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Listing down the 12 Basic Principles of Animation

12 principles of animation are the basic and group key teaching for aspirant animators. These 12 principles are presented from when Disney animators started their journey in 1930. Ollie Johnston and Frank Thomas outlined them in the 1981 book The Illusion of Life: Disney Animation. Most of these principles are still taught in classrooms and followed by animators. With technology evolving, these principles are getting a new face. We now take you through these 12 principles of animation.

  1. Squash and Stretch:
    Using this principle of squash and stretch allows characters and objects to gain depth and flexibility. It entails changing an object’s shape to portray weight and motion. The best thing about this principle is that it makes the animated product more dynamic, whether a ball bounces or a humanoid hopping.
  2. Anticipation:
    By introducing small movements before the big action, anticipation prepares the viewer for it. It increases suspense and engages the audience in the narrative, making the following action more interesting. A character might, for instance, squat before leaping into the air to signal an impending jump.
  3. Staging:
    Staging is the skill of clearly and aesthetically displaying the animation. Animators may efficiently guide the audience’s attention and convey the story by carefully placing various elements. A clear setup makes it easier for the audience to follow the plot and reduces confusion.
  4. Straight Ahead Action and Pose-to-Pose:
    These are two methods for generating motion in animations that are distinct from one another.
    a. Straight-Ahead Action: In this technique, animators move from the beginning to the end of a scene frame by frame. This technique helps get an organic feeling that is perfect for the audience with dynamic behaviors.
    b. Pose-to-Pose: In this method, the in-between frames are filled in after important poses are scheduled at certain intervals.
  5. Follow Through and Overlapping:
    Animation professionals employ follow-through and overlapping action to give animations a more realistic, natural appearance. Follow-through is the continuance of motion after the main action has ended, which adds fluidity and realism. The independent movement of various sections of a figure or object that simulates weight and flexibility is called overlapping action.
  6. Slow In and Slow Out:
    The concept of Slow In and Slow Out, commonly referred to as “easing,” focuses on enhancing movement nuance. Characters or objects accelerate and decelerate smoothly rather than starting and stopping suddenly. This animation principle helps improve the animations’ impression of motion and weight.
  7. Arcs:
    Arcs help an animation flow naturally and smoothly. Whether the process involves hand gestures or a full-body motion, most human and animal movements are arc-shaped. Animators provide aesthetically appealing realism in their work by following arcs.
  8. Secondary Action:
    Supplemental motions that strengthen the main action and give characters or scenes more depth are secondary actions. For instance, a character’s hair and clothing may flap in the breeze as they walk, adding to the immersive experience.
  9. Timing:
    Regarding animation, the most important principle to follow is timing. It determines the tempo of the movement. The right timing can affect the tone of the animation product. While a slower pace might portray tension or drama, a faster speed may generate enthusiasm.
  10. Exaggeration:
    Exaggerating actions and emotions make them more expressive and interesting. It is a stylistic decision. It permits animators to go beyond the realm of possibility while keeping a level of plausibility.
  11. Solid Drawing:
    Solid sketching emphasizes the need to comprehend three-dimensional volumes and forms when creating two-dimensional characters. A solid foundation in classical drawing abilities is required to give people depth and dimension.
  12. Appeal:
    The appeal animation principle focuses majorly on creating aesthetically appealing and audience-relatable characters and animations. Animation professionals work on creating interesting characters with distinctive personalities that connect with viewers and give a new shape to the overall narrative.


Following these 12 principles of animation, help animators get the freedom to create something unique that brings in the audience’s attention.

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