The 12 Principles of Animation

In his project “The Illusion of Life,” animator Ceno Lodigiani illustrates the “twelve principles of animation” set forth by Walt Disney Studios in the 1930s. These ideas guided the pioneering hand-drawn animated craft of Disney’s films, and they were later enumerated in a 1981 book by two of that studio’s animators, Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston, called “The Illusion of Life: Disney Animation.”

Lodigiani created animated GIFs interpreting each of these principles. They can be seen at this Tumblr blog. He also created this short video that rounds them up.

Watching it, it’s remarkable to note how it is ostensibly just a pedagogical inventory of techniques, with no story or characters, and yet it is still surprisingly entertaining in and of itself. Working with little more than simple geometric shapes and a few lines, Lodigiani shows how even the fewest elements can still be vividly transformed by each of these principles, and how powerful they can be in instilling belief and wonder in audiences. It’s a good reminder that as the overlap between interface design and animation grows wider, designers would do well to take note of the many decades of insight and knowledge that animators have accrued.


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