animation principles


Hey! new episode!  This was sitting half-written for months, then half-made for more months, and now I finally put it together. Still, this film is full of standout scenes and I only touched on a couple of them.

The majority of this footage is sourced from
The Thief and the Cobbler Recobbled Cut Mark IV, Sept. 2013
Torrent at

Footage Compiled and Restored by Garrett Gilchrist for The Thief Archive

Training the Eye for Good Drawing

Part of learning the fundamentals of drawing is being able to tell with your own eyes what drawings are good and bad. This (usually) comes naturally when your skills develop. 

For example take this Virgil Ross drawing from a Friz Freleng Looney Tunes short;

It has some construction, a slight line of action, and a somewhat silhouetted pose but this doesn’t quite have a handle on the animation principles. It isn’t a great example of good, solid, (yet organic) drawing. The Virgil Ross drawing has the ears standing straight up, they look stiff and inorganic. The hands/fingers are very round & cylindrical, and the line on the top of Bug’s head doesn’t line up with the rest of the head shape.

Compare this to the Robert McKimson Bugs Bunny drawing below. McKimson is the king of solid drawing. 

Note how well the eyes are wrapped around the form of the head. The line of action is clearer, the pose is a clearer silhouette, and the fingers aren’t like little balloons, they have slight angles. There are a lot more subtle lines and details in the McKimson drawing, see how Bug’s arm holding the carrot curves a little bit from the shoulder to the elbow; it isn’t a straight, stiff cylinder. It makes it solid and organic, not stiff and lifeless. This isn’t even the best drawing from the scene (a couple of wrinkles are missing on his right eye) but even so it is still great drawing. Watch the whole scene here:

To make it even clearer the difference between a really good drawing and a sloppy one take a look at this scene from ‘A Corny Concerto’. Here is another drawing by Robert McKimson.

..and here is one by a less skilled draftsman. 

Note how in the bottom drawing the arms are floppier, the eyes don’t wrap around the head as well as the McKimson drawing, the ears are standing straight up and the fingers are wobbly. Bob Clampett shorts are usually the best drawn in the Looney Tunes canon but even so there are some animators that aren’t as solid as animators like McKimson, Scribner etc.

The point I’m trying to make with this post is even though both are technically trying to use the animation principles, there’s a difference between someone who sort of understand the principles and someone who REALLY understand the principles. John K (the creator of the Ren & Stimpy show) elaborates on this concept further;

 “In the 40s, every studio tried to do the Disney/WB construction style of animation drawing. Not everyone understood it though. If you can’t already draw well and you see a construction model from the 40s, you will assume that a cartoon character is made up of sausage like forms, but you won’t see how they properly connect to each other - as in these models from Dave Hand’s Animaland series. Dave Hand came from Disney - he directed Bambi and many other cute well drawn Disney cartoons and then went to England to supervise production on some imitation Disney cartoons.

These cartoons have a lot going for them - great background design and color, beautiful motion and timing, but a lot of the designs are these lumpy looking misunderstandings of the “Preston Blair” style.

These drawings are extremely awkward and therefore unappealing and amateurish looking. The lion’s jaw and muzzle are formless shapes that don’t attach to the cranium. The lip is confused with the chin (as in Tiny Toons and Animaniacs).”

read more here…

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”.

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.


I dunno if you guys remember my Dumbo video, but I made another episode, and I’m planning on doing a series, hope you like it!

I love the ball roll assignment. I did it back at Sheridan College and it was a big “aha” moments for me. Before that assignment I never really thought about a characters center of gravity moving. In life drawing class you’re taught to find it in a still pose. This assignment forces you to see it move with the ball and to keep your character balanced in that movement.

And as a bonus it’s also a great way to practice “opposing direction” and “overlap” in a characters action.


Buster Keaton - Art of the Gag

Staging, timing, appeal … Buster Keaton has long been a fantastic resource for animators because he embodies so many of the “Principles of Animation”. Not to mention his overall impact and influence on film making in general. This video essay from Every Frame a Painting shines a light on Keaton’s thought process behind his gags.

YAY I made a proper walk cycle for like the first time ever. We only made the contact and pass keyframes, and we’ll be doing the Lowest and highest points next, then the inbetweens after ^^ Still, I managed to actually, kind of, retain some sort of proportion throughout this which is something I rarely ever do…

Also holy fuck thanks for the sudden 50 more followers?! Man I can’t be suddenly having to make a 1,000 follower post… ^^”

"Planning For Animation" by Clay Kaytis


Ask yourself: “What would I like to see on the screen?" 

Give people their money’s worth: "If I were paying good money to see this, what would I expect?" 

Imagine in your mind: "the ideal version of this shot” and aim for that 


It’s the relationship with the audience that makes entertainment work because: 

They have an expectation and it’s our job to give it to them in an unexpected way 

The movie Jaws (or any great movie) is an excellent example of this: 

As the audience we know there’s a shark and the expectation is obvious - the humans will win (at least we hope). Then why is it entertaining and why don’t people just walk out before it’s over when we know WHAT will happen? Because they want to see HOW it happens. That’s the part they can’t predict. That’s where we have to be creative, surprising, inventive, and original. When’s the last time you heard someone say “Oh you’ve got to see that movie, it’s so predictable!” This is how we should approach every aspect of a film - from the story, to the individual acts, to the sequence, to the scene, all the way down to the individual shot. 

Three types of reactions according to philosopher Arthur Koestler - HA! HA!, AHA!, & AAH! 

  • HA! HA! (humor) we laugh when we unexpectedly see the same thing in two frames of reference (there’s “the expected in an unexpected way” again) In it’s broadest sense - this is why jokes are funny. First frame of reference: “Last night I shot an elephant in my pajamas.” Second frame of reference: “What he was doing in my pajamas I have no idea.” 
  • AHA! (insight, discovery) combining two different things so that the sum is greater than the parts.This is why mysteries are so popular - they provide built in insight 
  • AAH! (self-transcending) lose yourself in an experience; when you find yourself transported to another frame of existence. Some movies get to this point, but not most. These are the moments that have the greatest effect on people. 

If you can imagine what you want to see, half your work is done 

Picture it in your head - close your eyes and see the edges of the screen, the set, and what the character is doing. It takes practice, but it’s a skill that can be developed. 

Thumbnail - they don’t have to be works of art, they are just a map 

They are your storytelling poses (key poses of the shot) 

Work out the best poses and, if needed, how to get from one pose to another (breakdowns) “

- Clay Kaytis,