Tip #1659: 12 Principles of Animation – From Disney

… for Visual Effects

Tip #1659: 12 Principles of Animation – From Disney

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

These twelve principles underlie all animation.

Image courtesy of DesignBuckle.com.

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This article, written by Anne Mirrop, first appeared in DesignBuckle.com. This is a summary.

Recently, Disney animators Ollie Johnston and Frank Thomas wrote a book: “The Illusion of Life: Disney Animation.” DesignBuckle reported on the twelve principles of animation that the two authors spent the book discussing.

NOTE: The first animated film with sound was “Steamboat Willie” by Walt Disney, produced by Walt Disney Studios in 1928.

If you’re an aspiring animator, you’ve probably heard the spiel about going back to the animation basics, starting with the twelve rules of animation. Why are these rules highlighted again and again? These principles established by Ollie Johnston and Frank Thomas help new animators create realistic, relatable work that mimics real-life movements while making room for creativity. By mastering these principles, you will create a foundation that will make your work visually appealing and work in the eye of the beholder.

  • Rule 1: Squash and Stretch
  • Rule 2: Anticipation
  • Rule 3: Staging
  • Rule 4: Straight-Ahead Action and Pose-to-Pose
  • Rule 5: Follow Through and Overlapping Action
  • Rule 6: Exaggeration
  • Rule 7: Solid Drawing
  • Rule 8: Slow In and Slow Out
  • Rule 9: Arc
  • Rule 10: Secondary Action
  • Rule 11: Timing
  • Rule 12: Appeal
  • Bonus Rule: Frame Rate

Those are the twelve rules of animation. These rules are foundational, bringing an animator back to the basics of animation and teaching the importance of believable movement while also emphasizing creative play. With the basics and creativity at your side, you can create characters with personality, movement, and style.


The article includes descriptions and illustrations of each rule, along with a history of animation and in-depth discussion of animation styles and list of top animated films.

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2 replies
  1. barry stone
    barry stone says:

    I would love to hear your recommendations for a 2D animation program with a reasonable learning curve. I want to be able to import drawings and give them some life and movement. I don’t mind buying the program but i don’t want to have to commit to a monthly fee.

    • Larry Jordan
      Larry Jordan says:


      I don’t have a recommendation – this is an area where I am not an expert. I’m sorry that I can’t help.



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