8 October 2016

The 12 Principles of Animation

The 12 Principles of Animation 

These principles were developed at Disney and made famous by Ollie Johnston and Frank Thomas. They are very useful to keep in mind when animating and, although developed for 2D animation, are still useful in stop motion and digital 3D animation. 

Fig. 1 Johnston and Thomas depicted in 'The Incredibles' (2004)

Squash and Stretch - Objects need to appear flexible and lively to catch interest and seem believable, using squash and stretch can show this flexibility. In animation, it's quite useful to exaggerate with squash and stretch to really get a sense of dynamic action. 

Anticipation - Using anticipation can ensure that the audience is looking in the right place on the screen before an action takes place. Things often happen quickly and if something happens out of nowhere it might be missed or context lost. Having something move slightly back before it moves forward is an example of this and it can make actions more believable. The amount of anticipation used can be varied depending on how dramatic the movement is going to be and on a variety of other factors, too. 

Staging - The set up of a scene can have a massive impact on how the audience thinks and feels when they view it. Camera angles and compositions can be used to make sure that facial expressions are clear and that the correct mood is conveyed. Lighting, camera movement and figure placement are all important tools for setting a scene. 

Straight ahead and pose to pose animation - In Straight Ahead animation, poses are created one after the other in order. In Pose to Pose animation key poses are created first and the other frames can be filled in later. Both methods can be useful and often a mixture could be used in animating one scene. Also, the preference of the animator can sometimes come into play. 

Follow through and overlapping action - Follow through is the idea that, when something comes to a stop, parts of it continue to move. For example, a person running and coming to a halt will not be completely stationary as soon as their legs stop; their arms, hair and clothing will continue on in the direction they were running before settling. Overlapping action is similar; different parts of the body will move at different speeds and at different times when one action takes place, for example, a person arm may start to move before their hand; it's important to think about how each part of the body moves in a movement. Both of these ideas are very important in creating believable movement. 

Slow out and slow in - This is the principle of showing objects accelerating at the start of a movement and decelerating at the end. To this effect, timing wise, more frames will be included at the beginning and end of an action than for the rest of it. 

Arcs - Arcs can be used to make an animation seem smooth and natural; nothing in nature moves in an exactly straight line, so having things move in arcs makes an animation believable. 

Secondary Action - These are actions that support the main action of an animation, they are often used to convey mood and personality without distracting the audience from the movement. It would also be unusual for a single action to occur with nothing else happening, so it adds some believability to a scene. 

Timing - Timing is the number of frames it takes for an action to take place. Fewer frames will mean the action is faster, and more will mean it is slower. Timing can be used to make an action look like it is obeying the laws of physics, and the weight and material of an object among other things need to be taken into account, but the number of frames can also be used in a different way to varying effect. 

Exaggeration - Exaggerating an animation can make it more readable and more exciting. Without exaggeration the action may be more realistic, but it could be lost amongst the rest of the images and actions on the screen. 

Solid Drawing - In 2D animation, drawings need to be accurate and show volume and weight, to make the characters and objects on the screen look as though they are really there interacting with each other and their environment. This basic idea of believability in this principle ought to also be considered in 3D animation, even when drawing is not taking place. The posing of characters needs to have the correct weight and positioning to seem believable. 

Appeal - Creating an interesting and engaging animation is important if you want your audience to continue watching and enjoying it. Appeal can mean different things depending on the audience and the animator, but in general designs need to be unique and not too complex for the audience to be captivated.


Brent, M. (s.d). The 12 Principles of Animation. At: http://www.stopmotionanimation.com/page/the-12-principles-of-animation-annotated-for-stopmotion (Accessed on 08.10.16)

Masters, M. (2014). Understanding the 12 Principles of Animation. At: http://blog.digitaltutors.com/understanding-12-principles-animation/ (Accessed on 08.10.16)


Fig. 1 Johnston and Thomas depicted in 'The Incredibles' (2004)
Bird, B. (2004). The Incredibles. [Film Still] At: https://cdn.churchm.ag/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/frank-thomas-and-ollie-johnston.jpg (Accessed on 08.10.16)

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