12 Principles of Animation & Character Design WIP

Disney’s Illusion of Life is where you will find all you need to know on the twelve principles of animation. When looking back on all I’ve learnt over the last semester, it was great to be able to bring it all together into the task of designing my own character. It namely had to be appealing and I feel this was one of the most challenging aspects of the project. Designing a character that would be fit for animating was also difficult. Firstly I will go through the principles and demonstrate my knowledge on each. I will then show my pain staking process of designing a mediocre character from imagination.

12p.jpg                                           Image Courtesy – teamspectacular.com

  1. Squash and Stretch

Screen Shot 2017-05-07 at 17.00.16.png

Squash and stretch was first used by Disney Studios to give the illusion of weight and volume to a subject. It is often seen in use for comical effect. Disney animators Ollie Johnston and Frank Thomas were amongst the first animators to utilise this effect in animation and since then is still used today to bring life and realism to the animation world.



2. Anticipation

Screen Shot 2017-05-07 at 17.12.17Screen Shot 2017-05-07 at 17.12.25

Anticipation prepares the audience for action whilst increasing the realism and furthermore by increasing the suspense which is always good. The audience is also left feeling assured in knowing that they are aware what the character is going to do next.  As Disney’s Illusion of Life states; “they must be prepared for the next movement and expect it before it actually occurs”.

3. Arcs


In real life humans and animals always move in arcs, unless one day we all become humanoid freaks trying to replicate their movements. These arc movements increase the realism of the subject’s action. The image above is taken from a great website that goes into detail; www.danterinaldidesign.com It states that arcs “are gestures or lines of action; they are what give your animation consistency and flow, whereas straight lines give power and emphasis.”

4. Ease in and Ease Out

This principle demonstrates how a subject may need time to slow down and speed up.  Drawings between two extreme poses provide the subject with greater realistic movement.  The video below goes into good detail on how this principle is used and why. Without it, timing in animation would look computerised and un-natural.


5. Appeal

Appeal is extremely important when designing a character. An appealing character needs to ooze connectivity with the audience, it needs to be recognisable and somewhat pleasing to the eye. I found this a very tough principle to reinforce in my personal character design. I had gone through a few ideas but getting the character to have some appeal is tough. Over-complication of design is something I struggled with, my use of basic shapes definitely needs more practise.


6. Timing

Timing is simple to understand, with more frames creating slower actions and fewer frames creating faster actions.


7. Solid Drawing
Screen Shot 2017-05-07 at 22.04.07

Solid drawing is having a good understanding of drawing in general, being able to draw an object that has weight, volume and balance. The Illusion of life speaks of how many animators  somewhere along the line end up drawing “twins” thus meaning a character/pose that is parallel on both sides. Also, if the drawing is solid and the animator has a good grasp of drawing skills, his drawing should give the illusion of being 3D. Knowledge of perspective would also come into play as foreshortening also gives more realistic and dynamic poses.

8. Exaggeration


This principle presents the physical features or elements of a character in an exaggerated form. A well executed exaggerated drawing would describe the pose/action more drastically by elongating that or puffing things out. An example would be
someone throwing their head back before a sneeze, although their chest would be extremely inflated and maybe the sneeze would be more forceful etc.

9. Pose to Pose

This works for highly emotional and dramatised scenes. Involves drawing a few key frames for each action, followed by filling in the intervals.

10. Staging


Communicates the primary mood, action or idea of a scene. Animators, Johnston and Thomas defined it as “the presentation of any idea so that it is completely and unmistakably clear”. Staging can also be described in terms of composition. Within a scene, everything must be leading the audiences eye to the object of importance.

11. Secondary Action

This reinforces, emphasises and supports the primary action of the character/object. It also provides scenes with more life and vitality, thus making things more interesting.

12. Follow Through

Refers to parts of the subject that continues to move after a completed action. For example, the movement of a hand after an object has been thrown. This follow through gives more of a realistic feel to a scene and without it, would look quite static and fake.



Pinterest. (2017). Tutorial 166 – Squash and Stretch | Nathan Aardvark on Patreon. [online] Available at: https://uk.pinterest.com/pin/238550111492986501/ [Accessed 7 May 2017].

Cartoonbrew.tumblr.com. (2017). Cartoon Brew-ED : Photo. [online] Available at: https://cartoonbrew.tumblr.com/image/85594112312 [Accessed 7 May 2017].

Minyos.its.rmit.edu.au. (2017). Pose to Pose Animation. [online] Available at: http://minyos.its.rmit.edu.au/aim/a_notes/anim_pose.html [Accessed 7 May 2017].

Principles of Animation: Arcs

CAWorld3. (2017). 12 Principle of Animation examples. [online] Available at: https://caworld3.wordpress.com/2013/04/21/12-principle-of-animation-examples/ [Accessed 7 May 2017].

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