21 Foundations of Animation


Animation is the art of motion picture and static imagery. It is a revolution in the arena of digital picture and movies. The impact of animation has crossed all sections of media and become a matter of mainstream projects these days. An animation course comprises of all the various dialects of this art and entails various foundations.

Any animation training institute you join would teach these foundations very precisely taking into account all the formats of the craft. Let’s try and understand all the foundations a little bit.


Appeal is the quotient of attraction which audiences have with the character you have created. The appeal dictates whether people will be attracted with your character or not. Appeal can be measured with the level of innovation and public review. Before finalizing a storyboard, make sure that you run it through some other colleagues or editors once. Honest feedback is the best thing which can let you get the appeal correct.

Strong Design

A solid design structure can beat all odds and provide you with the best possible end result. The basis of these designs begins with shapes and structures. The very initial stage of an animated character is deciding upon the design and format. Work towards the same for some tangible results.


Staging is the technical term or presentation. Suppose you have cooked a very delicious dish but presented it in a not so good presentation. Hence, the visual impact of that dish would not be that great. Ensure that the presentation of your animation design is done with proper backdrop and sufficient substitutes. Hence, when people look at it on the screen, it is a great art piece for them to savor.

Acting and Pantomime

Expression and gestures are the backbones of any animation project. Although this is the fourth point but its importance should not be seen as secondary. Pantomime is the expressional and music elements of any play or cartoon show. It brings out life inside of those characters.

Keys and Breakdowns

Keyframe helps in defining the inception and end of any animation sequence. Breakdown, on the other hand, is a pose between two keys. These are important because they describe rotation trajectories, timing eases, elbow bending, etc. Both of these factors help the development of animation on the screens better.

Straight Ahead and Pose to Pose

The straight ahead and pose to pose principle are two sides of the same coin. These techniques are utilized in animation more often than you would think. Straight ahead technique is used to design a character in sequence from point A to point B without any fluctuations. Pose to Pose on the other hand would mean that your motion is defined by changing positions in each frame. Either both these principles are combined or they are used separately in numerous frames.

Thumbnails and Planning

Thumbnails are the still images which determine the marketing aspect of any project. It needs to be eye-catching and attractive. People will click on the video and be attracted towards a post only when it is attractive enough. Plan the thumbnails accordingly. Storyboard artists also emphasize a lot upon the thumbnail designs from time to time.

Timing, Spacing and Easing

These three concepts are interrelated with one another. Timing is mapping out the time frame between two actions. It could be the movement from still to walking or from walking to running. Spacing is mapping out the distance between those two characters, actions, and objects in the frame. Thirdly, Easing out is the transition from one frame to another.

Squash and Stretch

Squash and Stretch (S&S for short) is the principle of applying a contrasting change of shape—from a squash pose to a stretch pose or vice versa—to give a feeling of fleshiness, flexibility, and life in animation. The absence of squash and stretch gives a rigidity or stiffness to the motion.


The visual roadmap of an object on screen is conceptualized via arc. Animation arc is mostly inward and outward. Inward means that it shows the lift of heavy object whereas the outward arc depicts lighter lift. Bouncing arc is also very common.

Primary and Secondary Action

Primary action is the initial command given to a character’s animation whereas; secondary action is depicted by the result of that action.


Silhouette is the shadow art of animated characters and objects. Suppose you animated a cartoon, the next step would be to create a silhouette of the same which would be visible in light or under reflective circumstances.

Line of action and reversals

Line of action and reversals are somewhat similar to the arc structure. They emphasize on the factor of bending, sitting and other miscellaneous motions of a character. The line indicates the skeleton of those movements.

Anticipation, Overshoot and Settle

These three elements are the pointers of the similar action. It shows build up over a movement (anticipation); then the launching of that motion (overshoot) and finally settle which is the resting post the action is complete. These features are very important in maintaining an overreaction towards any action. This concept is used to show scenes of shouting, hilarious laugh, falling and etc.

Opposing Action

The best way to understand opposing action is to take into consideration Newton’s third law of motion. Every action has an opposite or equal reaction. The same happens while animating a character’s actions. If they have lifted their hand to pick up an apple, it is quite evident that they would be putting down that hand as well. This back and forth movement is the fifteenth foundation of animation.

Counter Pose

Counter Pose in animated characters creates mirror imaging of the characters with much simpler format. It is different than opposing action on various levels. Firstly, counter pose does not show reactions. It is just the mirror image of a movement or physical action.

Leading Action

Leading action is not really an implication technology. It is more of a transitional action. As the name suggests, it leads an action to the next skeletal structure. The imposition of the same is emphasized upon all the bases. Leading action leads a character to move ahead and take upon some action of its own.

Breaking Joints

Animators often consider breaking joints be one of the most difficult actions in animation. Nothing too complicated about it either. It is the plain methodology of body joints movement. Joints breaking create practical movements in characters.

Overlap and Follow Thru

Overlapping is the integration of two separate movements into one. Belly flops of teddy bears or panda getting sleepy are easier ways of understanding the concept properly. Follow thru helps you overlap the various segments of your choice into the characters and their actions at the same time. A course shall teach you how to master the same.


Accents are an important element of animation in whole. Animators, as artists try to draw the maximum attention to their craft with their creativity. Accents are those mediums which highlight any action or activity to the fullest. What also needs to be ensured is that the accents are not overlapping the context or the scene in total.


Exaggeration is a key component of animation. Animated characters are supposed to be larger than life and create an impact among the audiences of all age groups. Exaggeration is an element of cartoons and animated shows. It is quite common among all the shows we watch these days. In order to understand this concept better, take a look at any one episode of Tom and Jerry and you will understand what exaggeration is all about.

Hope, this article helps you all the essential foundations of animation well. Start creating your imagination and be the best at it!

All the best!

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