12 Principles of Animation

For this assignment we had to research each of the 12 Principles of Animation and show an understanding of each.

They were designed by some of the masters of animation and explained by Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston in ‘The Illusion of Life: Disney Animation’. They are viewed as the ultimate guide to animation and to creating realistic and appealing character movements. You do not have to memorise these principles to a tee you just have to have a good understanding of how they relate to your animations and be able to apply them to all animations, whether 2D or 3D.

This playlist played a key part in helping me understand the 12 Principles along with ‘The Illusion of Life: Disney Aniamtion’ and ‘The Animators Survival Kit’. While the videos simplified the 12 Principles for me, they also allowed me to process the information that was presented to me in the two books in a more visual manner which really helped me as I am a very visual learner.

1.Squash and Stretch

Squash and Stretch is what gives an object or character mass. It gives the object weight and flexibilty. When utilized correctly it can give more appeal to an object as it moves more realistically. Squash and Stretch can also be used to give exaggeration to an object as its movements may need to be exaggerated in order to show the full extent of the emotion or impact. The best way to practice this, is to draw a half filled sack of flour.


Anticipation is used to set an audience up for an action that is to come. An audience watching an animated film needs to be able to clearly see what the character is doing to avoid restlessness. It can also be used to give power and realism to an action, such as a juming or thorwing action


Staging is important as it is ‘the presentation of an idea so that it is completely and unmistakably clear’. You want to be able to control what the audience is seeing and where their attention is focused. If you want them to focus on a facial expression, you wouldn’t use a long shot. Another thing is to only focus on one thing at a time, if too many actions happen simultaneously the audience will not know where to look and become confused.

4.Straight Ahead Action and Pose to Pose

There are two main ways of aniamting objects and chracters. The most cmmonly used is pose to pose, where you draw the key frames and then fill out the inbetweens. This can save you a lot of work as you are in control of where the charcater ends. Straight ahead action is when you draw one frame after another, however this can lead to many problems such as the character ending up a different size or not reaching their ending mark. Due to this straight ahead animation is more useful for unpredicatble animations such as fire.

5.Follow Through and Overlapping Action

Follow through and overlapping action are also related to another techniques called Drag. However they are all essentially different parts of the same prinicple. Follow through is the idea that appendages of the object will continue to move after the main object has come to a halt, overlapping action is the offset between the main body and its appendages, whilst drag is the action of delaying the apendages from moving with the main body.

6.Slow In and Slow Out

In order to achieve a life-like motion, all moving objects and characters must start out slow, gain momentum and slow down into the finishing pose. This gives the movement and added realism as without it the movement is a constant speed and very mechanical.


Most living creatures and naturally moving objects will follow a circular movement or an arc. If the object does not follow an arc, the movement will look stiff and mechanical. This helps give movements character and personality.

8.Secondary Action

‘Gestures that support the main action to add more dimension to the character animation’. The secondary action supports the main action and adds personality to the movement, such as a character looking around embarassed whilst wringing their hands together to show thier anxiety at being placed in the situation. The secondary action of wringing their hands does not take over the main focus which their flustered head movements but adds to the audience’s undertsanidng of the discomfort which they are in at being placed in that situation.

9. Timing

Is all to do with the inbetween frames between main key frames. If a character’s head is moving from one place to another, no inbetweens suggest he has been hit with a tremendous force causing his head to snap forward, whilst ten inbetweens can mean he is cautiously searching his surroundings. The timing of a scene allows the hcharacter to move within the laws of physics.


Exaggeration is used to add realism to an action as ridiculous as that sounds. When a movement is exaggerated in animation it gives the movement more appeal and more character whilst simultaneously making the movement more convincing. If a character is jumoing in shock, the frame used to show the peak of his jump may be strecthed beyond realistic, but the frame is so quick due to timing, it makes the action look more realistic.

11.Solid Drawing

Solid drawing is about being able to give a character depth, weight and personality, thorugh his proportions and his posing. A very important part of this is using perspective and solid shapes in the drawing in order to give the character mor personality. This can also be applied in 3D to avoid twinnning when posing a character.


The tricky thing about appeal is that everyone has a different sense of what appeals to them. So appeal does not necesarily mean good looking, more interesting and charismatic to look at. This can be done be exaggerating proportions of a character in order to drive across their personality. A cute character generally has a larger head and eyes with a smaller body in order to emphasise how petite and adorable they are, whist a jock character may have a puffed up chest and broad shoulders, but smal legs and narrow forehead to show that he has a massive ego and little brains.

When  I was designing my character for animation ased on the principle of appeal I started out using a few base shapes and adding silhouettes on top to explore waht was appealing to me personally.

Originally I believed that I would be drawn to the naturally curvy silhouette. I found characters such as Jessica Rabbit, Betty Boop and Red to be more visually appealing to me. I adore the way that they are overly sexual, yet it is obvious from their posing that they don’t care much for being treated as sexual object. I loved how confident they appeared and their pin up aesthetic.

However, when I drew the silhouette for myself I found it rather bland. I surprised myself by being more attarcted to the broad shouldered, big bellied, rectangular silhouette I had drawn. In my mind this silhouette was softer and friendly, yet bulky and gave a protective aura. I then researched similar characters and found myself looking at the likes of Maui and Hunk. Both characters, gave off the strong yet friendly vibe I was going for with my character and this appealed to me greatly. I also took inspirtion from the body types of male Hula dancers and the characters from Lilo and Stitch.

After life drawing last week I was proud of myself for having designed a character of a different ethinicity whilst still remaining respectful to the culture of the people whom my character is a part of, as well as representing a different silhouette.

Nahele Clean Up
Nahele Clean Up

I named my character Nahele as it is Hawaian for ‘Forest’, although Nahele is very obviously from a coastal environment, the forest gives off a protective mothering aura which is what I wanted my character to exude.

Normal Garb
Hula Garb

I explored the differenece between drawing for animation and drawing for illustartion by placing him in two different outfits. Ultimately I decided on the more simple of the two with a tank top to cover his tattoo as it was too detailed for every frame of animation. I designed his tattoo myself and you can read what it symbolises here.

I decided to look at solid drawing with my character. I wanted to challenge myself as I am aware that perspective is not my strong suit. It was also one of my first times attmepting to draw a heavier character. This allowed me to explore giving him weight by using solid shapes. Overall, I don’t think I did too badly, I think I managed to capture his calm nature yet heavy structure. I also choose a pose which alluded to him being a hula dancer. I think that it fits well with his character for him to practice Hula as it comes from the training to be a warrior and my character is calm yet protective.


I do feel that I messed up the left foot a small bit, however I was trying to show the point of balance which we had learnt about in previous life drawing classes.

Next I did a series of drawings revolving around the three principles of squash and stretch, anticipation and follow through and overlapping actions. I wanted to show thatn not only do I understand what these principles are meant to do I wanted to show them working together in a series of drawings.

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In the first image he crouched, squashed like a spring in anticipation for his next action. The next frame shows him beginning to jump and his centre of balance shifting in anticipation to support his weight. The third frame shows strecth but also drag as his braid and shirt are still being pulled down by gravity. The fourth frame shows his anticipation to land by having his centre of balance begin to shift as his foot comes down, this frame also shows the overlap in his actions as his shirt and braid drag behind the rest of his body. Finally, the last frame shows his braid and shirt falling into place as his body returns to a more neutral position.

I feel hat I demonstrated those three principles rather well, although I am conecerned that as the frames progressed my solid drawing became less solid.

Overall, I feel like this assignment was beneficial, I can see how the techniques I have learnt in life drawing during class can be transferred over to the 12 principles of animation but also how understanding the 12 principles of animation is beneficial to my own understanding of drawing and how it can help me improve my life drawing.


“Dsource Ekalpa India”. YouTube. N.p., 2017. Web. 15 May 2017.

Gardam, Tansy. “Looking From The Outside In – Gender Representation In Animation”. 4:3. N.p., 2017. Web. 15 May 2017.

“Hunk Voltron”. Pinterest. N.p., 2017. Web. 15 May 2017.

“Jessica Rabbit”. Disney Wiki. N.p., 2017. Web. 15 May 2017.

“Maui”. Disney Wiki. N.p., 2017. Web. 15 May 2017.

Pepi, Lorelei. “The Politics Of Representation | Animationstudies 2.0”. Blog.animationstudies.org. N.p., 2017. Web. 15 May 2017.

Thomas, Frank, and Ollie Johnston. The Illusion Of Life: Disney Animation. 1st ed. Abbeville Press, 1981. Print.

“Who Was The Real Betty Boop? These Women Inspired The Classic Animated Character”. Tech Times. N.p., 2017. Web. 15 May 2017.

Williams, Richard. The Animator’s Survival Kit. 1st ed. London: Faber and Faber, 2009. Print.

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