Be-be-bears showed 12 principles of animation
Ollie Johnston and Frank Thomas, the animators of Disney Studio, have formulated 12 principles of animation in their book The Illusion of Life: Disney Animation. These are the basic principles that were initially intended for traditional hand-drawn animation, but as our practice shows, they are relevant for the computer animation as well. It is worth to refresh this knowledge, and it is Bucky, the character of Be-be-bears, who will help us.
Principle 1. Squash and stretch
This is the most important principle which goal is to give a sense of weight and flexibility to drawn objects. A figure stretched or squashed to an exaggerated degree can have an expressive comical effect. In realistic animation the main aspect of this principle is that the volume of an object stays the same whenever its form is changed. If the length of an object is stretched vertically, its width and depth in three dimensions needs to contract horizontally. This is what Bucky shows us when he stretches vertically while jumping.
Principle 2. Anticipation
A backward motion is used to prepare the audience for an action, and to make the action appear more realistic. In this example Bucky makes some typical motions with his paws, and freezes before breaking into run. Having reached the necessary point, Bucky stops and steps into the static position with his hands on his hips thus bringing it to semantic conclusion. The principle can also be used for less physical actions, such as a character looking off-screen to anticipate arrival of the other character, or focusing on an object that he is about to pick up or to talk to.
However if a comic effect or a suddenness effect are needed, anticipation could be omitted.This effect is frequently referred to as «joke-surprise» effect and gives the feeling of reducing the tension. Exclusion or minimization of anticipation is typical for fighting scenes in Japan animation.This is dictated by the nature of asian martial arts, where a quickness and an unexpectedness win.
Principle 3. Staging (focus on the audience’s perception of the image)
This principle is akin to staging in theatre or in movies. Its purpose is to direct the audience’s attention, and make clear what is of greatest importance in a scene, what is going on now and will happen soon. The authors defined it as «the presentation of any idea so that it is completely and unmistakably clear», whether that idea is an action, a personality, an expression, or a mood. Such cleanliness can be reached by various means, such as the placement of a symbol in the frame, the use of light and shadow, or the angle and position of the camera.The task of this principle is keeping focus on what is the most important, and avoiding unnecessary detail.
Principle 4. Straight ahead action and pose to pose
These are two different approaches to the actual drawing process. Initially animators simply phased the «Straight ahead action». They started from the first character’s movement in a scene, and consequently made drawings inventing the idea as they moved on. The second approach is a «Pose to pose» when the essential frames are made first and the intervals between them are filled later. «Straight ahead action» works better for drawing flame, water and liquid objects because it creates a more fluid, dynamic illusion of movement. When using this approach it is hard to maintain proportions, and to create exact, convincing poses. «Pose to pose» works better for dramatic or emotional scenes, where composition and relation to the surroundings are of greater importance. These methods are often combined.
Computer animation has solved the problem of keeping the proportions when using “Pose to pose». Nevertheless, «Straight ahead action» is still in use in computer animation due to its advantages for composition. Computer technologies allow to fill the intervals between the key frames automatically, thus making the method much easier. However, it is still necessary to observe and to control the process with respect to main principles.
Principle 5. Follow through and overlapping action
These two techniques are closely related, they help render movement more realistically, and give the impression that characters follow the laws of physics. «Follow through» means that loosely tied parts of a body should continue moving after the character has stopped. «Overlapping action» shows parts of the body moving at different rates. A third technique is «drag». When a character starts to move, and parts of him move more slowly taking a few frames to catch up. These parts often are inanimate objects like clothing, hair, weapon… The character usually starts moving with torso and his head and limbs repeat and develop the vector of this movement. Soft, fleshy, flabby body parts are more prone to independent movement than bonier body parts. Exaggerated use of the technique can produce a comical effect, while more realistic animation requires more exact timing for the actions.
Thomas and Johnston designed the «moving hold» principle, when a character is shown absolutely still. It is generally made to draw attention to main action. However, the authors advise to avoid it, because it may look pretty dull and lifeless. It would be better to show some minimal movement such as the torso moving in and out with breathing, even if a character is still.
Principle 6. Ease in and ease out
Most of the objects need time to accelerate and slow down. The animation is more realistic if it has more drawings near the beginning and end of an action, emphasizing the extreme poses, and fewer in the middle. This principle relates to characters moving between two extreme poses, such as sitting down and standing up, and also to inanimate moving objects.
As we see in example, Bucky helps himself by paws when he is about to start or to finish the movement, but he does nothing redundant during it.
Principle 7. Arcs
In animation it is very important to follow the rule of arc trajectory which is typical for the most natural movements. For example, a limb moves by rotating a joint, or a thrown object moves along a parabolic trajectory. The exception is mechanical movement, which typically follows the straight lines.
The more the object’s speed or impetus — the more the arc flattens out. A strong throw gives an object the more straight trajectory than a weak one. If an object follows foreign for its nature arc the movement appears artificial and jumpy. In traditional animation auxiliary arc lines are often used and erased later. They help animator make sure that all drawings in between two extreme poses consequently follow the arc.
Principle 8. Secondary action (expressive detail)
To give a scene more life, and to support the main action secondary actions can be added such as shaking head, swinging arms, whistling while walking, and facial expressions. The important thing about secondary actions is that they emphasize, rather than take attention away from the main action. If the latter happens, those actions should be omitted. Facial expressions will often go unnoticed during a dramatic movements. Thus it is better to include them not during the movement, but at the beginning and the end of it.
Principle 9. Timing
Timing is concerned with the number of drawings for each action which translates to the speed of the action on film. Correct timing makes objects appear more realistic. For instance, an object’s weight determines the reaction to an impetus or a push. Timing helps in conveying a character’s mood, emotions, and reactions – Bucky was running somewhere in high spirits, and now he is coming back very sad. This principle can also communicate aspects of a character’s personality.
Principle 10. Exaggeration
Exaggeration is a very useful effect for animation, as a perfect imitation of reality can look static and dull. The level of exaggeration depends on what we need to express: realism or a particular style.The classical Disney’s animation remains true to reality, just presented in a wilder, more extreme form. Other forms of exaggeration can involve the supernatural or surreal alterations in the physical features of a character, or in the storyline itself. It is important to apply a certain level of restraint when using exaggeration. There should be a balance of different exaggerated elements in relation to each other, to avoid confusion or loss of meaning.
Principle 11. Solid (professional) drawing
This principle means taking into account weight of the object and its forms in three-dimensional space.The animator has to be a highly qualified artist and needs to understand the basics of three-dimensional shapes, anatomy, weight, balance, light and shadow, and other aspects. Computer technologies allow animators to be less concerned with drawing, thus taking art classes and doing sketches from life are even more actual nowadays than in the past.
Johnston and Thomas warned against creating «twins»: characters whose left and right sides mirrored each other. Such characters look lifeless.
Principle 12. Appeal
Appeal in a cartoon character corresponds to what would be called charisma in an actor. A character who is appealing is not necessarily positive. As we know, villains, such as Morgarth from Heroes of Envell, can be highly charismatic. It’s more important for a character to be interesting, believable, to have integrity.There are several tricks for making a character connect better with the audience. For instance, likable characters have symmetrical or particularly baby-like faces. In this respect the important things about mentioned above Morgarth are character design, the expressiveness of the pose, gestures and face expressions.