Important Design Principles In Animation Film Studies Essay

Animations are sort of popular films in the world, due to its visual effect, appealing stories and grace graphic arts, (Compton 1997). Classical animations (2D animation) have stayed relatively the same for 80 years (Jones & Oliff 2006). The tools animators used to use to produce an animated film was pen-and-paper medium. However, during the past 10 years, animated films have been through some major changes because technologies of computer generate (CG) animation has created and improved rapidly (Jones & Oliff 2006). Jones and Oliff (2006) also mentioned that due to development of CG tools, the important principles of design in the construction of an animated film have significantly changed. Although most animators and animated film industries abandoned the hand-drawn traditional animations and has produced animations by CG, especially after some successful popular animated films such as Sherk 2001 and Toy Story 1995, a few famous master animators, like Andreas Deja who is known because he drew the main characters in Hercules and Who Framed Roger Rabbit still prefer to draw animation by traditional tools (Corliss 2005).

This essay will look at the principles of design in the construction of both traditional 2D animation and 3D computer animation. It also will compare 2D and 3D animation and examine the current tend which is to apply 2D traditional animation to 3D computer animation. Three main construction principles of animation design are looked in this essay. First, before shooting animation, there are significant tasks which should be done first. For example, the principles of creating an animated story those audiences enjoy watching, and building up the personalities of animated characters. Besides, designed storyboard is essential for preparation of animations. Next main principle of animation design construction is shooting animation. Principles of shooting traditional 2D animation and 3D computer animation are examined and several differences and similarities between them will be analyzed. First instance is processes of drawing or designing the scenes of an animation both traditional 2D animation and 3D computer animation. Next, principles of action of animation, such as straight head action, pose-to-pose action, will be mentioned as well in this stage. In the end of this section, to analyse two main functions of 3D computer animation, squash and stretch and timing and motion, could make traditional animated film more realistic and entertaining. The final stage covers the principles of post production of animated films. The purposes of these tasks after shooting animations are in order to accomplish animations completely and perfectly, such as technologies of overlapping, editing, sound, music and voices. This essay examines the principles of design in the construction of both traditional 2D animation and 3D computer animation from the beginning to the completion of animation.

Fundamentals of characters and storyline, target audience and message of film, planning in the design stage

Principles of creating an animated story that audience enjoy watching

The first step in making animated movies, a group of artists, writers, script writers, directors, computer graphic specialists and producers come together to brainstorm a group of ideas which bring out ideas of characters that match storylines. Most storylines and characters come from books and magazines, or a screen writer/writer creates a character and storyline. However before this happens many simple questions have to be asked for example who is going to be the audience, does the storyline match the audience, what is the story line convoying to the audience, does the character match the storyline and are the characters suitable to convoy a peculiar type of message (How to make an animated Movie, n.d.). Next, the most value of a film is expressing education, when animated stories are chosen, the meaning the stories would express through animation should be considered. Finally when a animated storyline is fully scrutinized by the film development team, by making pilot animated movie, this is scrutinized by the directors, producers and finally a test audience which is interviewed after the pilot movie to see their reaction, and does it convoy the storyline (Harper 2000).

Build up the personalities of animated characters

After the storyline is decided, the next step of making an animated movie is the design of the characters. They have got the most important role and they are going to carry the message/story of the movie. This is done by giving the animated characters personalities that is conveyed in the story outline which is one of the key factors that makes a successful animated movie (Savoye and Meyer 2008).

Storyboard – the preparation for an animation

Differences in preparation between traditional animation and 3D computer animation

There is an important principle in the preparation for an animation. In any form of an animated movie/scene, a storyboard is made. This is an outline of the animated movie/scene. A storyboard describes the scenes of an animated (movie/scene/story) which includes images and works made by artists, screenwriters, computer animation specialists, producers and story writers. This is done by using artist sketches which is known as a story sketch. In the time before computers, drawings were made to make a scene usually. They had to make 26 drawing for one second of film, each drawing was called a story sketch (Blair 1994).

A story board is made that includes the characters/scenes that are going to convey the message/story about the movie. After the first storyboard is drawn, there are regular meetings between the storyboard artists and director (Blair 1994). This is to make sure that the movie is keeping to the story line of the movie; however many discussions and meetings are held to redraw or re-board until the right message is conveyed to the audience(Blair 1994); however with modern technology and the advancement of computer graphics the use of computer animation has allowed animated movies to be easily edited that brings a lot of cost savings and reduce the amount of time is made an animated movie discuss how to redraw or re-board until the final storyboard comes out. Unlike a 2D traditional animation, storyboard artists of 3D computer animation use computer with animation software to create the storyboard. The result is that using computers to redraw or change the storyboard not only reduces more time of meetings and discussion, but also saves money.

Important principles of shooting traditional 2D animation and 3D computer animation

Drawing or designing the scenes of an animation

1. Traditional 2D Animation Process

In the days before there was computers, animation was all done by hand. This was done by creating a series of drawn images. This is what is known as cel animation (Harper 2000). However before an animated movie or cartoon story is created a story board must be made. This gives a visual outline of the animation to be made, from the story board, that gives animators and writers ideas how to synchronize drawing and how to follow the story line which can also include soundtrack music. However, a storyboard is only a rough outline and it is only used as a guide and to test themes, layout and composition for the animation and also decide on the script and edit scenes before large scale production of the animation. The next step of the animation process is the design and timing that is where the characters are decided and refined to the scene, also at this time the sequences of events that are going to take place, and for example the scene angles and character positions are decided.

The next stage of the animation process is the production of the animations that is where individual pictures are drawn frame by frame, which is usually done by hand and animators are assigned to individual characters, and artists will design and draw the background of each scene. After this process another one occurs where each frame is placed onto a clear film known as a cel, which the pictures are colored and then photographed for the final animated product and also voice, music and sound are added to the animated scene.

3D computer animation

“Computer animation follows the same format by filming a sequence of painted cels then using layers, keyframes, and tweening techniques (Harper 2000).” The main difference between a 2D and a 3D animation is a 3D animation is made by computer and software, such as Dreamweaver, which is an animated design tool which animators can animate elements of pages with graphical interface (Harper 2000). For example, users design half of the character’s face then use Dreamweaver to duplicate it to complete the face. Next, the animated characters are made more real and perfect by computer-generate (CG) because every movement and detail in 3D animation is analyzed and calculated accurately by the system of animation software.

B. Principles of action of animation

In the early days of film animation, Walt Disney Studio’s was the first Studio to attract large audiences to their animated films with the like of Snow White (1937), and Pinocchio (1940), this transform animated movies from a novelty form into animated movies being a art form. Walt Disney studios does this by defining twelve principles in animation that makes film animation characters more lifelike and able to catch the attention of the audiences (Lasseter 1987). Lasseter (1987) and Thomas & Johnston (1981) pointed the following principles of action of animation which are squash and stretch: shape distortion to accentuate movement, anticipation: leading audiences, staging: the camera view point to show the best action. Straight-ahead and pose to pose action: allowing nothing to finish suddenly. Slow in and slow out: gentle starts and stops. Arcs: The path of actions for example throwing a ball which a ball follows and arcs. Secondary actions: movement of a lizard’s tail or a bounce in a person’s step. Timing: time relations with actions for the illusion of life. Exaggeration: caricature of actions and timing. Solid drawing: Excellent drawing and artist ability. Appeal: audiences are attracted to the characters. Finally these twelve principles underlined the four guiding principles of production firstly Character development by giving characters personality, secondly a story which leads the audience, thirdly acting and emotions making the character life like. Finally, expression and dialogue is giving the character emotion

12 Principles of Animation (Thomas & Johnston 1981)

12 Principles of Animation was illustrated clearly by Thomas & Johnston (1981) in The Illusion of Life: Disney Animation:

Straight-ahead and Pose-to-Pose*

Squash and Stretch*



Slow-in and Slow-out


Secondary Action

Timing and Motion*


Solid Modeling and Rigging

Character Personality

Follow-thru and Overlapping Action

Following examples are some of 12 principles of animation which are illustrated in Thomas and Johnston’s book, The Illusion of Life: Disney Animation:

Straight Ahead Action

Straight ahead in animation is that sequential order of the frames of animation characters are drawn or set up by the animators. For example, after animators set the first frame with the second one, they the set up rest of the frames until the scene is completed. This is a process where the scene is produced by one drawing or image per frame that the animator.

By Thomas & Johnston 1981

Pose-to-Pose Action

Thomas and Johnston explain that” Pose-to-Pose Action Drawing or setting up key poses and then drawing or creating in between images is how Pose-To-Pose animation is done. This is the basic computer “keyframe” approach to animation. It is excellent for tweaking, timing, and planning out the animation ahead of time.”

+ By Thomas & Johnston 1981

quash and Stretch

One significant function of 3D animation is to make an animation look more real. Anything in 3D animation will squash and stretch when it is moving. For example, when a ball in animated film is bouncing, it would be squashed and stretched to mimic a real movement of a ball.

By Thomas & Johnston 1981

By Thomas & Johnston 1981

Timing and Motion

Timing is most important for presenting a ball in 3D animation fallen like the movement of a real ball. When a ball falls, it is accelerated because of gravity, before the ball touch the ground, all gaps between each frame growing all the process.

By Thomas & Johnston 1981

III. Principles of post production of animated films

Principles of Follow Through and Overlapping Action in animated films

Follow Through and Overlapping Action are terminating an action and establishing its relationship to the next action (Thomas and Johnston 1981). Thomas and Johnston (1981) continually explained that the function of follow through is to terminate part of an action, for example, when a person is throwing a ball and the hand continues to move after the ball is released, overlapping action is to start the next action before the first action is completed. The purposes of follow through and overlapping action are to accomplish the animations smoothly.

Editing of 2D animated films and 3D computer animation

The final stage of animated film production is film editing which is usually the most effect upon consuming part of animated film making (Dmytryk 1984). Film editing is the essential skill which Dmytryk (1984) explains can be defined as an ‘art form and technique’, which is done by accumulating and assembling pictures and scenes into a coherent, logical and cohesive story. The film editor does this by assembling the footage; however, the job of an editor is not only about putting pieces of film together. A film editor must use his or her creative thought by using layers of images. It is not only apply these images with the story and follow the script and dialogue, but also considers the addition of music and has well set the pace of the film. In addition, editors might work with the animators and the directors to try gain the best performance that means animators would re-draw scenes over again and redirect and maybe rewrite the film few weeks after the film has finished shooting for making the film more cohesive (Dmytryk 1984.)


Every stages of creating hits animations are crucial, from the beginning to plan every detail, create a story, and build up the personalities of animated characters and shooting animations to the end to finish post production. Whatever using hand-drawn medium or CG tools to produce animations, the important principles of animated design are still involved art of film which is putting moving images on the screen (Jones & Oliff 2006). This assay not only covers the important principles of design in the construction of an animated film in every stage, but also analyses both computer garnered animation and classical animation. Three main steps of producing animation-principles of before shooting and shooting and post production an animation- are examined. In addition, 3D computer animation has developed and been used to produce some CG hits animations already. As the result is that some principles of animated design have changed. However, the some important animated principles haven’t been moved, such as writing an appeal screen story, breathing life into characters (Porter and Susman 2000), or matching the music and voices in animations. Finally, these principles of design in the both construction in traditional 2D animation and 3D computer animation is in order to produce a gorgeous animation.

Although animation principles of design in the construction have been changing due to development of CG technologies, the purpose of animation might be similar. How to make animated characters more lifelike, or produce an animation which audiences enjoy watching might be main aims animated industries and animators desire to achieve. Porter and Susman (2000) pointed that “3D animation could create scenes more complex, images more ponderous, and characters more fluid.” However, 2D traditional animation could draw in the romantic-realistic style animation (Corliss 2005). Therefore, animated companies and animators should be encouraged to produce animations by the techniques which 2D animations apply to 3D animations.

References List

3 D Computer Graphics, (n.d). flash article and images, viewed 17 May, 2010,

Animated film making by Pixar, (n.d.), flash article and images, viewed 17 May, 2010,

Blair, P, 1994, Cartoon Animation, Walter Foster Publishing, Laguana Hills.

Dmytryk, E., (1984). On Film Editing: An Introduction to the Art of Film Construction. Focal Press, Boston

Harper, B, 2000, EDC385G Multimedia Authoring at the University of Texas at Austin, viewed 23 April 2010,

How to make an animated movie, (n.d.), video, viewed 27 April 2010,

How to parenting techniques maya, (n.d.), video, viewed 30 April 2010,

How to parenting techniques maya, (n.d.), video, viewed 30 April 2010,

Lasseter, J, 1987, “Principles of Traditional Animation Applied to 3D Computer Animation”, Computer Graphics, pp. 35-44.

Savoye, A & Meyer, A, 2008, Multi-Layer Level of Detail for Character Animation, The Fifth workshop on Virtual Reality and Physical Simulation

Thomas, F., & Johnston, O., 1981, reprint 1997, The Illusion of Life: Disney Animation. Hyperion,pp. 47-69

You’re your own cartoon straight ahead and pose-to-pose, (n.d.).description of video, viewed 3 May 2010),

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