The bible of the industry is the “Illusion of Life” by Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston.These 12 principle became the gospel according to the nine old men of animation that worked with Walt Disney in founding the industry that you see today.

1. Stretch and Squash

2. Anticipation


4.Straight Ahead Action and Pose to pose

5.Follow Through and Overlapping Action

6. Slow In and Slow Out

7. Arcs

8. Secondary Action

9. Timing

10. Exaggeration

11. Solid Drawing

12. Appeal


1This action gives the illusion of weight and volume to a character as it moves.Also stretch and squash is useful in animation dialogue and doing facial expression.How extreme the use of stretch and squash is, depends on what is required in animating the scene. Usually it’s broader in a short style of picture and subtler in a feature. It is used in all form of character animation from a bouncing ball to the body weight of a person walking. This is the most important element you will be required to master and will be used.


imagesThis movement prepare the audience for a major action the character is about to perform, such as, starting to run, jump or change expression. A dancer does not just leap off the floor. A back wards motion occurs before the forward action is executed. The backward motion is the anticipation. A comic effect can be done by not using anticipation after a series of gags that used anticipation such as a pitcher’s wind-up or a golfers back swing.Feature animation is often less broad than short animation unless a scene requires it to develop a character personality.


A pose or action should clearly communicate to the audience the attitude, mood, reaction or idea of the character as it relates to the story and continuity of the story line. Staging directs the audiences attention to the story or idea being told. Care must be taken in background design so it isn’t obscuring the animation or competing with it due to excess detail behind the animation. Background and animation should work together as a pictorial unit in a scene.


images (2)Straight ahead animation starts at the first drawing and works drawing to drawing to the end of a scene. You can lose size, volume, and proportions with this method, but it does have spontaneity and freshness.Fast, wild action scenes are done this way. Pose to Pose is more planned out and charted with key drawing done at intervals throughout the scene. An animator can do more scenes this way and concentrate on the planning of the animation. Many scenes use a bit of both methods of animation.


When the main body of the character stops all other parts continue to catch up to the main mass of the character, such as arms, long hair, clothing, coat tail or a dress, (these follow the path of action).Nothing stops all at once.This is follow through.Overlapping action is when the character changes direction while his clothes or hair continues forward.


slow-in_out-copyAs action starts, we have more drawing near the starting pose, one or two in the middle, and more drawings near the next pose. Fewer drawing make the action faster and more drawing make the action slower. Slow-ins and Slow-outs soften the action, making it more life-like. For a gag action, we may omit some slow-ins or Slow-out for shock appeal or the surprise element. This will give more snap to the scene.


images (1)All action, with few exceptions, follow an arc or slightly circular  path. This is especially true of the human figure and action of animals. Arcs give animation a more natural action and better flow. Think of natural movement in the terms of a pendulum swinging. All arm movement, head turns and even eye movement are executed on an arcs.


This action adds to and enriches the main action and adds more dimension to the character animation, supplementing and/or re-enforcing the main action.The secondary action is a few strong gestures of the arms working with the walk.Think of the walk as the primary action and arm swings, head bounce and all other actions of the body as secondary or supporting action.


Expertise in timing come best with experience and personal experimentation, using the trial and error method in refining technique. The basics are more drawing between pose slow and smooth the action.Fewer drawing make the action faster and crisper. Also, there is timing in the action of a character to establish mood, emotion, and reaction to another character or to a situation.


10 ExaggerationExaggeration is not extreme distortion of a drawing or extremely broad, violent action all the  time. It’s like a caricature of facial features, expressions  poses, attitudes and actions. Action traced from live action film can be accurate, but stiff and mechanical.Exaggeration in a walk or an eye movement or even a head turn will give your film more appeal.


The basic principle of drawing form, weight, volume solidity and the illusion of three dimension apply to animation as it does to academic drawing. The way you draw cartoons, you draw in the classical sense, using pencil sketches and drawing for reproduction of life.


A live performer has charisma. An animated character has appeal. Appealing animation does not mean just being cute and cuddly. All character have to have appeal whether  they are heroic, villainous, comic or cute. Appeal, as you will use it, includes an easy to read design, clear drawing, and personality development that will capture and involve the audiences interest.Like all forms of story telling, the feature has to appeal to the mind as well as to the eye.

These are the main and very important principle of animation.