12 Principles of Animation – Exaggeration

By February 11, 2015 May 11th, 2016 Creative Research

Disney’s 12 basic principles of animation are well known by animators. They assist in creating more realistic animation, addressing the laws of physics and help in giving a character emotion and appeal.

In this project I want to take the 12 basic principles into consideration while experimenting with any animation I do. Although I’ve always had them in the back of my mind at all times during animating, I want to focus on and go into more depth on certain principles that will help improve the performance of the characters I’m animating.

Exaggeration is particularly useful in making a character seem more alive on screen. Perfect imitation of realism doesn’t always look appealing in animation. Exaggerating the way in which a character moves or looks while still maintaining a sense of reality is used by countless animators to highlight actions and emotions which may otherwise be missed or be too weak to come across. Action tells the story so the actions need to be understood by the viewer, and where humans communicate through body language and subtitles we pick up, our animation needs to capture these the best we can.

Generally, if a character is happy, make him happier. A small smile may be enough in real life but on screen our audience needs to be able to read that character. A large grin or a jump into the air, hands up or swooning in delight will drive home that emotion to the audience. However this is all to be balanced, it really depends on what style of animation you are going for. If every element of your animation is exaggerated then everything will be distorted and realism will be lost.

Last semester for Computer Arts Practice the brief was to animate a few shots where exaggeration was to play a pivotal role. For one of my animations I created a scene where a drunk character walks into a pole on the street.

I made the impact much larger than you’d expect to see in real life, and the recoil and following collapse is made to be more humorous than it would’ve been. In reality, our character would never have such an impact and would probably be injured. Animation gives us that great opportunity to bend reality for storytelling.

A great example of this is in Looney Tunes where a whole number of aspects are exaggerated:

  • The lengths Wile E Coyote goes to attempt to catch road runner.
  • The length of time for an action to impact Wile E Coyote
  • The amount of physical beatings Wile E Coyote can give to himself
  • The squash and stretch of the character’s bodies as they move

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