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.


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