The Disney's 12 Principles of Animation


Basic Principles for Realistic Movements

The Twelve Basic Principles of Animation are the basic animation techniques of animation, originating from the work of Disney animators Ollie Johnston and Frank Thomas in 1981, “Disney Animation: The Illusion of Life.” These rules are widely adopted and used in animation production, affecting the production of not only traditional animation but various animation types.

Squash and Stretch

The squash and stretch technique exaggerates the natural physical phenomenon of a moving object, showing its weight and texture. The key point is to keep the consistency of the object's volume. Otherwise, they will look like two completely different things.


Anticipation in Animation

The Anticipation principle prepares the audience for what's happening next. You can break the action into three parts - the anticipation of an action, the prime action, and the follow-through. Some understandings of the laws of physics are useful to draw the right poses.


Straight Ahead Action and Pose to Pose

Straight Ahead Action is an animating method in which an animator draws frame by frame-  from the first frame to the last one. The Straight Ahead Action is ideal for animating actions that have no obvious physical patterns, like explosions or flames.


Pose to Pose, on the other hand, requires animators to create a key frame (the key pose) first and then fill in using inbetweens. Pose to Pose is a structured method. It allows animators to control the path of action and maintain the accuracy of volume of the character.


Follow Through and Overlapping Action

The Follow-through is the action that takes place after the main action. The follow-through principle reflects the inertia power of the moving part. For example, when a pitcher throws a ball, the arm swings even after the ball left his or her hand.


Overlapping means overlapping the actions of the parts of the main character. For example, overlapping the action of a jumping dancer and the swinging tutu dress. The Overlapping principle makes the animation more lively and fluid.

Slow in and Slow out

Even the best sports car takes seconds to accelerate and decelerate. Applying the slow in slow out principle makes the animation realistic. Please use the onion skin and check if the drawings are showing speed changes.


Arc - The Circular Path

In real life, many movements follow a natural arc path. For example, when we walk, our arms swing in an arc pattern. Even smaller actions, like a head-turn, follow a circular arc. The faster the movement is the flatter the arc path is, and vice versa. It's one of the fundamental principles.



Correct timing is one of the most important factors in animation. Timing presents the speed of a physical movement and forms emotion and tension. In a big-budget production, each second of the animation is composed of 24 frames. In TV series, each second of the animation is composed of 12 or even 8 frames. In these cases, frames are filmed multiple times to save time and effort.



A good exaggeration is a convincing performance. It spices up character‘s personality, emotional scenes, and action.  Preserving recognizable details and some reality will help you engage your audience better.


You can find more about the Walt Disney's 12 Animation Principles on our website,

Staging: learn about the composition of an animation scene.

Secondary: work with the primary action and the secondary action

Solid drawing: how to draw accurately

Character design: Show the character's personality with shapes and colors

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