Animation Principles

When making an animation film, there are some basic principles which could help you make your film more efficients.


Anticipation is about finding how to prepare the viewer for an action that about to happen. Between a character who is standing, and a running character, an intermediate action that will soften the transition between the two character states. A backswing, a backward movement, a particular position which announces what is about to happen. It is "the action before the action." Anticipation is present in almost all the actions and certainly in all major actions.


Most movements follow a circular arc trajectory: whether it’s the movement of hands or feet during a walking cycle of a character, or the head also (which goes up or down depending on the high or low position of the character in his walking cycle), the arms follow a path comparable to the pendulum of a clock, always in a circular arc. Always remember to make movements along the curves, not straight lines, except for very specific cases such as mechanical movements, robotics, etc ...


These are caricature actions. The movements of objects or characters, facial features, exaggerate! In this way you render the emotions and more noticeable and bring more realism and interest. It may seem paradoxical to have to exaggerate to get a more realistic look. Yet in animation, it's one of the secrets to breathe some more life into your projects. All the same it should be too abused, for fear of doing something that becomes too theatrical (unless it is the desired effect).

Pose to Pose:

First we decided the most important drawings, drawings that tell, keys, and the pose. The main animator draws the key frames, his assistant will handle drawing the frames according to the image interval defined by the facilitator. This method provides more control volumes and proportions and a better decomposition of movement. The main presenter can work more quickly.

Secondary action:

These are the actions that will amplify the main intention. On a walk cycle of a character angry, the body will be leaning forward, head first, energetic and determined movements. You can ad more dimension to this movement by creating energetic movements with the arms, and if your character speaks or shouts at the same time, you can also intensify these head movements according to what he says. Make him do something suddenly, punch a wall. All those little things that bring you out of a basic cycle to a real attitude and your character will come to life.

Slow in & slow out:

The method involves slowing near the end positions. When you start your car, you're not instantly at 50 km / h, there is an acceleration phase, and in the same way, slowing down before stopping the vehicle. And it is the same for almost all objects and people around us. Every action begins with an acceleration (more or less pronounced) and ends in slow motion. And if you want your animation projects have a bit more depth and realism, it’s something you should always consider to render your film even more attractive. Basically this mean that we need more images at the start and at the end image of the movement (more pictures = slower action) and fewer images to in the middle of the action, or for quick actions.

Squash & stretch:

Squash & Stretch derives from principles of physics: an object lengthens according to its acceleration axis and contracts when it meets resistance. The example most often used to illustrate this principle is that of a rubber ball: a ball flattens when it hits the ground, and stretches again when it bounces but the volume the ball remains constant. Similarly, to accentuate the impression of weight of a character that is walking, it may be wise to proceed in the same way by distorting certain volumes of the body. You can emphasise these deformations to give a more "cartoony" aspect, all the same trying to keep the same volume.


The goal is to focus on the basics, using all aspects of filmmaking. The use of sound effects, music, close-ups, layouts, etc ..., lighting, costumes and sets, the speed of a sequence of shots, everything must be used wisely to bring a maximum of elements to the viewer. We must not lose the viewer in a huge amount of information, but use what it takes to create a context and recreate an atmosphere or an emotion. Do not concentrate too much on secondary elements, but do everything to focus the viewer on the essentials.

Straight ahead:

It is simply to draw a picture after another, like a child drawing in the corners of his book, and the numbers are put at the end. It is more difficult with this method to keep the volumes and proportions of objects or animated characters, but it can be more effective in action scenes because it allows for more fluid and spontaneous movements


Nothing obliges us to use the real time. We could make our character move really fast to create frantic action in a humorous way, for example, or move very slowly to give an impression of beauty and dignity. The more intermediate drawing you put between between two poses creates a slower, more fluid action. Fewer intermediate drawing between two poses are creating a faster and more dynamic action. That's the basics of timing, but you can go a step further by varying the pace of action in a scene. Similarly when two animated characters interact with each other to properly restore the emotions of the dialogue, we must also control the timing ... Skip from joy to anger at the right time to react to a replica, all that is calculated by number of images ... Analyse movies, break down the emotions of the actors to understand the timing.