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Basic Principles of Animation

Principles of Animation

Written by the grandfathers of animation, Walt Disney, master animators Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston, &qout;Illusion of Life&qout; known as the holy book of animation. The 12 basic animation principles that they talk about in their book titled, are the common ground rules for all animation techniques. Compliance with these rules is essential for a successful and convincing animation. These rules have emerged as a result of years of analysis of the movement so that the characters portrayed on the screen are meaningful to the audience. The same rules apply for a character from the simplest ball bouncing to dozens of arms and legs. These rules are:

Squash and stretch

The animation character's contact with hard surfaces such as a soft ball while moving, or shrinking in the face of a strong force and as a result, stretching by trying to maintain its volume, gives the character a feeling of weight and volume. Boneless parts of our body, such as the abdomen, cheeks, hips, move in this way. The rate of this is higher in cartoon characters, less in realistic characters.

Preparing for Action

Preparing for the action is the action done a certain amount in the opposite direction of the main movement.  It is the character's preparation for the rapid movement, just like a bow. For example, if he is going to punch, he should open his arm backwards first, and the golfer should bring the club backwards first. It's like bending the legs toward the ground first to jump. The amount may vary depending on the size of the movement.


In order for the story told to the audience to be as efficient and understandable as possible, the movement of the character should be perceived in the best way by the audience. For this, camera angles that show the movement in the best way are used. In addition, there should be no movements in the background that will divide the perception of the audience, and graphics that will interfere with the colors and lines of the character should be avoided. In short, animation should be presented as beautiful, understandable and ostentatious as possible.

Straight ahead and Pose to pose animation

Two different methods are generally used for drawing animation. In the end-to-end drawing method, the movement of the character is drawn sequentially from the first frame to the last frame. It is not clear where the drawing will end up in the final frame, but this uncertainty allows for creative and interesting movements to emerge. The movement is more fluid and the action is very powerful. The disadvantage is that it is not suitable for group work. It is more difficult from pose to pose, and often requires new drawing to make changes.

Pose-to-pose animation, by drawing certain main poses with a planned movement. Next is to make transition animations between these poses. This is a more planned approach, because the beginning, end and middle of the movement are clear. It is also suitable for group work. A fast animation production is provided by drawing the main poses by the master animator intermediate transition frames by the apprentices. 3D computer animation programs work with this pose-to-pose animation principle.
Continuation and overlapping of movement.

The fact that the character acts in accordance with the laws of physics makes it look more realistic and believable. If the main body of an object with many interconnected parts such as the continuation of the movement, such as the character, stops while in motion, it is meant that the other joints continue the movement a little longer and stop at a later moment. For example, when the character suddenly stops while running, his tail, long ears, head and arms do not stop at the same time. Overlap of motion refers to shifts in the timing of the movements of the limbs during motion. For example, when the character changes direction, his clothes, hair, bag etc. It cannot change direction at once. They go in the old direction for a short time and start to change direction at a different time.

Acceleration and Deceleration. (Slow in, Slow out)

Everything around us moves according to the laws of physics while moving, we get used to these motion dynamics throughout our lives and we expect everything that moves to move in this way, it is very natural for animation to be done in accordance with these rules in order to look realistic and satisfying. Every object with mass accelerates at a certain time and slows down at a certain time. No object can speed up or slow down at once, so it is necessary to consider this rule in animation as well.

Circular Motion (Arcs)

All living things that move are actually made up of interconnected limbs. These limbs are usually connected to each other and to the main body by joints, which are part of the skeletal system. As a natural consequence of this articulated joint, the limbs make a circular motion around the articulation point. All kinds of character animation should be done with these curved lines so that the animation looks natural, fluent and beautiful.

Support Action (Secondary Action )

Adding a supporting motion over the main action animation of the character adds depth to the character and makes it look more engaging. For example, movements such as making a balloon by inflating the gum in the mouth of the character while walking, wiping the sweat from his forehead while talking. These make the character act like the people we see around us, making the character out of a picture and enriching the animation.


Correct timing is perhaps the most important of all animation rules. When an object moves against a force and how much it moves depends on the mass of the object and the magnitude of the force. In animation, it is timing that controls this mass. It takes a long time for a heavy mass to accelerate. During this time, a light mass should have a much different velocity, meaning it has moved more. Timing is the main factor in our perception of the weight and size of objects.


In character animation, exaggeration is the drawing or modeling of the character's face or body in an exaggerated form to support the story. For example, a cat's eyes popping out when its head is hit with a sledgehammer, or a character's tongue rolling out of his mouth in the movie Mask is a good example.

Dimensional Drawing (Solid Drawing)

Dimensional drawing is more applicable to line animation. It is meant that the drawn character has depth and that it is drawn in 3D. Its character is to be designed in such a way that it can rotate around the drawing plane as if it were a real object. Some cartoon characters can't do this. In 3D animation and Frame-by-Frame animation, they do this automatically because characters and objects are already dimensional.

Charm (Appeal)

Just as real actors have charisma, animated characters must have charm. This is not meant to have a cute appearance. The character should have a physical structure that is interesting to watch, easy-to-understand expressions, and features that will make the viewer want to watch himself more. Tim Burton's characters are a good example of this.

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