The mission of character animation is to create realistic movement and strong personality through the actions. The original animators at Disney Studios in the ’30s developed 12 Principles of Animation that are still in use today. Although the principles were developed using traditional hand drawn animation techniques; they can and should be applied to any form of animation — from hand drawn to stop motion to computer generated art. The principles are:
1) Squash and Stretch: Gives the illusion of weight and mass. Applies in all forms of animation from a bouncing ball to a walking person.
2) Anticipation: The preparation of an action. This can be as broad as a golfer’s back swing or as subtle as a person looking off screen to anticipate someone’s arrival.
3) Staging: Use staging to direct the audience’s eye to the story being told. Each shot needs to communicate one idea; so the pose, shot length and camera angle all need to work together to set the stage clearly.
4) Straight ahead action and pose to pose action: These are two different ways to approach animating. With straight ahead action the animator starts at the beginning of the shot and works frame by frame until the end of the shot. This method doesn’t work well in computer animation but in traditional animation, it can infuse the action with spontaneity. Pose-to-pose animation is planned out with key poses done at important intervals throughout the shot. This method is used almost exclusively in computer animation.
5) Follow through and overlapping action: Closely related techniques that help give the illusion of physics in the world. When the main mass of the character stops moving the arms, hair, clothing, etc. don’t stop immediately. Instead, these parts continue to move before settling. When the character starts moving again those same elements will drag behind the body before catching up.
6) Slow-in and -out: Slow-ins and -outs soften the action at the beginning and end of an animation to make movements more realistic.
7) Arcs: All natural action follows an arc or circular movement. It describes any movement: from an arm swing during a walk to a head tilt. When the arc is removed the action looks mechanical.
8) Secondary Action: Secondary action enhances the main action without overwhelming it. In a walk cycle; the body and legs could be considered the main action while the arms, hair and facial animation would be a secondary action.
9) Timing: How much time you allow the character to move from pose to pose. Point of view is the best way to figure out the timing. What works for live action doesn’t translate directly to animation, which requires added exaggeration of movements.
10) Exaggeration: In animation, exaggeration is the caricature of expressions, poses and actions. Without exaggeration, animation can appear stiff and mechanical. Exaggeration can be subtle or broad depending on the style of the film or action. Exaggeration can also help give a film its appeal.
11) Solid Drawing: Applying the basic principles of drawing — form, weight, volume — to animation. This is less applicable in computer animation and stop motion.
12) Appeal: Appeal is often misinterpreted as “cute.” But appeal is equivalent to an actor’s chemistry. All characters need appeal. Bunnies are cute. Alien villains are ugly. Without appeal the audience won’t be able to connect with the character.
All of principles connect to create the illusion of life.
Image Source: Cartoon Concept Design