Last year, we featured Disney’s twelve timeless principles of animation, which Disney animators Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston first laid out in their 1981 book The Illusion of Life: Disney Animation. Even if you’ve never heard of the principles of “squash and stretch,” “follow-through,” and “solid drawing” before, you’ll surely recognize their application — in Disney cartoons and most others besides — as soon as you read their explanations in that post. Not for nothing has Thomas and Johnson’s book attained near-Biblical status among animators.
These 12 principles give animation the clarity of composition and richness of motion Disney’s standards have us expecting. But how to actually execute these 12 principles in your own work? Alan Becker Tutorials breaks it down in a series of 12 videos focused on each principle, clearly illustrating how each looks in practice and succinctly explaining what it takes to do it right — and showing what happens when you don’t.
Because most of us grew up watching cartoons, and more than a few of us have taken the interest with us into adulthood, we know good animation when we see it. After watching these brief tutorials, even if you have no professional interest in bringing drawings to life, you’ll find out how much quality animation has to do with adherence to the 12 principles. You can learn about all of them on the series’ Youtube playlist, a viewing experience that will enrich your memories of the best cartoons you watched in childhood with an understanding of what made them the best — and an understanding of what made all the others seem so cheap. I’m looking at you, Grape Ape.
Colin Marshall writes on cities, language, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer, and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.