#1 SQUASH AND STRETCH
gives the illusion of weight and volume to a character as it moves.
Also squash and stretch is useful in animating dialogue and doing
facial expressions. How extreme the use of squash and stretch is,
depends on what is required in animating the scene. Usually it's
broader in a short style of picture and subtler in a feature. It is
used in all forms of character animation from a bouncing ball to the
body weight of a person walking. This is the most important element you
will be required to master and will be used often.
movement prepares the audience for a major action the character is
about to perform, such as, starting to run, jump or change expression.
A dancer does not just leap off the floor. A backwards motion occurs
before the forward action is executed. The backward motion is the
anticipation. A comic effect can be done by not using anticipation
after a series of gags that used anticipation. Almost all real action
has major or minor anticipation such as a pitcher's wind-up or a
golfers' back swing. Feature animation is often less broad than short
animation unless a scene requires it to develop a characters
A pose or
action should clearly communicate to the audience the attitude, mood,
reaction or idea of the character as it relates to the story and
continuity of the story line. The effective use of long, medium, or
close up shots, as well as camera angles also helps in telling the
story. There is a limited amount of time in a film, so each sequence,
scene and frame of film must relate to the overall story. Do not
confuse the audience with too many actions at once. Use one action
clearly stated to get the idea across, unless you are animating a scene
that is to depict clutter and confusion. Staging directs the audience's
attention to the story or idea being told. Care must be taken in
background design so it isn't obscuring the animation or competing with
it due to excess detail behind the animation. Background and animation
should work together as a pictorial unit in a scene.
#4 STRAIGHT AHEAD AND POSE TO POSE
ahead animation starts at the first drawing and works drawing to
drawing to the end of a scene. You can lose size, volume, and
proportions with this method, but it does have spontaneity and
freshness. Fast, wild action scenes are done this way. Pose to Pose is
more planned out and charted with key drawings done at intervals
throughout the scene. Size, volumes, and proportions are controlled
better this way, as is the action. The lead animator will turn charting
and keys over to his assistant. An assistant can be better used with
this method so that the animator doesn't have to draw every drawing in
a scene. An animator can do more scenes this way and concentrate on the
planning of the animation. Many scenes use a bit of both methods of
#5 FOLLOW THROUGH AND
main body of the character stops all other parts continue to catch up
to the main mass of the character, such as arms, long hair, clothing,
coat tails or a dress, floppy ears or a long tail (these follow the
path of action). Nothing stops all at once. This is follow through.
Overlapping action is when the character changes direction while his
clothes or hair continues forward. The character is going in a new
direction, to be followed, a number of frames later, by his clothes in
the new direction. "DRAG," in animation, for example, would be when
Goofy starts to run, but his head, ears, upper body, and clothes do not
keep up with his legs. In features, this type of action is done more
subtly. Example: When Snow White starts to dance, her dress does not
begin to move with her immediately but catches up a few frames later.
Long hair and animal tail will also be handled in the same manner.
Timing becomes critical to the effectiveness of drag and the
#6 SLOW-OUT AND SLOW-IN
As action starts, we have more drawings near the starting pose, one or
two in the middle, and more drawings near the next pose. Fewer drawings
make the action faster and more drawings make the action slower.
Slow-ins and slow-outs soften the action, making it more life-like. For
a gag action, we may omit some slow-out or slow-ins for shock appeal or
the surprise element. This will give more snap to the scene.
actions, with few exceptions (such as the animation of a mechanical
device), follow an arc or slightly circular path. This is especially
true of the human figure and the action of animals. Arcs give animation
a more natural action and better flow. Think of natural movements in
the terms of a pendulum swinging. All arm movement, head turns and even
eye movements are executed on an arcs.
#8 SECONDARY ACTION
adds to and enriches the main action and adds more dimension to the
character animation, supplementing and/or re-enforcing the main action.
Example: A character is angrily walking toward another character. The
walk is forceful, aggressive, and forward leaning. The leg action is
just short of a stomping walk. The secondary action is a few strong
gestures of the arms working with the walk. Also, the possibility of
dialogue being delivered at the same time with tilts and turns of the
head to accentuate the walk and dialogue, but not so much as to
distract from the walk action. All of these actions should work
together in support of one another. Think of the walk as the primary
action and arm swings, head bounce and all other actions of the body as
secondary or supporting action.
in timing comes best with experience and personal experimentation,
using the trial and error method in refining technique. The basics are:
more drawings between poses slow and smooth the action. Fewer drawings
make the action faster and crisper. A variety of slow and fast timing
within a scene adds texture and interest to the movement. Most
animation is done on twos (one drawing photographed on two frames of
film) or on ones (one drawing photographed on each frame of film). Twos
are used most of the time, and ones are used during camera moves such
as trucks, pans and occasionally for subtle and quick dialogue
animation. Also, there is timing in the acting of a character to
establish mood, emotion, and reaction to another character or to a
situation. Studying movement of actors and performers on stage and in
films is useful when animating human or animal characters. This frame
by frame examination of film footage will aid you in understanding
timing for animation. This is a great way to learn from the others.
is not extreme distortion of a drawing or extremely broad, violent
action all the time. It's like a caricature of facial
features, expressions, poses, attitudes and actions. Action traced from
live action film can be accurate, but stiff and mechanical. In feature
animation, a character must move more broadly to look natural. The same
is true of facial expressions, but the action should not be as broad as
in a short cartoon style. Exaggeration in a walk or an eye movement or
even a head turn will give your film more appeal. Use good taste and
common sense to keep from becoming too theatrical and excessively
#11 SOLID DRAWING
principles of drawing form, weight, volume solidity and the illusion of
three dimension apply to animation as it does to academic drawing. The
way you draw cartoons, you draw in the classical sense, using pencil
sketches and drawings for reproduction of life. You transform these
into color and movement giving the characters the illusion of three-and
four-dimensional life. Three dimensional is movement in space. The
fourth dimension is movement in time.
performer has charisma. An animated character has appeal. Appealing
animation does not mean just being cute and cuddly. All characters have
to have appeal whether they are heroic, villainous, comic or cute.
Appeal, as you will use it, includes an easy to read design, clear
drawing, and personality development that will capture and involve the
audience's interest. Early cartoons were basically a series of
gags strung together on a main theme. Over the years, the artists have
learned that to produce a feature there was a need for story
continuity, character development and a higher quality of artwork
throughout the entire production. Like all forms of story telling, the
feature has to appeal to the mind as well as to the eye.