Twelve Principles Of Animation

“My Mum Told Me Never To Forget My Principles”

These are the Twelve Principles of Animation:

Squash and stretch

One of the most important principles of stop motion animation is Squash and stretch, the purpose of squash and stretch is to make the illusion of weight and flexibility of drawn/solid objects, for example if you had a solid circle ball and you had a series of images making it look like it was bouncing there wouldn’t be a smooth flow within the animation, To make it look like a real bouncing ball you would need to make the circle ball look like it was real and to create the illusion that the circle ball is bouncing, this is where “Squash and stretch” comes into play. Squash and stretch can be applied to most stop motion animations E.G. simple solid drawing, or even more complicated the musculature of a human face.

Here is an example of Squash And Stretch:

In this example you can see the effect of Squash and Stretch, It creates the illusion of the circle ball is actually bouncing and is not a solid image repeated.


Here is an example of where the circle ball on the right has been stretched and so looks more natural as it is being squashed and stretched and created a whole new illusion.


Anticipation is one of the fundamental aspects of the twelve principles of animation used to create a rush for the viewer/audience, Anticipation is a build up of anxiety and excitement, as you can see in this picture there is an exiting anticipation of the man throwing the a baseball in different stages. It shows the starting anticipation then it begins to start building a rush, after the action is completed the reactions begins.



Staging is one of the most important principles of animation as the purpose of staging is to direct the viewer/audience’s attention and make them want to watch what is happening on stage e.g. Theater, Film and Animation. Staging can make a scene feel powerful or even important and makes the viewer/audience  want to look at a certain object or to know where the action is, this action can be Expression, Personality, Mood, and even an object.

It is good to have the right staging because the audience may be looking at the wrong thing in the scene, as you can see in this example, poor staging and good staging.


Straight Ahead Action And Pose To Pose

These are two completely different actions, straight ahead action is hand drawn animation when the animator starts firstly drawing a scene or object and then draws a sequences of frames until the end of the scene, basically Frame by frame from beginning to end, While Pose to pose means starting with a drawing  different key frames and then filling in the intervals afterwards. Straight ahead creates an illusion that the movement is more fluid and is better for realistic action sequences. Pose to pose works better for emotional, exiting, and dramatic scenes.

Follow through and overlapping action

Follow through and overlapping action is a technique which helps to render movement and make it flow and become more realistic and to give the impression that the character or object follows the laws or physics. Follow through defines separate parts of a and will continue moving after the character has stopped, e.g. arms, head and legs. Overlapping means to start a second action before the first action has finished, this keeps the audience interested because there is no dead time between each actions.

Here is a quote from Walt Disney:

It is not necessary for an animator to take a character to one point, complete that action completely, and then turn to the following action as if he had never given it a thought until after completing the first action. When a character knows what he is going to do he doesn’t have to stop before each individual action and think to do it. He has it planned in advance in his mind.

Slow in and slow out

Slow in and slow out is the movement of an object or even a human body, certain objects need time to accelerate and slow down, this is only because the animation will look more realistic. If you took a bouncing ball the balls will speed up when it falls to the ground and then slows down as it bounces upwards, Slow in and out deals with the spacing of an object e.g. a bouncing ball,  This principle goes for character or objects moving between two extreme poses such as standing up and sitting down or moving objects such as a bouncing ball.

06 Slow In and Slow Out


Arcs are very important when it comes to animation as any movement, simple or complex arcs are a gesture or lines of action, they are what give animations flow and consistency within the objects and animations, Arcs give animation a more natural action and better flow within the animation, all actions with few exceptions such as animation pf a mechanical device, follow an arc or slightly circular path, An example of arcs is when a ball is throw it travels in a curve, not in a straight line.


Secondary action

Secondary action adds more dimension to the character or animation, supplementing or re-enforcing the main action, it brings the scene to life and makes it more realistic, it can be used to increase the complexity and interest of a specific scene, an example of secondary action would be the a facial expression of a character. e.g. if a character was to have a really small yawn there will be small cheek movements, if the character was to have a big yawn it would be slightly exaggerated and you will have arm movements and several facial movements and also noises.


Timing is one of the most important principles of animation “The Pace Of Action” as the animator must spend the appropriate amount of time on the anticipation of an action and also the reaction, If too much time is spent on a specific scene then the viewer/audience may lose attention and they may not understand or notice the action. for example a smaller object, A ball will move faster along the floor than a heavier ball, timing affects the perception of the object size. The weight of the object will decide how it reacts.


Exaggeration is commonly used in animations as it shows of facial features, expressions, poses, attitudes, emotions and actions e.g. if the character is sad, he will have a sad face, if the character is happy he will have a happy face etc, but there should be a reason for it so the audience will understand it.

This is an example of Exaggeration, when the character see’s something shocking or surprising his eyes pop out.


Solid drawing

Solid Drawing is very important as it means taking into account the forms in three-dimensional space, giving the character weight and volume, whoever created the character will have to understand the basics of three-dimensional shapes, wight, balance, light, and shadows etc. for example you should take proportions e.g. head not too large, legs and arms not to long etc.


A real human or performer has a thing called charisma, An animated character has “appeal”, appealing animation dose not mean just being cuddly and cute, all characters have to have appeal whether they are villainous, heroic, comic or cute. The appeal has to show the character’s personality and how they fit into the scene, if the character doesn’t have the right appeal the audience may not be very interested.


Those are the twelve principles of animation.