Recovering The Classics – Famous 12 Principles Of Animation

No doubt, the personality of legendary Walt Disney is well-known all over the world. All of us were growing up while watching his studio’s masterpieces. Still, the cartoons by Disney Inc. are the example of perfection as classic ones so modern.

So the question, who created the 12 principles of animation has a simple and obvious answer –  Walt Disney, who else! But it is wrong, actually.

These rules were formed by Disney animators in the 1930s. Thanks to 12 principles of animation, the practice of animation creation has evolved from a timid child into real art. Technologies are changing and improving, the computer has confidently entered the production process of animated films, but these principles remain unchanged and serve as a guide for animators around the world.

Was it Disney himself, creating animation principles?

Despite those rules are commonly known as “Disney’s”, the guys, who really cooperated with the creation and formulating those guidelines were two coryphaei of Disney production studio – Frank Thomas and Olly Johnston.  They recovered the tips to make your process of animation making efficient and comfortable both for the master and the consumer. Both of them had had huge experience and had worked for Disney Studio quite for a lifetime, and the principles of animation were their vital clue for the apprentices in cartoon making and animation in its modern form included to their book.

What are the principles of animation by Thomas & Johnston?

Let’s look through their animation principles with examples to understand those 12 animation rules clearly.

  • Compression and stretching – the essence of the reception is to give the stature “rubber” qualities: the living body is always compressed and stretched while moving, in animated films these deformations are served in a hypertrophied form. The main rule, however, is that the volume of the character’s body remains the same all the time – with the exception of absolutely radical cases.
  • Staging: Poses and facial expressions (or muzzles) should be extremely simple and humanly expressive, even hyper-expressive. The principle of theatricality is based on the main rule of the theatre, where, as you know, you cannot make out fine lines from the back rows. The camera must be positioned so that the viewer sees all the movements of the character, and the clothing should not hide his movements.
  • Anticipation or refusal: in real life, before performing any action, a person usually has to do preparatory movements – for example, before jumping, it is desirable for a person to sit down, or take a hand back before throwing, or wipe for a blow. A transition from pose to pose: before the detailed frame-by-frame drawing of the character, the movements are pre-arranged: the artist draws the main points and places the character on the stage, and only then the assistants draw all the frames of the movement. This approach provides improved performance and the absence of random blunders.
  • Follow through and overlapping actions: the movement should never stop. Even if the figure is mostly static, its minor elements must be constantly in motion, moreover, the artist must constantly keep in mind the “body hierarchy. This hierarchy allows you to link all the movements of the character in a separate chain and rigidly describe the rules by which he moves.

  • Slow in & Slow Out. Every move accelerates and slows down. This principle is directly related to the 4th principle: developing the expressive poses, the artist puts all his skill, therefore, these moments should be emphasized. To do this, assistants finish the movements in such a way that most of the frames are next to the key postures: the character as if slips from one layout to another, slowly leaving the pose and slowing down from the other.
  • Movement in arcs: Living organisms always move along arcuate paths (it is only a drunken snake that crawls strictly in a straight line). Sometimes it seems that during sharp movements this principle is not respected since movements go in a straight line.
  • Secondary Actions – to emphasize expressiveness and emotionality, and therefore they are extremely widespread in animation.
  • Timing: The weight of the character is made up of such factors as movement speed and inertia. When calculating the time takes into account the weight, inertia, volume and emotional state of the hero. The mood is also transmitted by the speed of movement of the character. So the depressed character moves very sluggishly, and the inspired one moves quite energetically.
  • Exaggeration or “caricature realism” is exactly what was said above. Essential realism in animation does not work, but the hypertrophy of all elements is very much the same. The sad character should look darker than a cloud, the character happy – shine and glow like a Christmas tree, an angry character should look like a steam boiler, which is about to jerk.
  • Solid Drawing: the word drawing refers to traditional whiteboard animation. In the case of 3D graphics, we are talking about the expressiveness of the character. The poses of the hero convey his mood, intentions. Here, too, it is worth mentioning the possibility of using a silhouette. The expressiveness of the character’s behavior and poses convey to the viewer the overall mood of the scene.
  • Delight, Happiness, Appeal: If the character is boring to watch, then the whole movie will be boring. Even ugliness can be made in some way attractive (at least attracting attention), and vice versa – an attractive outwardly character can be turned into a real devil by relatively simple means. Behind an example, it is not necessary to go far: “Beauty and the Beast” cartoon. The terrible “monster”, laid out at once from several animals, as a result, turns out to be more than sympathetic, while the handsome Gaston from the very first moment of his appearance arouses suspicions that he is an inveterate bastard. The other example – Mr. Grew from the Despicable Me cartoon. Certainly, he is a villain! But an attractive villain. And because of this, viewers empathize with him and unwittingly become accomplices in his pranks.

Of course, it is simply impossible to describe all 12 principles in one article in detail. Though getting a general idea about them is to make a big step towards achieving professionalism in the field of animation

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