What is this?

I wanted to keep a little database of the 12 Principles solely for myself to have a look back at each time for each week, to help with my animations!



Much like an actor has charisma, an animated character needs appeal. All characters, whether good or evil, comic or cute need this.

The design of the character must be easy to read and clear, the personality must be able to capture and involve the audience’s interest.

Images courtesy of Disney.

Video courtesy of AlanBeckerTutorials.

Solid Drawing

Solid drawing means drawing the character from every angle to give them the life they need, as if portrayed onto a screen. An image looks more believable from every angle when you take into account the angle you are looking at your character from. Ensuring the character is in the correct perspective and that the correct amount of fore shortening is used is crucial.


Solid drawing for Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse (From Disney’s Illusion of Life).


Exaggeration is used for the extremities of an action, to emphasis a pose or emotion to make the story click with the audience. It allows the audience to get a grip on how the character is feeling, for example furrowing the brows and stopping the shoulders shows how great the sadness is. However, there is a balance necessary in this principle-exaggeration on all the elements can cause an unsettling scene.

Exaggeration in movement.

the-shooting-of-dan-mcgoo-3.pngExaggeration is used to emphasis emotion in characters.




Any natural movement follows a slight arc or circular pattern (mechanical movements being the exception to these). Human and animal figures are the best given examples of this- the arcs in these give the animation more natural and fluid movements.

Look at the comparison of the head movement with and without the arc. Video courtesy of Pluralsight Creative.





Timing alters the speed of a animation. The fewer the drawings, the faster the action and crisper the movement. Whereas more drawings between poses slow and smooth the action. Most animation is done in in twos (one drawing photographer on two  frames of film) or on ones (one drawing photographed on each frame of film). Twos are used most of the time, and ones are used during camera moves such as trucks, pans and occasionally for subtle and quick dialogue animation.

Timing is also a factor in the acting of each character to develop things such as the mood, tone and even interactions with other character.

charanim_03.pngMore frames at the end- slower movement as he comes to a stop.

Secondary Action

Secondary Actions add to and enriches the main action of a character, enforcing the main action.

For example, a character who is angry walks with a forceful, aggressive walk. The secondary action would be the clenching of his firsts and any dialogue that accompanies the walk. This dialogue also effects how the head moves with the walk. All of these things are the secondary actions, however they cannot be too strong to distract from the main action. The all have to work in harmony together.

tumblr_n0btinLnEe1tn8473o3_1280Images courtesy of giant-bean.

Video courtesy of AlanBeckerTutorials.





Slow-In and Slow-Out

This is the spacing between in between frames in an animation. At the beginning of an animation, there are more drawings near the starting pose, a few in the middle, and more near the end, as the new pose moves in.

The more frames, the faster the action, whereas the fewer frames make it slower.



Follow Through and Overlapping Motion

Follow Through and Overlapping action occurs in real life, not just animation.

When the main mass of a character stops other parts, such as the hair, clothing etc continue moving (following the path of action). The follow through is created as nothing stops at one time.

Overlapping Action is when a character changes direction while these secondary items are moving forward. The character changes direction and a few frames later by these items.

Drag is another thing considered in these thing. Drag is the frictional force acting in the opposite direction to the motion being done, the greater the drag the greater the force needed to create the movement.

Video courtesy of  AnimatorIslandTV.


Straight Ahead and Pose to Pose Animation

Straight ahead animation starts from the first drawing, and works to the end scene through drawing to drawing. Things such as size, volume and proportions may be inconsistent however it allows spontaneity to scenes (fast action scenes are normally done this way).

Pose to Pose is more planned, key drawings are shown in intervals throughout the scene. This type gives better control of volume, size and proportions and so is the actual action itself. Normally a key animator works on the key poses and hands it to an assistant who fills in the between frames.