November 3, 2004

Ollie's List: Animation Notes from a Master

Courtesy of 3D ark

This is a great list of dos and don't from the legendary animator Ollie Johnson. It's an old list, but it's good to re-read:

1. Don't illustrate words or mechanical movements. Illustrate ideas
or thoughts, with attitudes and actions.

2. Squash and stretch entire body for attitudes.

3. If possible, make definite changes fromone attitude to another in
timing and expression.

4. What is the character thinking?

5. It is the thought and circumstances behind the action that will
make the action interesting. Example: A man walks up to a mailbox,
drops in his letter and walks away or A man desperately in love
with a woman far away carefully mails a letter in which he has
poured his heart out in.

6. When drawing dialogue, go for phrasing. (Simplify the dialogue
into pictures of the dominating vowel and consonant sounds,
especially in fast dialogue.)

7. Lift the body attitude 4 frames before dialogue modulation (but
use identical timing on mouth as on X sheet).

8. Change of expression and major dialogue sounds are a point of
interest. Do them,if at all possible within a pose. If the head
moves too much you won't see the changes.

9. Don't move anything unless it is for a purpose.

10. Concentrate on drawing clear, not clean.

11. Don't be careless.

12. Everything has a function. Don't draw without knowing why.

13. Let the body attitude echo the facial.

14. Get the best picture in your drawing by thumbnails and exploring
all avenues.

15. Analyze a character in specific pose for the best areas to show
stretch and squash. Keep these areas simple.

16. Picture in your head what it is you're drawing.

17. Think in terms of drawing the whole character, not just the head
or eyes, etc. Keep a balanced relation of one part of the drawing
to the other.

18. Stage for the most effective drawing.

19. Draw a profile of the drawing you're working on every once in a
while. A profile is easier on which to show the proper proportions
of the face.

20. Usually the break in the eyebrow relates to the highpoint of the

21. The eye is pulled by the eyebrow muscles.

22. Get a plastic quality in face - cheeks, mouth and eyes.

23. Attain a flow through the body rhythm in your drawing.

24. Simple animated shapes.

25. The audience has a difficult time reading the first 6-8 frames in
a scene.

26. Does the added action in a scene contribute to the main idea in
that scene? will it help sell it or confuse it?

27. Don't animate for the sake of animation but think what the
character is thinking and what the scene needs to fit into the

28. Actions can be eliminated and staging "cheated" if it simplifies
the picture you are trying to show and is not disturbing to the

29. Spend half your time planning your scene and the other half

30. How to animate a scene of a four-legged character acting and
walking: Work out the acting patterns first with the stretch and
squash in the body, neck and head; then go back in and animate the
legs. Finally, adjust the up and down on the body according to the

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