12 Basic Principles of Animation

Squash & Stretch

PIxar Intro

Adding squash and stretch techniques is essentially adding exaggerated movement to an animation.  The term “squash” is used as you  flatten the character or object to show that it is being being affect by its weight or gravity.  Furthermore, this is followed by a “stretch” where you  lengthen an object to show momentum in a certain direction.  The technique can also portray how rigid or soft an object is.

Note: You must try to retain the same volume in the animated object / character when applying this technique, to avoid it from appearing distorted. For example, if the object is squashed downwards, it must also be stretched outwards.



Anticipation within animation is about providing a visual clue in preparation of an action which is about to happen.

“If a character is about to walk forward, they might move back slightly” (digitaltutors.com)

When moving backwards slightly, this provides a cue to the audience that the character / object is about to move because in theory, they are building up momentum and makes the movement believable.  This technique gives the audience sufficient time to acknowledge what is about to happen which helps make the animation more appealing and funny.


Staging is all about setting the scene for your animation so the audience has a clear understanding of what is occurring.  This can be achieved my combining numerous elements:

  • Where the character / object is placed in the scene
  • Camera position
  • Colours used to help create atmosphere
  • The art style
  • Supporting elements in the foreground / background of the scene

There a countless ways in addition of the above, all of which should result in an animation that makes sense to the viewer.

Straight Ahead / Pose to Pose Animation

Straight ahead and pose-to-pose are the two techniques used when animating an object or character.


Straight ahead animation is the more linear approach achieved by drawing each frame in order in which it is occurring.  Whilst this method offers more for more spontaneous animations, it is often harder to control with the character or object changing scale or position.  This animation technique is usually used for unpredictable movements in things such as fire, smoke and water.


Pose-to-pose , also known as key-framing, is a process of planning out and creating the main poses throughout the animation, returning to it later to fill in the in-between movements.  This method can save the animator a lot of work as if an error is made at a stage within the animation, only the key frame would need to be corrected.  This technique is now more commonly used in 3D animation.

Note: Pose-to-pose can be further broken down into three stages:

  • Keys – Main poses (Beginning & End)
  • Extremes – Secondary movements
  • Breakdowns – The remaining in-between movements

Follow Through & Overlapping


In reality, movements do not just stop dead. Follow through is when parts of the object or character continue to move in a direction once it has came to a stop.  Elements such as appendages, limbs and clothing are most common for this effect,

Overlapping is moving elements at varying speeds and at different times, as it would occur in reality.

For example: A person who wants to wave would first move their shoulder, then raise their arm and elbow and complete the movement by adjusting and waving their hand.

Animators use these overlapping movements as they result in more realistic and fluid animations.

Slow in / Slow out

Naturally all moving objects accelerate at the beginning and decelerate when coming to a stop. Without this, movement becomes very unnatural or mechanical as they are set at a constant speed.

In terms of  2D animation, the closer the drawings are together the slower the animation, meaning the further apart the quicker and more fluid the animation. Therefore, using closer drawings at the beginning and end gives the effect of acceleration and deceleration.


In terms of 3D animation using software such as Maya, the same effect can be gained by adjusting the motion curves from linear to curved (spline).


Movement in real-life often occurs in curved motions, unless relating to anything mechanical. Creating animations which adhere to arcs is a technique used to achieve more fluid and natural motion.

Secondary Action

8. this is secondary action principle, the toy's arms from he body out, this motion showing the secondary action principle, it is traditional animation,  this 3D animation was made by computer generated.

These are actions will help support and emphasise the main animation, making it clearer to the audience what exactly is going on.  These secondary elements can often communicate the context of the main animation, portraying the characters mood and personality.


As touched upon in when talking about the “Slow in / Slow out” principle, timing is how the spacing of frames effects the speed of an animation, which in turn can effect the speed of the action in a scene.The timing of frames can also dictate the personality of a character or the nature of a movement.

For Example:

  • No in-betweens – The Character has been hit by a tremendous force. His head is nearly snapped off.

  • One – The Character has been hit by a brick, rolling pin, and frying pan.

  • Two – The Character has a nervous tic, a muscle spasm and an uncontrollable twitch.

  • Three – The Character is dodging a brick, rolling pin and frying pan.

  • Four – The Character is giving a crisp order, “Get going!” “Move it!”

  • Five – The Character is friendlier, “Over here.” “Come on-hurry!”

  • Six – The Character sees a good-looking girl, or the sports car he has always wanted.

  • Seven – The Character tries to get a better look at something.

  • Eight – The Character searches for the peanut butter on the kitchen shelf.

  • Nine – The Character appraises, considering thoughtfully.

  • Ten  – The Character stretches a sore muscle.

(Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston in their book “The Illusion of Life”.)


Solid Drawings




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