Classic cartoon animation techniques are timeless

November 25, 2009

issue-03-page-19

Model sheets from The Battle of Wangapore.

The basics of classic film animation remain the same whether you are creating a flick book or computer animation. Much can be learned by studying cartoon films frame by frame. Things to look out for are:

Anticipation – before a character moves forward they will make a small movement in the opposite direction.
Squash and stretch – this is best demonstrated by a rubber ball bouncing.
Cycles – a series of movements such as walking that can be repeated several times.

When it hits the ground it will flatten slightly. When it bounces up it will return to the round shape and then go elongated. The same effect can be used on cartoon characters when they go through fast moves.

More techniques are discussed in the article ‘Open Letter to an Enthusiast’ that appears in Animator’s newsletter issue 4. In it animator Ken Clark introduces a beginner to cartoon animation.

Also Ken clark tells how an amateur group solved the mammoth task of animating ‘The Battle of Wangapore in The Grasshopper Animators.

One of the modern masters of animation, Richard Williams, has written an excellent animation manual entitled The Animator’s Survival Kit. The book is subtitled A Working Manual of Methods, Principles and Formulas for Computer, Stop-motion, Games and Classical Animators.

Richard Williams learnt his craft from one of Disney’s “nine old men”, Art Babbitt and was the director of animaton on Who Framed Roger Rabbit.

His book is packed with hundreds of drawings to illustrate the theory and technique. It is an essential book for beginners learning animation or students studying on an animation based course. It covers the history of animation, how to draw, timing of animation, from the basics- stationary figures to walking, running jumping and skipping, to flexibility, weight, anticipation, dialogue, acting, emotion and directing. With this bible you won’t go wrong.

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