12 PRINCIPLES OF ANIMATION: Complete Guide With Example

Image credit: The Academy Museum Store

As an animator, the 12 principles of animation are the most important skills you can acquire. Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston, two of the first people to work in animation, made them in the 1930s. Even though it was made for pencil drawings, you can use the same ideas for digital animation. Using them as a blueprint, you may make human animations that feel authentic and engaging. Well, this is just the tip of the iceberg! Read on to learn about the 12 principles of animation poster and book, along with Disney’s 12 principles of animation examples.

What Is the Principles of Animation?

The principles of animation give the impression that your animated characters and objects have density, mass, volume, and flexibility.

Disney’s 12 Principles of Animation Examples

Below are the examples of  the 12 principles of animation:

#1. Anticipation

This is one of the examples of Disney’s 12 principles of animation. The audience is more prepared for a screening event if they are given time to anticipate what will happen next. Given the given scenario, there are a few significant clues that point to the next step in the chain of events. To be more specific, the baby’s eyes are only half closed, the head nodding has a slight swaying motion, and as the baby dips into the fall, there is a slight rise in the head and a dip in the brows.

#2. Staging

The term “staging” refers to the arrangement of visuals within the frames in such a way as to focus the viewer’s attention on the aspects of the scene that are most significant. Meanwhile, this is done while leaving out any details that aren’t important or are a distraction.

Notwithstanding the sparse frame and the absence of sound in this example, it is very evident that the father and child are in a space with loud music.

#3. Squash & Stretch

These are also examples of Disney’s 12 principles of animation. These are methods that can be used to give the impression that a person or thing is both heavy and flexible. The “bouncing ball” exercise is among the initial things an animator in coaching will do. 

In this example, careful squash and stretch effects have been added to the character’s middle. This is done to help make people believe that he really is heavy. The body expands as his legs extend, which draws in the sides of the body. Then, this contracts when they bend, which gives him “rotational inertia” and a sensation of inertia.

#4. Ease In Ease Out

When you first start driving, you won’t immediately be going sixty miles per hour. It takes a little while to get up to speed and maintain that speed once you get there. If we were talking about animation, we’d call this an ease out.

Furthermore, even if you apply the brakes, you won’t be able to stop completely. (Unless in the unlikely event that you collide with a tree or anything.) When you put your foot down on the brake pedal, you gradually slow down until you come to a complete stop. Animators refer to this as an “ease in.” An animation that appears more lifelike and has more personality can also be created by carefully regulating the varying velocities of the items in the animation.

#5. Secondary Action

These are motions that assist the actual action and offer an extra element to character animations. This is done by enhancing the character’s performance. They can also lend the person additional personality and provide insight as to what the subject is up to or thinking.

#6. Arc

Circular motion, rather than linear motion, is characteristic of living things. Even if you discharge an arrow in the real world, it is unlikely that the arrow will go in a horizontal line. In most cases, the path will be bent. The very same thing goes for animation; characters need not move linearly since doing so would give the impression that their movements are forced and unnatural.

Furthermore, Arc is designed with a curved path that imitates the way that the human body naturally moves. So, if you want your illustrations to look realistic, one animation method that you need to use is movement in arcs. This includes the forearms, legs, hands, and fingers.

#7. Straight Ahead Action and Pose to Pose

There are two ways to approach the drawing of an animation sequence: the “straight ahead” method and the “position to pose” method.

Typically, the straight-ahead technique is the most effective one for animators to use if their goal is to create smooth and realistic movement in their work. Doing this requires sketching every frame from the beginning to the conclusion, which results in the creation of action that occurs at a consistent rate.

When the animator has a clear mental picture of how the story will come to a close and can work backward from that point. Thus, the straight-ahead animation drawing style is an excellent choice to use. It is also a fantastic approach for simulating organic activities such as a floral bloom, cloud motion, fire, or an explosion.

#8. Follow Through and Overlapping Action

The purpose of these animation techniques is to create the appearance that the figures are acting by the rules of physics. Due to the force of the forward movement, some character features, such as hair, flesh folds, clothing, or a jiggly belly, continue to move when a character suddenly stops moving. These character aspects include the hair, the flesh folds, the clothing, and the jiggly belly.

The movement that occurs after the event itself to communicate more weight and a sense of realism is referred to as “follow through.” While bodies in motion will not move at varying speeds, specific character traits may also follow through on the main action or overlap to gradually come to a stop.

#9. Slowly Coming and Slow Out

This is also one of the examples of Disney’s 12 principles of animation. Picture someone running and then pausing in the middle of the road. They would move more slowly at first, then increase speed as they progressed, and finally, come to a complete standstill. Most objects alter due to friction, gravity, and other reasons. Hence, to make a move look graceful and natural, start slow and increase the pace.

In addition, these kinds of natural movements can be achieved in animation by sketching more frames at the beginning and end of an action sequence. The speed and smoothness of the action will depend on how many frames you add to the beginning and end of the action sequence and how much space there is between each drawing.

#10. Solid Drawing

When making an animation, the drawing process can be a very laborious and time-consuming part of the process. Nonetheless, this should not mean that the quality of each frame is compromised in any way. Being a talented artist is also required if you want to have a successful career in animation.

According to Disney’s “solid drawing” philosophy, animators are expected to have a fundamental understanding of sketching three-dimensional shapes. This is done so that they can effectively communicate the weight, balance, light, and shadow of the objects they are depicting.

The use of perspective is another essential component of drawing. In that case, the characters could come off as two-dimensional and dull. Traditional animators studied the anatomy of real-world objects and people before drawing their cartoon versions. It is well known that Walt Disney designed his characters based on actual people and that Disney animators studied life drawing to create believable and captivating characters. Drawing from life is just one part of the solid drawing, but it’s crucial. To create solid characters and objects, you must comprehend three-dimensionality. This will make it much simpler to draw these things from any vantage point.

Also, for individuals who are getting ready to apply to colleges or jobs, having exceptional hand-drawing skills will be a standout aspect that can be included in their portfolios. By Lyndsey Vincent, an interior designer who once worked at Disney Imagineering.

#11. Appeal

Creating characters with appeal does not necessarily require giving them a pleasing appearance. Even the main characters in the story should have intriguing and charismatic qualities about them to make the storytelling more compelling. Changing a character’s qualities, forms, and proportions can make them more intriguing. To improve the tale, highlight a character’s most defining quality. Enlarging the eyes or jawline to give a character a youthful or strong appearance is popular. Fascinating typography, photo juxtaposition, or visual translation are three more great ways to make the scenario interesting.

Creating an empathetic protagonist helps enhance the plot. A confusing character design may drive viewers off, preventing them from finishing the story. Hence, to engage your audience, establish a balance between simplicity and inattention to detail while creating a character.

#12. Exaggeration

Creating more realistic movements is possible by employing a good number of animation ideas that have been discussed up to this point. The allure of animation, on the other hand, might be diminished by an excessive amount of realistic details. It is for this reason that it is beneficial to exaggerate some dramatic motions and character expressions that are typically not achievable.

Adding a sense of drama and energy to a situation can be facilitated by playing up the motion in the scene. Disney is well-known for the over-the-top sequences that it uses to generate emotionally charged situations in its movies.

12 Principles of Animation Book

In 1981, Disney animators Ollie Johnston and Frank Thomas published “The Illusion of Life: Disney Animation.” The 12 principles of animation book are based on the efforts of Disney animators to develop more lifelike animation beginning in the 1930s. Some people have called the 12 principles of animation book the “Bible of animation,” and many animation firms that have been around for a long time follow its advice.

Why Are the 12 Principles of Animation Book Helpful?

The main reason these rules were made was to give the impression that cartoon characters followed the laws of physics. However, they also addressed more ethereal concerns, such as emotional resonance and character allure.

What Is Staging 12 Principles of Animation?

The term “staging” refers to the process of arranging all the components of a scene, from the actors’ positions to the items in the foreground and background, the lighting, the camera shots, and the emotional state of the characters. Through the use of staging, the animation’s intent becomes crystal clear.

Which of the 12 Principles of Animation Is the Preparation for the Main Action?

Anticipation is the buildup to excitement. The primary motion would be the player’s leg impacting the soccer ball, and the subsequent leg movement would be the result of the initial action.

What Are the 8 Stages of Animation? 

  • Researching.
  • Define the scope of the project.
  • Scripting the play.
  • Voice recording device.
  • Storyboard artists.
  • Schematic representation.
  • Animation.
  • Sound production.

Over to You

It’s incredible how the wonder of animation can be captured by adhering to only a few basic rules. Animation is more than just giving the illusion of movement to static drawings. It’s an art form that demands imagination, originality, ability, hard work, and patience to pull off successfully.

Hence, with your newfound understanding of the 12 principles of animation, you might be tempted to try your hand at creating your stop-motion shorts. Do you have a story you’d want to create or a cast of characters you’d like to see in print? Continue to draw what you see and consider how things are done and how individuals move. Collaboration with other animators and designers is also crucial for learning how to refine your craft. Thus, you can bring your ideas to life through animation if you practice every day.


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