Principles of Traditional Animation Applied to 3D Computer Animation

Reference: John Lasseter, "Principles of Traditional Animation Applied to 3D Computer Animation", Computer Graphics, pp. 35-44, 21:4, July 1987 (SIGGRAPH 87).

George Maestri, "Digital Character Animation", New Riders Press, 1996.


Many of the principles of traditional animation were developed in the 1930's at the Walt Disney studios. These principles were developed to make animation, especially character animation, more realistic and entertaining. These principles can and should be applied to 3D computer animation.

Principles of Traditional Animation

The following principles were developed and named:

  1. Squash and Stretch - defining the rigidity and mass of an object by distorting its shape during an action
  2. Timing and Motion - spacing actions to define the weight and size of objects and the personality of characters
  3. Anticipation - the preparation for an action
  4. Staging - presenting an idea so that it is unmistakably clear
  5. Follow Through and Overlapping Action - the termination of an action and establishing its relationship to the next action
  6. Straight Ahead Action and Pose-to-Pose Action - The two contrasting approaches to the creation of movement
  7. Slow In and Out - the spacing of the in-between frames to achieve subtlety of timing and movement
  8. Arcs - the visual path of action for natural movement
  9. Exaggeration - Accentuating the essence of an idea via the design and the action
  10. . Secondary Action - the action of an object resulting from another action
  11. . Appeal - creating a design or an action that the audience enjoys watching

Personality in character animation is the goal of all of the above.

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Last changed on March 14, 1999 by G. Scott Owen,