The 12 Principles of Animation:
Reworded for understanding BY ME, originally told by Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston 🙂
According to Thomas’ and Johnstons’ Illusion of Life (Walt Disney), these principles set the core foundations to what is considered “good” animation. In terms of both 2D and 3D. These are the ingredients to creating animation with flow, ease and aesthetically pleasing quality. It is widely considered that the 12 be used in accordance with eachother to create a piece that is fluid and lush in movement, they cannot exist alone and have the same effect.
Squash and Stretch:
Squash & stretch are a combination of give & take movements that communicate the weight of the character or object to the audience. It is the most widely known but difficult to master out of all the principles. It is effectively the bounce and receive of the body of the character as cohabits and responds to its appropriate world. Correctly done, squash and stretch give believability to the volume and weight of the object.
Anticipation describes the crucial movement before the movement. In everyday life, within every motion that is made, a pre-motion gets the body ready to act it out. In animation, this is likewise, and the bracing for the movement communicates what is about to happen in a way that helps the audience to follow the character’s motions and therefore the story being told.
Staging in animation, much like in theatre is effectively the positioning of all crucial visual cues within the animated piece. This does not just mean for the character itself, but everything around them, camera, lights, environment, that are used as visual tools to direct the audience’s eye and communicate the story to the viewer.
Straight Ahead Action & Pose to Pose:
These are the two different aspects to the drawing process for animation, that when used together, carefully illustrate the movement of a character in the most dynamic way possible. “Straight ahead action” consists of drawing out the scene from start to finish by each frame. “Pose to pose” is done by drawing a few key frames, and then filling in the crucial in-between movements later. “Straight ahead action” makes for an “illusion of movement” that has a better flow, fluidity and is overall better for producing believable and dynamic sequences. On the other hand, “Pose to pose” assists the fact that it is difficult to maintain physical proportions and size in relation to movement around a scene (such as walking around a room with a low camera, the figure will get smaller). Where composition and relation to the surroundings are of greater importance, Pose to pose is the optimum choice, as it creates a more dramatic effect.
Follow Through & Overlapping Action:
These two intersecting principles display the Physics that is necessary to communicate movement. Follow through describes parts of the figure that continue their movement after the pose has stopped (as would be the case in exaggerated real life). It dictates the oscillation within the movement of a character, as well as calling attention to its centre of mass. These can also be seen in where a movement is followed quickly by the rest of the body, but with a slight drag. The “core” of the body (e.g for humans, the torso) is followed by the limbs that are attached to it, following the movement through. This creates believable movement taken from life.
Slow In & Slow Out:
Mostly seen in direct pose to pose movements, the slow in, slow out of an object or figure communicates the acceleration that is needed to begin a motion, and the deceleration that ends the pose. This creates a solid form of emphasis.
Arcs are used to communicate snappy, visually pleasing movement. In the science of motion, everything moves in arcs, and if a movement doesn’t appear to be believable but it is difficult to distinguish why; it’s probably to do with arcs. Bodies are made like machines, with joints, and to create natural movement, a considerable amount of mechanical motion must be considered.
This is the technique in which one action is used to exaggerate and call attention to another primary action. Such as the facial expressions that follow a fall, or what the other arm is doing when a ball is being thrown. It is important to ensure that attention is not taken away from the main action and that it is only being complemented by the secondary action.
Timing is crucial for establishing a character’s mood, reactions and emotions. It is also a device that can be used to show a character’s personality (such as through different timings in body language). Timing translates the speed of the action through more or fewer drawings being used to illustrate the movement.
Combined with the realism and physics that comes with the previously mentioned principles of animation, exaggeration can be described as what makes the movements in this artistic medium, unique. When movements are cleverly and technically exaggerated, they are pleasing to the eye, which is crucial for an appealing film or show. Disney’s descripton of exaggeration was when it communicated reality, but only in it’s most dramatic, extreme form.
Solid drawing may be that bit more obvious than other principles, but this doesn’t make it any less important. Good artists know the volume, space and perspective needed within a well-communicated drawing. As much as animation needs to be fun and full of exciting design, it must contain the vital skeletal aspects to drawing that make it technically, proportionately and realistically “correct”.
The appeal is to an animated character what charisma is to an actor displaying a personality on screen. It does not mean likeability in a singular dimensional sense, as Villians and monsters can have appeal. It is the charm that the character displays through it’s movement, poses and body language. It is the symmetrical and aesthetic elements of design that make characters pleasing to look at and enjoy.