality to bring her to life. I went throught a few of the principles and write how they are involved in the character. I felt like I had learned alot from the principles into making my character more realistic and believable.

All of these principles I will use in my project and I can look back at this post to remind myself how to involve them in my work.


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