Principles of Animation: 9 Timing, 10 Exaggeration

10. Timing

In The Illusionist, the wild motion of the singer in the band The Britoons seems more dynamic as it contrasts with the limited movement of his bandmates

Timing is not exactly a rule, but it is the most important aspect of animation and is what sets it apart from other drawn art forms. So much of animation is about timing. Messages or feelings that cannot be portrayed by a still picture can be communicated with the addition of timing.

One classic example that you see not only in film but also in real life is the dramatic pause. Think of when somebody whispers a secret to a friend. There’s a moment, just before they spill the beans, when they hesitate, looking around to make sure no one’s listening. This moment makes the anticipation of the secret greater. Exaggerating a dramatic pause can make an event in your animation funnier, more poignant or more intense.


2. Exaggeration

The man in the first image is drawn from a low angle, exaggerating his feet. His smoking hand appears less important as it on his far side. The second figure is drawn from above and his feet are further from the viewer. The smoking is much more noticeable because it is closer to the viewer

Exaggeration is a method of emphasising something to increase its significance or draw attention to it. In animation, we use it to emphasise whatever key idea or feeling you wish to portray.

For example, imagine you create a character who is smoking a cigarette while dancing. The action to exaggerate is the one most relevant to the scene. If the animation’s purpose is to illustrate the joys of dancing, it is the dancing that should be exaggerated. If, however, you want to focus on the fact that the character is smoking (perhaps it’s an anti-smoking ad), you would make him smoke in a very ostentatious way, with his feet making only tiny movements. By exaggerating the right elements, you can guide the viewers’ eyes and give them the message you wish to convey.

Using our bouncing ball example again, if we squashed the ball by the correct amount, the animation would probably look a little weak. You would hardly see the squash at all because it would be too slight and would happen too quickly. Exaggerating the amount of squash and stretch, and the pause when it touches the ground, will make the animation more dynamic.

To sum up, good use of exaggeration can make an animation come to life. To make it really work, choose the most important element of the scene, and apply exaggeration only to that. Think carefully about the different elements that can have exaggeration applied to them: movement, facial expressions, squash and stretch, bounce and timing. By exaggerating one of these elements, you can draw the viewer’s attention and make sure nothing is missed.

(Taken from


Really moving away from the realistic dynamic that I prefer, and I’m going for a real cartoony stretch this time around. I’m thinking of a child like character sneaking up on a stuffed shirt (poshy mc-poshington). The child will reach into his pocket and pull out a giant mallet, wind up a swing and hit poshy on the foot. Poshy will leap into the air, tongue and eyes bulging, YAOWCH! That’s what I’m hoping for anyway.

Principles of Animation: 9 Timing, 10 Exaggeration

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