There are twelve principles in animation that are widely followed in the animation world, they are known as the Twelve Basic Principles of Animation. These principles where introduced by two of Disney’s animators , Ollie Johnson and Frank Thomas, in a book published in 1981 called “The Illusion of Life: Disney Animation”. The main purpose of these twelve principles is to create an illusion of characters conforming to the laws of physics, and dealing with emotional timing and character appeal.
Squash and Stretch
The most important of the twelve principles is the squash and stretch. This is because only lifeless objects remain unchanged while in motion. Anything consisting of living flesh will show movement within its shape throughout the course of an action. Squash and stretch is where the mass and rigidity of an object is defined by distorting its shape during an action. For example the human face while chewing, the jaws tend to extend and compress.
In animation the audience may not understand the events unless there is a planned series of actions that leads the audience, clearly from one activity to the next. Anticipation is used to make a action come across more realistic and prepare the audience for the action. The bending of one knees before jumping is an excellent example of anticipation.
Staging is a principle that is also used in theatre and film. It us used to direct the audiences attention to what is important in the scene. Johnston and Thomas defined staging as “the presentation of any idea so that it is completely and unmistakable clear”, that idea can be a action, a personality, an expression or even a mood. This can be accomplished a number of ways such as the use of light and shadows, angling and position of the camera, and the placement of character in a frame.
Straight Ahead Action & Pose to Pose
Straight ahead action and pose to pose are two different approaches to the drawing process. Straight ahead action is where the scene is drawn out frame by frame from beginning to end. Pose to pose is where the key frames are drawn out and then the intervals are filled in at a later time. Straight ahead actions result in more fluid, vital illusion of movement, and is better for creating more realistic action sequences. However, to maintain proportions and to create precise, convincing poses, pose to pose works better. Pose to pose creates more dramatic or and emotional scenes, with composition and relation the surroundings are more important.
Follow Through and Overlapping Action
Follow through and overlapping actions is actually two techniques that are used to help create more realistic movement and to assist in giving the impression that the characters follow the laws of physics. Follow through means that some parts of the body will continue to move after the character has stopped. Overlapping action means that some parts of the body move at different rates. Drag is a third related technique, this is where a character starts to move and parts of the character take several frames to catch up.
Slow In and Slow Out
Movement needs time to accelerate and slow down. As a result of this, animation looks more realistic if it has more drawings at the beginning and the end of an action.
Movement by Arcs
Most natural actions tend to follow what is called a arched trajectory. A trajectory is the route that a moving object follows through space as a function of time. For more realistic animation one should follow these implied arcs. You can apply this principle by moving a limb via rotating a joint. As the objects speed accelerates the arcs tend to flatten out and broaden in turns.
Secondary actions are added to the main actions in a scene to give it more life, and help support the main action. For instance, I a person walking can also be simultaneously swinging her arms, or she can be doing a number of other things, such as whistling, speaking, her hands can be in her pocket, or even expressing emotion through facial expression. A secondary action should emphasize, rather than diminish, the attention to the attention to the main action. If the secondary action diminishes the attention from the main action, than that action is better left out. Often time facial expressions will go unnoticed during a dramatic movement, in these cases it is better to include them at the beginning and end of the movement, rather that during it.
Timing in animation refers to the number of drawing or frames for a given action. This translates to the speed action takes on film. Physically correct timing can make objects appear to abide to the laws of physics. Timing is imperative in establishing a characters mood, emotion, and reaction. It may also be used to communicate aspects of a character’s personality.
Since a perfect imitation of reality can look dull and rigid in cartoons, exaggeration is an effect that is particularly useful. The level of exaggeration used depends on whether one seeks realism or a particular style The definition applied by Disney , ‘was to remain true to reality, just present it in a wilder more extreme form’. Other embodiments of exaggeration can include the supernatural or surreal, alteration in the physical features of a character, or elements in the storyline itself. It is essential to exercise a certain level of control while using exaggeration, if a scene contains several elements, there needs to be a balance in how those elements are exaggerated in connection to each other. This is to avoid confusing or overawing the viewer.
Solid drawing means taking into accord the forms in three-dimensional space, giving them weight and volume. The animator needs to ne skilled in drafting and have a great understanding in the basic of three-dimensional shapes, anatomy, weight, balance, light and shadow. It is warned against creating “twins”. A “twin” is a character whose left and right side mirror one another and look lifeless. Todays computer animators often draw less due to the facilities computers give them. In addition to basic computer animation an animator’s work greatly benefits from a basic understanding of animation principles.
In animation, appeal in a cartoon character is similar to charisma in an actor. A character does not need to be sympathetic to be appealing, villains and monsters can be appealing also. The character needs to feel real and interesting to the viewer. A complicated or hard to read face will lack appeal. An effective way to create a likeable character is to use a symmetrical or baby-like face.