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Animation, 12 Principles of Animation Explained in Layman Terms

12 Principles of Animation Explained in Layman Terms

Animation has come a long way since its inception in the 1930s. Earlier it was a topic that was not discussed by many but thanks to the visionary animators at Disney, today it has become a hot topic of discussion in the entertainment industry, education and academic circles, advertising and marketing along with social media and online communities. The professionals working at Disney and their dedication of creating realistic and captivating animation has paved the way for several significant developments and trends in the animation industry. 

The 12 principles of animation were introduced by Disney animators Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston in their book “The Illusion of Life: Disney Animation,” which was first published in 1981. Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston were part of Disney’s core group of animators known as the “Nine Old Men.” Both of them have played a crucial role in the development of animation at The Walt Disney Company and penned their insights and experiences in the book, outlining these principles which have since become fundamental guidelines for animators. The 12 principles of animation are widely used in the animation industry and have influenced animators and animation studios around the world. 

These principles were initially aimed at making cartoon characters. But the change here was that the focus was on making these characters look alike. To imbibe the element of emotions, expressions and real life physical movement, these animations came handy. Also, these 12 principles abstract issues, including emotional timing, to make the characters truly come to life. 

Though an animation course has expanded its horizon but these fundamental principles still hold true across various domains. People are now gaining a lot of interest in this field as a result that have made their way to cinematography, advertisements etc. By following these guidelines, you can create animations that make your audience believe that your creations are living, breathing entities, much like the beloved characters brought to life by Disney animators over the years. So, it is very important to take up an animation course in Kolkata whereby you can learn all these principles in order to proceed further in the world of animation. 

The Principles Explained in Layman Terms


Squash and Stretch

Imagine a bouncing ball. As it hits the ground, it squashes flat and then widens when it bounces back up. This exaggeration of shape change gives the ball a sense of weight and flexibility, making it appear as though an external force is acting on it. This principle, while exaggerated, mimics real-world physics and adds realism to your animations. 


Anticipation is like a warm-up before the main event. Just like a footballer steadies themselves before taking a penalty kick, your characters should prepare for actions. This can be as simple as a character getting ready to pick up an object or anticipating someone’s arrival on the screen. It’s about getting your audience ready for what’s coming. 


 Staging is like directing a film or a play. You need to decide where the camera should be, what it should focus on, where your characters will be, and what they will do. This ensures that your audience’s attention is on the essential elements of your story. If you are using more and more elements in a single story or advertisement of yours, then the main plot will get hampered as there is a high chance of people getting distracted by unnecessary details. 

Straight Ahead Action and Pose to Pose 

Here, you have two approaches to drawing. Straight ahead action involves drawing each frame from start to finish, creating a fluid motion. It’s great for action scenes. Pose to pose starts with keyframes and fills in the details later, which works well for emotional or dramatic scenes. 

Follow Through and Overlapping Action 

These principles make your animations more lifelike. Follow through deals with the parts of the body that continue to move after a character stops, just like in real life. Overlapping action shows that different body parts move at different rates, adding realism to your characters’ movements. To get a grip of these animation principles, you may consider taking an animation course in Kolkata at a reputed training institute. 

Ease In, Ease Out 

This principle, also known as ‘slow in and slow out,’ mimics how things accelerate and decelerate in the real world. Objects need more frames at the beginning and end of an action sequence to make it appear more realistic. It’s all about timing and creating a sense of weight and motion.


Most actions follow an arched trajectory in real life. To make your animations look more natural, follow this principle. Drawing these arcs lightly on paper can serve as a reference. They are simply important as only because of them you will be able to add natural physical movements to your animation. 

Secondary Action 

Secondary actions add depth to your characters and objects without diverting attention from the main action. It’s like the little details, such as the way a person’s arms move while walking. This sort of movement tends to create a visual in mind that the characters in the animations are similar to that of humans. In other words this makes your creations feel more human. 


Timing is crucial in animation to make it realistic. The number of frames or drawings you use will determine the speed and weight of your characters. Lighter characters will react more quickly to external forces than heavier ones. 


Exaggeration is about making things more extreme than reality, but within certain bounds. It adds excitement and fun to your animations. Think of characters with their jaws dropping to the floor when they’re surprised. We might have witnessed this kind of exaggeration in a lot of cartoons back then. They look pretty good and portray the true meaning of what they are intended to but in reality this does not happen. So do not think of exaggeration as a bad example as it can be a great tool with which you can bring a lot in your animations. 

Solid Drawing 

Creating the illusion of 3D and giving weight and volume to your creations is what solid drawing is all about. It’s one of the more challenging principles, but it’s essential to make your characters feel real and vibrant. 


Lastly, appeal is about making your characters interesting and likable. Whether they’re heroes or villains, they should captivate the audience’s attention. Making their faces round and childlike can give them an endearing quality, while heroes often have strong, angular features. 

In conclusion, these 12 principles of animation are like the building blocks of the magical world of animation. They are the key to creating animations that captivate and amaze you. If you want to explore the fascinating world of animation further, consider taking an animation course in Kolkata, where you can dive deeper into these principles and bring your creative ideas to life. These can help you master the art of animation and open up a world of endless possibilities in this exciting field.

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