12 principles of Animation

In this introduction we will look at the ’12 Principles of Animation’, an influence within the animating industry, particularly in the hand drawn cartoon animation. These rules have proven to become a guiding light for production and creative thinking within the creative minds of many weathered animators , and tools to train young and growing animators new to the industry. These rules are the Twelve Principles of Animation, which were devised by some of the pioneers of Walt Disney Studios, few of them in particular being Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston who were among the top staff in animation there for 48 years. From 1937 to 1981, with the help of the twelve principles and their talented staff, Walt Disney Studios were able to create instant classics such as Snow White: And The Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio and The Lady and the Tramp which are still admired to this day by many.

Here is a briefly explained list of four of the Twelve principles of Animation:


Here is an example of a animation using numerous principles, from ‘Preston Blaire’s Animation Book’.

1. Squash and Stretch

The gives a character an illusion of volume a weight to it’s movement and is also a useful action for any character participating in dialogue or any facial expression as such. This isn’t used solely on a human character’s movement or speech though as it can be used within all drawn things such as everyday objects like a ball which can be shown bouncing or like one of the old mickey mouse animation’s, Mickey’s Choo Choo, were the train squashes then expands to show it blowing out steam.

2. Anticipation

The action is used for preparing the audience for a character to perform a major action or movement, which can involve starting to dance, run or change in mood or expression completely, before a forward action is triggered it is followed by a backwards motion. As with the 1st rule, this action can vary by production. In Feature animation, these motions are less broad than Short Animations unless it is essential to developing a characters personality further.

3. Staging


Staging is largely important for portraying to the audience a character’s feeling or emotions at it’s current state. Depending on the characters personality, this can be crucial in showing the audience the true nature of the character. Staging also applies towards a character’s reaction, be to a line or an event that takes place. As these films only have a limited to them, within that time staging needs to be portrayed in to properly show and emotion or reaction according to the characters personality, while keeping it relevant to the story.

4. Straight Ahead and Pose to Pose Animation

Straight ahead animation first begins with one drawing which continuously progresses from drawing to drawing to the end of the scene. Each drawing could face proportional changes such as weight and volume. This method is used considerably for fast, action scenes.

5. Follow Through and Overlapping Action

When the main mass of a character has stopped, other limbs and other parts of the body will then continue to catch up for them to then stop. This applies for more than just limbs and other additions to the body such as tails, capes and hair and need to be followed through as, naturally not every part of the body stops at once and this needs to be implemented into any form of movement in animation. Overlapping action is when the character would change direction and the hair or clothes would remain in the same direction before following the direction. For example for a character wearing a dress, if the character begins to jumps towards a certain direction, the dress will be dragged in a still position before centering around the main mass of the model.

6. Slow-In and Slow-In
squash and stretch

Using the picture as an example of this. As the ball comes in to land more drawings will appear and then decrease as it bounces away. The fewer the drawings, the faster the scene will be whereas more drawing in turn will make it slower. Slow-ins and slow-outs are used to soften the action and can make the motion within the bounce appear more realistic. The Slow-ins and slow-outs can be slowed for a gag affect to add more a snap to the action.

7. Arcs


Arcs are executed in most natural flowing actions such as arm movement or as the picture shows, a mallet swinging. Creating arc within this moving mallet then gives a nice flow to the action making it it appear to swing in a more natural way. The mallet in this picture slows into a full on swing before slowing back in a resting fashion.

8. Secondary Action

A secondary action adds to the dimension of the scene. This can be any subsidiary action used with character movement to reinforce a characters action and add a lot of character to any drawing and add to a scenes atmosphere. The could be any secondary action as well whether its the characters hair moving in the wind or any specific hand gestures or interaction with objects or their surroundings.

9. Timing

Timing is an skills of which can be developed through experience and personal refinement. More drawings between poses can make each transition smooth and slow whereas fewer drawings can make them sharper and faster. These can both be used together to add an interesting.  Most animation is done on two, one drawing that is photographed onto two frames and separate drawings on each frame of film.

10. Exaggeration


Action traced from live action film can be accurate, but stiff and mechanical. In feature animation, a character must move more broadly to look natural. With this said exaggeration isn’t always just extremely broad drawing or distortion. Exaggeration is a principle used with facial expressions, poses, actions and attitudes. It is used to broaden actions in a way that can give your scene more appeal and not too overly dramatic and excessively animated.

11. Solid Drawing

The basic principles of drawing form, weight and volume are ways in which to draw in the classical sense, cartoons and the illsuion of a three dimensional style using pencil sketches and drawings. You can alter the drawing using color and movement to give these drawings a three and four dimensional style.

12.  Appeal


Appeal is a fundamental tool in developing a character’s personality, and how this character ultimately catches an audiences interest. All characters in animation whether they are  heroic, villainous, comical or cute all need appeal which breeds easy to read design and clear personality development which over the years has increased from running gags pieced together to more story driven, detailed characters which are occurring throughout the whole feature.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s