animation principles

Hey folks, Paul here for MOTION MONDAY! Last week I posted some bouncing balls, and this week I’ve got some do’s and don’ts for animating them.

The example above (not perfect, but good enough for government work) shows that bounces should travel in arcs. This is because:

  • Change of direction at the apex is gradual, making a curve.
  • Change of direction at the impact is sudden, making an angle.

Let’s see what happens if we use too many angles:

If every change of direction is angular, there are no arcs; it looks like the balls are hitting an invisible bumper in the air.

Now, let’s see what happens if we use too many curves:

If every change of direction is curvy, we lose the sense of impact; it looks like the balls are fish jumping in and out of water.

Arcs are a major part of Disney’s 12 Principles, but that doesn’t mean “always use an arc for every motion.” It’s important to know when to use arcs, and when to use angles instead.

For anyone learning to animate, I hope that’s helpful, and stay tuned for more!


Disney’s Twelve Basic Principles of Animation claims that the most important principle of animation is squash and stretch. In essence, squash and stretch is there to give more exaggerated movement to characters or objects. It is quite literally, the squashing and stretching of objects. Squash and Stretch can be used to show more force on impact or even to help show anticipation as well as show acceleration. It’s a principle that can be found in every animation ranging from the stylised to the realistic. It helps make animations feel more natural and appealing, and squash and stretch is actually an integral part of reality.


so i laid awake last night uncontrollably imagining a whole AU about characters arguing the benefits of different animation methods and styles and how they convey or break reality and how it appeals to audiences and how artists put their soul into their work (sometimes literally) and i’m an idiot

Hey folks, Paul here for MOTION MONDAY!

Today’s topic is anticipation, another one of Disney’s 12 Principles. Whenever a character takes an action, believability goes up if there’s a slight movement in the opposite direction beforehand.

These GIFs are adapted from previous Motion Mondays. Here they are with and without anticipation…

Brunhilde and Baby Thundercluck:
(Originally part of this post on timing)

Big Ol’ Thundercluck Hop:
(Originally part of this post for the Fourth of July)

It’s a simple touch that adds a lot of life, but I see a lot of animators leave it out. If you work on animation of your own, be sure to keep anticipation in mind!

Thanks for watching, and be sure to join us again… for the next MOTION MONDAY!

                            THE 5 PRINCIPLES OF REIKI
                        Just for today, do not be angry
                                 Just for today, do not worry
                   Just for today, be grateful
                              Just for today, work hard
                                       Just for today, be kind to others.
                                              (simple animation by me)

I know everyone talks about the 12 principles of animation but what’s more important when doing an animation exercise is how to tell a story through a character.

Story is king and if your character isn’t helping it progress, not even the sleekest animation matters.

Don’t think about animation excercise as “ACTIONS” but “CHARACTER PERFORMANCES”.

Hey folks, Paul here for MOTION MONDAY!

Today’s topic, “Slow-In/Slow-Out,” is another one of Disney’s 12 Principles. The idea is that any time something gets into or out of a position, it looks smoother if the change of speed happens gradually rather than abruptly.

Here’s a ball moving side-to-side:

Be sure to note how each motion stops and changes direction, and whether those changes are smooth or abrupt. Remember:

  • Frames closer together = slower motion
  • Frames further apart = faster motion
  • Frames equally spaced = one-speed-only motion

When the ball only moves at one constant speed, the stops and starts all feel abrupt. When the ball speeds up and slows down, the changes of direction can feel smoother.

Once you understand the principle, you can get varied results by experimenting with when and how much to use it. Here’s Thundercluck moving his head…

With equal smoothness on both sides of the motion:

And again with more smoothness on the pull-back,
and more speed on the pump:

Notice how the second variation has a different attitude!

Thundercluck fans might also notice… he’s missing his waddles!
Next week we’ll add those waddles to demo another principle:
“Follow-Through and Overlapping Action.”

Be sure to check it out… on the next MOTION MONDAY!

The Principles of Animation: Timing & Spacing

In honor of Walt Disney’s birthday, we thought we’d commemorate with some tips for making your very own animation at home! As it turns out, we’re a little bit enthusiastic about animation here at TED-Ed. 

For an object to appear in motion, it necessarily has to change in position over time. If time passes and no change in position occurs, the object will appear to be still. This relationship between the passage of time and the amount of change that occurs in that time is at the heart of every time-based art form, be it music, dance, or motion pictures. Manipulating the speed and amount of change between the frames is the secret alchemy that gives animation the ability to convey the illusion of life. 

In animation, there are two fundamental principles we use to do this: timing and spacing. To illustrate the relationship between them, we’ll use a timeless example: the bouncing ball. One way to think about timing is that it’s the speed, or tempo, at which an action takes place. We determine the speed of an action by how many pictures, or frames, it takes to happen. The more frames something takes to happen, the more time it spends on screen, so the slower the action will be. The fewer frames something takes to happen, the less screen time it takes, which gives us faster action. 

So, here’s a bouncing ball, bouncing up and down with a simple cycle of drawings. Let’s say it takes about a second to hit the ground and come back up again. This is our timing. Our spacing is where we position the circle in the frames between point A and point B. If we were to move our ball in evenly-spaced increments, we’d get something like the ball on the right. It’s not really telling us anything about itself. Is it a bouncing ball or a circle on an elevator?When a ball bounces in real life, following each impact with the ground, the ball’s upward momentum is eventually overcome by gravity. This happens at the peak of each arc. As things change direction, the motion is slowest. We see here the successive positions of the ball are close together. The ball on the left, then, speeds up as it falls, and is at its fastest when it’s approaching and hitting the ground. We can see here each position is further apart. The change in position between frames is the spacing. The smaller the change, the slower the action will appear. The greater the change, the faster it will appear. For an action to decelerate, each change in position must be less than the change before it. Likewise, for an action to speed up, or accelerate, each successive change must be greater. Simply by adjusting the spacing, we’ve succeeded in suggesting the forces of momentum and gravity at play and achieved a much more realistic motion. Same timing but different spacing gives us vastly different results.

Animation is a time-based art form. It may incorporate the aesthetic elements of other graphic arts, like illustration or painting, but what sets animation apart is that, here, what you see is less important that what you don’t see. An object’s superficial appearance only tells us so much about itself. It’s only when it’s in motion that we really understand its nature.

From the TED-Ed Lesson Animation basics: The art of timing and spacing - TED-Ed

Animation by TED-Ed

As an animator I’m always trying to find a way to put life into my poses. It doesn’t matter if it’s 2d, 3d, a character running, or even standing still. Some how I need to make the pose feel like it’s alive.

I’ve found over the years if I just shift a characters weight towards one foot I can make a dull pose into an active pose.

On Slow-in & Slow-out-

In a way, slow-in & slow-out is part of the larger ‘timing’ principle, placing attention to the exhilaration and deceleration of movement.  While simple in nature, it is often overlooked especially at the earlier stages of learning to animate.  Same to the early days of animation, the spacing of drawings tend to be in equal increment, resulting in unnatural one-speed movement from start to stop.

In movement dynamics, a mass takes time to pick up speed and same to slowing down.  It is an interaction of cause and effect between force and form.

From a physical outlook, slow-in & slow-out yield information to the strength of force and gravity.  And from a deeper sense, it is an important component to performance. It brings grace to movement, carrying emotional info through the control of exhilarating and decelerating duration.  Imagine a single musical note is strike on a piano. The way a note lingers and fades away is rooted in the force that strikes it.  

It is good to keep in mind to vary and contrast the starting in relation to the stopping speed.  For example, if the action is slow to exhilarate then good to have a quicker decelerate (instead of same ratios to starting and stopping).

Most critically, slow-in & slow-out has to stay true to reflect the interplay of physical forces or its expressiveness would be hollowed.  

Animation... Tips?

Someone asked about this a little while ago (on a tumblr msg), and I’ve been chewing on it.  I want to say first that I’m not an instructor, and I’m not super good at explaining things.  If you want some really good animation resources I highly recommend these two books:

Cartoon Animation - Preston Blair
The Animator’s Survival Kit - Richard Williams

They are both very good (and they’re on amazon for way less than I bought them for!) , but if you can only get one, and you have no animation experience, I suggest the second. It’s absolutely huge and has a very detailed explanations and diagrams for basically everything you could think of, starting from the very basic of animation principles.  

Soooo animation tips? I guess the first and most important thing I learned when I went to school, is that more drawings don’t necessarily make better animations.  I always thought that was basically it.  The difference between beautiful feature films, and not so great Saturday morning cartoons? More drawings.  Right? That might be part of it, that’s what makes it smoother, but it’s not the secret.  The most important parts of making an animation look good are:

1. poses.
2. timing.

In other words, what you draw and how you get there: They should be interesting! Spending time on that is more important than spending time on making lots of frames. 

Now…. I started writing up a bunch of stuff about keyframes, breakdowns, squash and stretch…. and it’s just this giant rabbit hole of explanations.  And I’m sure there are a lot of YouTube videos that already exist and are great for all of those things.  So… short version:  are you making short silly GIFs?  Then you want to see how few frames you can get away with and still have it look okay.  If you put your poses too far apart, they will look like your character is teleporting. If you make them too similar and / or close together, it will be boring.

This is 5 frames:

lil unicorn guy: 5 frames is the minimum for a “boiling line” that looks good (the kind of line style that you see in Ed, Edd n Eddy, for example). The heart and the eye are wobbling around just enough to be interesting, and the tail is the one piece that’s really moving.  If the whole drawing was done with a boiling line, it would probably look better, but that is so much more work and this looks okay!

This is 2 frames:

cutiefly toot toot: the body moves a little bit (but doesn’t change), the wings move a bit more, and the feet don’t move at all, they’re like an anchor.  it’s only two frames! but it looks okay too.

This is 27 frames (but don’t freak out):

hugs wolves: so the bodies don’t move. pink tail: 8 frames.  purple tail: 9 frames. heart: 5 frames.  the moving parts all move a little bit differently in terms of distance and frame count. They don’t start and stop exactly the same time. That variation makes it interesting. But when you break it down, there aren’t actually that many different drawings to it.

TL;DR: Don’t move everything the same amount. Variety is interesting! See how few drawings you can get away with. Or not! If you don’t want to. And most importantly, just make stuff, even if you don’t think it looks good.


A group of friends and I were chatting the other day about our “AH HA” moments. A shot where something clicked. I can clearly point out a few of these in my career, but this one comes to mind first. I was STRUGGLING with CG, big time. In fact before getting to Disney I had decided to give it up and try my hand at storyboarding. Then I was accepted into Talent Development as a CG Animator and decided to give it one last shot. I spent 6 months in Tal Dev and there were some clicks but I still had a hard time using the graph and a lot of the other tools. Here’s an embarrassing fact…I went through all of “Frozen” not knowing how to switch between IK & FK and not knowing what constraints were. I just brute force everything. A lot of frame by framing. After Frozen I was asked to work on a water projection show for Disneyland called World of Color. This is the shot. I Finally understood the graph and how to benefit from it. I had been using CG for about a year at this point and finally started to get comfortable with the tools. Which means, I started to enjoy the process more. All this to say, stick with it. Persistence and patience is key. We all learn at different paces, so just keep at it if you’re struggling and you’ll have your “clicks”. I still have them all the time, sometimes for a technical hurdle, sometimes in drawing, sometimes for body mechanics or animation principles. It means we’re growing, so keep at it!

#disney #disneyanimation #olaf #disneyland #california #californiaadventure #worldofcolor #joshgad #frozen #animation #letitgo #inspiration #fun #artistsoninstagram #artwork #cganimation #student #art #learning #school #tips #anna #elsa (at Walt Disney Animation Studios)

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Interpreting the Animation Principles-

Hand-drawn animation requires all 3 conditions- solid draftsmanship, fluid mechanics and compelling performance to enable a character to life.  

And in the pursuit of these conditions, some distinctive patterns emerged.  They were noted by the master animators from the Disney Studios back in the earlier time and written into the 12 principles of animation.

When studying animation, the 12 principles become a technical guideline and often taken at given surface values.  For example, ‘squash-and-stretch’ is necessary to keep the movement pliable, organic and not stiff-looking.  A body part must squash and stretch from a technical point-of-view.  But it really is much more than that and has much to do with how an animator senses a feel of mass in relation to force.

I feel it is very resourceful to question the principles, to fully understand how certain principle came to be from a more personal perspective.  Through this in-depth understanding, an animator can truly apply them effectively, and in turn, adding new personal revelations.

(Above, my very first scene for the industry from Disney’s ‘Rescuers- Down Under’.  I was animating more on instinct for most of my earlier time and not as consciously aware to the underlying nature of movements, causing me to be much slower at arriving to a result…) 

Stuff from the RTX 3D Animation panel

[You can view the panel here!]

A bunch of this is off the top of my head after watching the video myself, so I may have some details wrong: but feel free to watch for yourself and correct the notes! These are things that stood out to me

  • RWBY and Chibi is animated in 24 Frames per Second (which is pretty standard for 2D Animation as well)
  • RWBY Volume 4 and RWBY Chibi Season 1 were major experiments in getting used to animating the shows with Maya, and the new production pipeline it needed
  • (Poser was Monty Oum’s staple software for animation, but very niche compared to Autodesk Maya, which is currently the industry standard for 3D Animation)
  • That said: Beginning with RWBY4, all the character models and their rigs were redone from scratch to be compatible with Maya, moving from using Poser.
  • RvB’s Season 14 episode, “Mercs” was also a major experiment in tools, lighting and shading that they’d be using going forward with RWBY Volume 4.
  • Volume 4 Episode 1 was late coming out last year because it was being worked on right up until release. The exported file was actually ready to upload to the RT site at 9AM (the episode was to be released at 10AM), but it couldn’t be uploaded until much later that day, because there was too much traffic from sponsors excited for it!
  • RWBY’s backgrounds are rendered with the engine, “Redshift” while the characters are rendered in 3DS Max with the “Pencil” plugin
    (which is similar to Blender3D’s “Freestyle” rendering)
  • RWBY Chibi has/had a lot of freedom compared to other animated productions- with Chibi Season 2, they’ve tightened up some parts of production like animatics and audio.
  • Gray has provided temporary audio for many episodes, until they could get certain voice actors to record: Like Cinder Fall, voiced by Jessica Nigri, and Neon Katt, voiced by Meg Turney. Paco says that Gray is really good at it, and some say they can’t unhear Gray’s rendition of Neon from animating to the audio so long.
  • In RWBY, facial expressions and lip-syncing are hand keyed with the audio, but in RvB, external lip sync software is used.
  • Certain bloopers and extras are created by animators who just have spare time and fun
  • Certain Extended Scenes can be added to the Blu-Ray versions of the series, but not the DVDs because of disk space. RvB14 is one of the only seasons where they couldn’t fit all of the content onto DVD.
  • The animators voice how they liked working on “Mercs” because they didn’t have to animate the Halo Spartan Armor
  • Because the animators have had better opportunity to get acquainted with Maya and their production pipeline, they feel that they’ll be able to push more of RWBY Volume 5′s animation and do more experimenting with classic animation principles (such as squash, stretch, smears, anticipation, etc.) as well as pushing RWBY’s 2D Anime-inspired aesthetic even more.
  • Paco says that they view the feedback on websites like Reddit, Twitter, the RT Site, and strive to improve based on it.