As part of this brief I want to consider the animation style that I am wanting to use. By animation style I mean what principles of animation are being used, how much they are being used and to what effect.
The brief emphasises the use of exaggeration. John Lasseter describes exaggeration in animation as “If a character is sad, make him sadder; if he is bright, make him shine; worried, make him fret” in order to make sure the audience understands the action or emotion better.
But exaggeration is not just limited to character actions. Physical features of a character or environment, or elements in the story can balance exaggerated elements with each other.
Exaggerated expressions are often expressed using other principles of animation, such as squash and stretch, and anticipation. In this clip of Genndy Tartakovsky’s Popeye animation test, there is a huge emphasis on the squash and stretch of characters to make them navigate their environment with ease and to exaggerate the actions in the fight scene (see 1:57).
The 12 principles describe exaggeration is as “not extreme distortion of a drawing or extremely broad, violent action all the time. It’s like a caricature of facial features, expressions, poses, attitudes and actions. Action traced from live action film can be accurate, but stiff and mechanical. In feature animation, a character must move more broadly to look natural. The same is true of facial expressions, but the action should not be as broad as in a short cartoon style. Exaggeration in a walk or an eye movement or even a head turn will give your film more appeal. Use good taste and common sense to keep from becoming too theatrical and excessively animated.” (paraphrased by David Atkinson of The Centre for Animation & Interactive Media, from the “Illusion Of Life” by Frank Thomas & Ollie Johnston.)
So although exaggeration can be linked to a more cartoon style, it doesn’t have to. As noted in the Illusion of Life, it can be simply used to more effectively communicate the action or story to the audience.
In this clip of Wall-E, he accidentally runs over a paper cup, his reaction is exaggerated both to emphasise his character as well as convey to the audience his feelings of what he has done. Any person in real life that felt the same may have a similar reaction but may not raise their arms in such a manner (see 3:00).
Using exaggeration in my animations will vary depending on the action. For example in the sword swinging animation I may choose to exaggerate how much the sword is pulling on the character to establish how the character is unable to control it. Or in the “running into an object” animation I may decide to have more recoil in his impact than would be expected.