Principles of Animation

The principles of motion graphics and animation were created in the early 1930s by animators at the Walt Disney Studios. These principles helped to transform animation from a novelty into an art form. The twelve principles are mostly about five things: acting the performance, directing the performance, representing reality, interpreting real world physics and editing a sequence of actions.


Squash & Stretch

Any organic element composed of living flesh, no matter how bony, will show considerable movement within its shape in progressing through an action. In the language of animation these movements are called Squash and Stretch. A squashed state depicts the form either flattened out by great pressure or bunched up and pushed together. The stretched position always shows the same form in a much extended condition.



An audience watching an animated scene will not be able to understand the events on the screen unless there is a planned sequence of actions that leads them clearly from one activity to the next. Anticipation is the preparation for the action. Anticipation is also a device to catch the audience eye, to prepare them for the next movement and lead them to expect it before it actually occurs.



Staging is the presentation of any idea that it is completely and unmistakably clear. An action is staged so that it is understood, a personality so that it is recognizable, an expression so that it can be seen, a mood so that it will affect the audience. While staging an action, you must be sure that only one action is seen; it must not be confused by a poor choice of camera angle or upstaged by something else that might be going on.


Straight Ahead & Pose to Pose Action

There are two main approaches to classical animation. The first is known as Straight Ahead Action, in which the animator works straight ahead from the first frame of the scene. He animates one frame after the other, getting new ideas as he goes along, until he reaches the end of the scene. He knows the story point of the scene and the business that is to be included, but he has little plan how it will all be done at the time he starts animating.


With Pose to Pose, the animator plans his action, figures out just which poses will be needed to animate the business. The animations done with Pose to pose method have strength and clarity. In Straight Ahead Action, there is spontaneity. Usually both methods are combined in a way that the animations have clarity as well as spontaneity.


Follow Through and Overlapping Action

The animation of an extremity, such as a coat tail or floppy ears of a dog move to some extent independently of the character which they are attached to. The movement of an extremity depends on: the action of the character, the extremity.s own weight and degree of flexibility and air resistance. The principle of Follow Through states that the fluidity of the animation of these extremities is allowed to continue with its own speed and direction. Overlapping Action principle states that the different parts of the body figure should have a time lag between the movements. This helps to achieve a lot more fluidity to the animations.


Slow In and Slow Out

Slow in and Slow Out deals with the spacing of the in-between frames between the extreme poses. By grouping the in-betweens closer to the extreme poses, a spirited result is achieved, with the character zipping from one attitude to another.



The visual path of action from one extreme to another is always described by an arc. Arcs in nature are the most economical routes by which a form can move from one position to another. Arcs are used extensively as they make the animation much smoother and less stiff than a straight line for the path of action.


Secondary Actions

An action which supports the main action is called a Secondary Action and is always kept subordinate to the primary action. Secondary Actions are used to more emphatically depict the primary action.



The number of frames used in any move determines the amount of time that action will take on the screen. Timing or the speed of the action is an important principle because it defines how well the idea behind the action will read to an audience. It reflects the weight and size of an object and can even carry emotional meaning.



An action when animated, for it to be properly visible on screen, it is necessary that the actions are exaggerated. The use of exaggeration helps to convey the emotions or actions in a more convincing way to the audience.


Moving Hold

In an animation, where a character moves from one pose to another quickly, it is important to .hold. the extreme poses of an action for a couple of frames, so that the actions are visible clearly to the audience. This process is called a .Moving Hold. and is achieved by creating an extreme pose and exaggerating the same pose a bit more in the next frame so that the continuity of the movement is maintained while clearly depicting the extreme poses.



Appeal, implies that a character should have charm, pleasing design, simplicity, communication and magnetism. Appeal facilitates the emotional connection between the characters and audience. The audience can relate to a character, with a visual appeal, regardless of the fact whether the character has heroic or villainous characteristics.