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The 12 Principles of Animation were created by Walt Disney to teach junior animators how to animate for his studio. The 12 Principles are still widely used today and are used an adapted to all forms of animation, not just drawing or classical animation. 



Your storyboards MUST include 5 shots that will exemplify one of the following principles. Each shot must be separate, that is, for marking purposes you will submit the shot as an example for one of the following principles. There Principles in RED (Pose to Pose and Appeal) cannot be used as they are always used when you animate.

1. Squash & Stretch

Well-designed characters are made to be pliable, that is, they can be compacted or contracted into many different shapes depending on the character action and interaction with its environment. Rigid characters appear less lifelike. An excellent example of ‘Squash and Stretch’ is a bouncing rubber ball. Proper use of ‘Squash and Stretch’ will create the illusion that the object or character has weight and balance.  A related concept to Squash and Stretch is metamorphosis – an animated change of one character or object into another. A popular animated series to capitalize on this type of ‘Squash and Stretch’ is Transformers. Take a look at Animated Examples of Squash And Stretch​ before you start the assignment.
Ball bouncing, character jumping, character facial expression or anything that emphasizes an objects speed, momentum, weight or mass.

2. Anticipation

The great animator Bill Tytla said: "There are only 3 things in animation: Anticipation, action and reaction – these imply the rest. Learn to do these things well and you can animate well."  Anticipation sets the audience up for the main action; it foreshadows what will happen next. For instance: a character who is about to sprint will wind up and hold that pose before thrusting forward. It takes the average viewer a fifth of a second (6 frames) to refocus on the action. Therefore, a preliminary movement helps the audience catch up on what the character is trying to do. Anticipation is always in the opposite direction to where the main action is going to go.  For example: A character who is about to hit something moves first away, holds the pose, and then strikes/ To throw a ball, the character’s upper body and arm move backward before throwing forward. To jump, a character moves down into a crouched position first, holds and then jumps up.

Anything that prepares a character for an action. Eg: a punch would be preceded by a wind-up in the opposite direction. Same for: sprint, jump, facial expression, grabbing an item. Important to not distract with any other action.

3. Staging

Staging is the clear presentation of an idea. What is the appropriate camera angle, character pose, screen direction and composition for the scene? A popular method of checking proper staging is to imagine the character is a silhouette as it performs its actions. Can the audience still see what the character is doing if it were entirely black? For example, a character hammering a nail while facing the camera would be difficult to understand but the same action from a side point of view (profile) would make it really obvious what the character is doing.
Another important factor to consider in staging is depth. How can the main action be distinguished from the set and props? Popular methods include blurring the backgrounds, using colour desaturation, and centering the camera shot. 3D animation allows the animator to use depth of field to focus the audience’s attention.

Other factors to consider include the characters asymmetry, emotion and expression. Character arms and legs should not move parallel to each other and for best effect, should run along well defined arcs. Proper use of staging can set the right mood for any scene; use of lighting and camera work can create the desired emotional effect. The characters expression will also help stage the scene. For instance, a character’s expression will always change before a fast move. Take a look at examples of Staging here.​

Any animated clip is staged. That is, the artist has chosen to show the animation from that viewpoint. The trick is to choose an angle that is compositionally sound and pleasing for the audience.

4. Straight Ahead, Pose To Pose

Straight Ahead and Pose to Pose Animation: there are really two ways of animating, the first is ‘Pose to Pose’ where you create the first image and then the last image and then animate the necessary images inbetween (called tweening in many computer animation programs). ‘Pose to Pose’ provides the artist with the end in mind, that is, what the animated character should be like when it finishes its action. ‘Pose to Pose’ is very popular in classical animation and 3D animation.  The other method of animating is by creating each image one after another and is referred to as ‘Straight Ahead Animating.’ This method is popular in claymation and cut-out animation. Take a look at examples of Pose To Pose​ before you start the assignment.

Pose to pose is the most common method of animating. However, straight ahead is sometimes used to draft an action.

5. ​Follow Through, Overlapping Action, Drag

Follow Through and Overlapping Action Follow through is an extension of the main action. For instance, the continuation of a golf swing after the ball contact (primary action). Follow through is also evident by a secondary appendage (tail, hair, long ears) falls a little behind and continues further than the main character movement. Overlapping action dictates that not all character body parts will start and end its movement on the same frame. Such non-overlapping motions tend to look robotic. Take a look at animated examples of Follow Through and Overlapping Action​ before you start the assignment.
Character hair, hat or cape, tail, arms that use Follow Through, Overlapping Action and Drag.

​6. Slow In, Slow Out

An important concept related to timing is ‘slow-in, slow-out’ which is also referred to as ‘ease-in, ease-out’ in computer animation. Many character movements involve a slow start to the action, quick middle and then slow end. A pendulum would have more inbetweens as it approaches the end of its arc and less in the middle; this would give the impression that it was slowing down at the ends.  Another important timing concept is the hold. The audience needs time to catch up with the action for a scene and also prepare for new action (anticipation). To do this, the animator stops the characters action in a pose, pauses the screen and then continues the action after a certain amount of time.  Take a look at Animated Examples of proper Timing​ and Slow In Slow Out​ before you start the assignment.

Character starting to walk or run, winding up, throwing, kicking, punching, etc. Almost all character action will use Slow In and Slow Out. 

7. Arc

When working in animation, it's best to stick with the laws of physics. Most objects follow an arc or a path when they're moving, and your animations should reflect that arc. For example, when you toss a ball into the air, it follows a natural arc as the effects of the Earth's gravity act upon it.

Throwing a ball, anything in flight really, character's walk cycle, swinging or winding up, head turn.

 8. Secondary Action & Cycles

Any action that is second to the primary action is considered a secondary action. For instance: a character walking (primary action) may swing his/her arms back and forth (secondary action). Secondary action can help create personality in characters. For instance, an uptight character may have a nervous twitch, a hard working character may grind his teeth while lifting. Look at some animated Examples of Secondary Action​ before you start the assignment.

Related to secondary action is cycles. Cycles provide the animator with a way to animate more with less drawing. Cycles such as a walk cycle, can be used over and over. Indeed, with the use of computer software, a cycle can be animated in one direction and then flipped to animate in the other direction.
A walk cycle, sneak cycle, run cycle. Any action that is repeated by a character.

9. Timing

Varying speed of motion can indicate different types and strengths of forces. Timing also demonstrates different attitudes. Turning one’s head very quickly implies a different motivation from doing so slowly. Fast walks can imply determination. Slow walks can imply depression. If animation is about movement then it is timing that distinguishes between one movement and another.  Timing is broken down into keyframes, the extreme positions of the action, and the in-betweens, the number of frames between the ‘keys.’ The more inbetweens there are, the slower the action.  
Show the meaning of an action with the speed of it. Anything that demonstrates a mastery of timing (should vary in the clip).

10. Exaggeration

Exaggeration is an image-development strategy used to over-emphasize a portion or aspect of an image. Character movement is more appealing when properly exaggerated. Unlike real life where a person who is trying to sneak away would try not to draw attention to his/her self, in animation, sneaking characters really look like they are trying to be sneaky! The more exaggerated the movement, the more entertaining and funny the screen action is. Take a look at Examples of Exaggeration​ before you start this assignment.

Anything that over-embellishes a characters motion to make it more interesting and apparent to the audience.

11. Solid Drawing (Volume, Weight and Balance)

A character’s balance and weight is important to convey to the audience as it makes the character more believable. The audience understands when a character is properly balanced; they will intuitively know when the character is about to fall. The gag in animation, of course, is when we violate this expectation, but this is the exception, not the rule. A character in a standing position will be fully erect. A character walking tends to tilt forward and a character running tilts forward even more.  Related to balance is the character’s weight. As the character moves so does his center of gravity. The characters hips and shoulders dip as the legs thrust forward making the movement more lifelike. Likewise, proper attention to character interaction with its environment is important. Lifting heavy objects requires considerable effort – in animation its important to exaggerate this weight. Proper attention to anticipation is also important as the character prepares to lift. Take a look at examples of Balance And Weight (sometimes referred to as solid drawing).

Anything that shows the character in 3D space. May also include a sense of weight and balance to the character.

12. Appeal

Your characters, objects, and the world in which they live need to appeal to the viewer. This includes having an easy-to-read design, solid drawing, and a personality. There is no formula for getting this right, but it starts with strong character development and being able to tell your story through the art of animation.

Use variety of shapes, use proportions, and keep it simple.

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