Activity 1: Animation Principles


This may very well be the most important post I ever write on animation. I say this because thePrincipals of Animation are the fundamental building blocks of character animation. They are the principles that breath life into character performance and make it appealing and believable.

If you are studying to become an animator (or are going to), please do yourself a favor, sear these principals into your mind, or better yet, print them out and post them next to your work station. Keep them handy and refer to them as you are animating and make sure you employ these principles where they are needed.

If your serious about getting a job as an animator, try and master these animation principles and make sure that all of your demo reel animation clearly demonstrates that you have a strong understanding of them. You’ll be glad you did when it comes time to look for a job because these principles are necessary for great character performance – it is what studios are looking for…

Anticipation: Also known as an Antic. This is a special pose that occurs before the main action. For example, the character moves back before they move forward. Anticipation should be used in most of a characters actions; the larger the movement the larger the antic. A smaller movement or subtle action calls for a more subtle antic.

Arcs: The default Path of Action for any motion. The breakdown poses define the shape of a motion’s curve. For example, a characters body movements will be in a swinging/arcing motion rather than a linear, point A to point B movement – a ‘Breakdown Pose’ between A and B will give you a curved or arched Path of Action.

Ease In, Ease Out: Also called Slow In, Slow Out. This is a technique used to ‘cushion’ the animation when going into a pose or coming out of a pose. It’s achieved by adding more inbetweens that favor the pose that you want to cushion. Often used to avoid any hard or sudden stops, or instead of an Overshoot.

Exaggeration: In animation we often exaggerate the actions so that they ‘read’ well. Clowns, mimes and stage actors do this. It means that the acting of a character is made as obvious as possible for the audience by pushing poses farther than you would see in real life; to achieve this we exaggerate the timing and poses to a certain degree; enough to give the performance charm and appeal.

Follow Through: When the main action of a character stops or slows down, any kind of dangling part or extremity of a character lags behind or continues to swing after the main action and eventually settles.

Overlapping Action: Overlapping action first starts with a ‘follow through’ or lagging motion then poses begin to overlap themselves. The usual examples are a tail wagging.

Overshoot: Overshooting a pose means to go past the pose and come back to it. For example, if a character was to through their arms up in the air… You would first create an anticipation pose – then create pose with arms up – but stretch the body and arms so that the hands go higher than the original pose – then snap back to the main pose of the arms being raised. So the order of the poses would be as follows. Antic – Overshoot – then snap back to Main Pose(with arms up).

Posing: In character animation we set one pose after the other to get the desired actions. A fair amount of thought goes into how we pose our characters so that what we are trying to relay, registers with the audience.

Secondary Action: The follow through, overlapping action, bobbing, swinging, etc. Motion that will occur on a dangling part, or extremity of a character. It’s secondary to the main actions.

Silhouetted Posing: A rule used when setting key poses of a character. It’s making sure that the pose has some negative spacing and that they ‘read’ well. When setting poses, animators will consider if the pose would look appealing as a silhouette. For example, you would make sure that arms and other extremities are not crowded in front of the main torso.

Stretch and Squash: The deforming of an object or character, usually when it comes in contact with the ground. The degree of stretch and squash used on an object communicates it’s physical make up and degree of flexibility. This technique is heavily used in a more ‘cartoony’ or exaggerated style of animation, but it should be considered in all animation. How much stretch and squash used depends on the style to the animation.

Timing: This is the number of frames needed for an action to occur, or the number of frames between poses. We can control how fast and slow things happen with timing in our animation. Good timing in animation feels right, looks energized, lively and has appeal.


Weight and Balance: Sometimes the character your animating may have to lift or carry a heavy object, or stretch to reach something. Even in more common actions we have to keep this principle in mind. To ‘sell’ the visual, or make it look believable we need to have an understanding of weight and balance.

Task and Criteria:

  • Students are to take notes on each of these Principles of anmiation and create/draw an image (or images) in Flash that support the definition.  Save definiton as:  firstlastname_Principles of Animation.docx in your Unit 2/Activity 1 subfolder.  Save images as or export your stage as: firstlastname_principle name.jpg.
  • Go to or and create a presentation of the 13 Principles of Animation.  Include an introduction slide: your name, course code, Teacher’s name, Unit 2, Activity 1, 2012
  • Post your Prezi here:
  • Due at the end of  Friday’s class

Teacher Tutorial: