Twelve Principles of Animation

Before we dive straight into animation with Matt it’s important to understand the founding principles of animation. If I didn’t then I’d just make a total mess of whatever I was trying to work on. The principles cover rules that cover all forms of animation from stop motion, hand drawn up to CG.


Now I’d be lying if I said this was all new to me, I did most of a  year of animation in University twelve years ago before I switched focus. Most of what I did was hand drawn on light boxes however some old memories of the principles are still lodged in my brain somewhere. So rather than go through one by one showing an example of each, I’ll find an animated short an attempt to point out the principles in use with time code. I don’t make any promises I’ll be spot on but I’ll give it a go!


Squash & Stretch – The smaller duck spinning the lolly pop at 01:43.

Anticipation – A less obvious use of anticipation than the examples such as a golf club swing, Daffy dramatically points off screen to set us up for the next shot of the smaller duck sitting on the sofa on the other side of the room. 01:33

Staging – Staging applies to everything on film (or stage) and is simply setting up the shot/the action so that the viewer is drawn to the main focus of the scene. For example the scene of Daffy and Porky talking 01:17 adheres to the rule of thirds and each character is placed down a thirds line. Every shot in the animation will have been setup to draw the viewers attention to the action going on.

Straight Ahead & Pose to Pose – It’s hard to point this out once a scene has already been produced however I know from past research that WB mostly used Pose to Pose back in the day. Their key animators would produce the key frames and these would be passed onto the juniors to create the inbetweeners. This isn’t to say they never used any straight ahead, I’m just not aware of it.

Follow through & overlapping action – Back to the same scene again for this example, which is the ribbon on the little ducks hat taking time to catch back up after he turns his head quickly. Secondary motion and drag. 01:42

Slow In & Out – The example given in class of this principle was a human arm movement which has slowing either side (our arms don’t snap to position). So for this I found a lengthy example of Daffy’s arm movements. 01:49 (goes on for quite a few seconds).

Another example is his leg movement at 02:00 with his dancing.

Arc – Most things move in an arc, even if you don’t realize it. I skipped into the video a little further and found the example of Daffy juggling. This is a little more of an obvious arc. 05:43

Secondary Action – I’ll cheat and use the same example again. Daffy’s juggling also counts as secondary action. The motion and force behind his arm movement gives momentum to the pin which is then thrown up into its arc. 05:43

Timing – This refers to the number of frames given for an action which determines it’s speed on film. I could cite a hundred examples so I’ll just pick something. Porky is about to open the door but Daffy swings it open with force from the other side. This action would have been relatively few frames to convey the sense of speed. 03:00

Exaggeration – It’s Looney Tunes. When is it not exaggerated! Doubling up on an existing clip again. The little duck with the lolly pop counted for squash and stretch but due to how over the top the deformation is definitely counts as exaggerated. 01:43

Solid Drawing – This is a little bit of a tough one. Solid drawing takes into account understanding of 3D shapes, weight, light and shadow etc. The old artist skillset of life drawing factors in a lot. Most examples of the background scenery demonstrate 3D form (rooms/furniture in perspective to the ‘camera’. Characters all have set forms, a lot of poses show weight or give the illusion of depth using overlaps. Notice a character is almost never seen drawn straight on because it looks flat and loses the illusion.

Appeal – Again it’s Looney Tunes, some of the most famous animated characters of years gone by. Appeal is there in spades due to the overall characters charisma and the charm of their slap stick antics. Time code, the whole video!



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