Animation Notes From Ollie Johnston - by John Lasseter, Pixar

"When I was an animator at the Disney Studios, I had a xeroxed list of simple notes from one of the great Disney animators, Ollie Johnston, pinned to my drawing table. The list was originally written down by another great Disney animator, Glen Keane, after working as Ollie’s assistant for a few years."

"These notes have been an inspiration to me for years. Even though they were meant for hand-drawn animation, I believe that they still apply to computer animation."

  • Don’t illustrate words or mechanical movements. Illustrate ideas or thoughts, with the attitudes and actions.
  • Squash and stretch entire body for attitudes.
  • If possible, make definite changes from one attitude to another in timing and expression.
  • What is the character thinking?
  • 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.


A man desperately in love with a girl far away carefully mails a letter in which he has poured his heart out.

  • When drawing dialogue, go for phrasing. (Simplify the dialogue into pictures of the dominating vowel and consonant sounds, especially in fast dialogue.
  • Lift the body attitude 4 frames before dialogue modulation (but use identical timing on mouth as on X sheet).
  • 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.
  • Don’t move anything unless it’s for a purpose.
  • Concentrate on drawing clear, not clean.
  • Don’t be careless.
  • Everything has a function. Don’t draw without knowing why.
  • Let the body attitude echo the facial.
  • Get the best picture in your drawing by thumbnails and exploring all avenues.
  • Analyze a character in a specific pose for the best areas to show stretch and squash. Keep these areas simple.
  • Picture in your head what it is you’re drawing.
  • 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.
  • Stage for most effective drawing.
  • 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.
  • Usually the break in the eyebrow relates to the highpoint of the eye.
  • The eye is pulled by the eyebrow muscles.
  • Get a plastic quality in face — cheeks, mouth and eyes.
  • Attain a flow thru the body rhythm in your drawing.
  • Simple animated shapes.
  • The audience has a difficult time reading the first 6-8 frames in a scene.
  • Does the added action in a scene contribute to the main idea in that scene? Will it help sell it or confuse it?
  • Don’t animate for the sake of animation but think what the character is thinking and what the scene needs to fit into the sequence.
  • Actions can be eliminated and staging "cheated" if it simplifies the picture you are trying to show and is not disturbing to the audience.
  • Spend half your time planning your scene and the other half animating.
  • 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 motion on the body according to the legs.

Principles of Physical Animation

Principles of Physical Animation

THE 12 BASIC PRINCIPLES OF ANIMATION Paraphrased by Nataha Lightfoot from the "Illusion Of Life" by Frank Thomas & Ollie Johnston.(pp.47-69) Look these up and read the original version for a complete understanding.
  1. Squash and stretch
  2. Anticipation
  3. Staging
  4. Straight Ahead Action and Pose to Pose
  5. Follow Through and Overlapping Action
  6. Slow In and Slow Out
  7. Arcs
  8. Secondary Action
  9. Timing
  10. Exaggeration
  11. Solid Drawing (same or different as Weight)
  12. Appeal


This action gives the illusion of weight and volume to a character as it moves. Also squash and stretch is useful in animating dialogue and doing facial expressions. How extreme the use of squash and stretch is, depends on what is required in animating the scene. Usually it's broader in a short style of picture and subtler in a feature. It is used in all forms of character animation from a bouncing ball to the body weight of a person walking. This is the most important element you will be required to master and will be used often.


This movement prepares the audience for a major action the character is about to perform, such as, starting to run, jump or change expression. A dancer does not just leap off the floor. A backwards motion occurs before the forward action is executed. The backward motion is the anticipation. A comic effect can be done by not using anticipation after a series of gags that used anticipation. Almost all real action has major or minor anticipation such as a pitcher's wind-up or a golfers' back swing. Feature animation is often less broad than short animation unless a scene requires it to develop a characters personality.


A pose or action should clearly communicate to the audience the attitude, mood, reaction or idea of the character as it relates to the story and continuity of the story line. The effective use of long, medium, or close up shots, as well as camera angles also helps in telling the story. There is a limited amount of time in a film, so each sequence, scene and frame of film must relate to the overall story. Do not confuse the audience with too many actions at once. Use one action clearly stated to get the idea across, unless you are animating a scene that is to depict clutter and confusion. Staging directs the audience's attention to the story or idea being told. Care must be taken in background design so it isn't obscuring the animation or competing with it due to excess detail behind the animation. Background and animation should work together as a pictorial unit in a scene.


Straight ahead animation starts at the first drawing and works drawing to drawing to the end of a scene. You can lose size, volume, and proportions with this method, but it does have spontaneity and freshness. Fast, wild action scenes are done this way. Pose to Pose is more planned out and charted with key drawings done at intervals throughout the scene. Size, volumes, and proportions are controlled better this way, as is the action. The lead animator will turn charting and keys over to his assistant. An assistant can be better used with this method so that the animator doesn't have to draw every drawing in a scene. An animator can do more scenes this way and concentrate on the planning of the animation. Many scenes use a bit of both methods of animation.


When the main body of the character stops all other parts continue to catch up to the main mass of the character, such as arms, long hair, clothing, coat tails or a dress, floppy ears or a long tail (these follow the path of action). Nothing stops all at once. This is follow through. Overlapping action is when the character changes direction while his clothes or hair continues forward. The character is going in a new direction, to be followed, a number of frames later, by his clothes in the new direction. "DRAG," in animation, for example, would be when Goofy starts to run, but his head, ears, upper body, and clothes do not keep up with his legs. In features, this type of action is done more subtly. Example: When Snow White starts to dance, her dress does not begin to move with her immediately but catches up a few frames later. Long hair and animal tail will also be handled in the same manner. Timing becomes critical to the effectiveness of drag and the overlapping action.


As action starts, we have more drawings near the starting pose, one or two in the middle, and more drawings near the next pose. Fewer drawings make the action faster and more drawings make the action slower. Slow-ins and slow-outs soften the action, making it more life-like. For a gag action, we may omit some slow-out or slow-ins for shock appeal or the surprise element. This will give more snap to the scene.


All actions, with few exceptions (such as the animation of a mechanical device), follow an arc or slightly circular path. This is especially true of the human figure and the action of animals. Arcs give animation a more natural action and better flow. Think of natural movements in the terms of a pendulum swinging. All arm movement, head turns and even eye movements are executed on an arcs.


This action adds to and enriches the main action and adds more dimension to the character animation, supplementing and/or re-enforcing the main action. Example: A character is angrily walking toward another character. The walk is forceful, aggressive, and forward leaning. The leg action is just short of a stomping walk. The secondary action is a few strong gestures of the arms working with the walk. Also, the possibility of dialogue being delivered at the same time with tilts and turns of the head to accentuate the walk and dialogue, but not so much as to distract from the walk action. All of these actions should work together in support of one another. Think of the walk as the primary action and arm swings, head bounce and all other actions of the body as secondary or supporting action.


Expertise in timing comes best with experience and personal experimentation, using the trial and error method in refining technique. The basics are: more drawings between poses slow and smooth the action. Fewer drawings make the action faster and crisper. A variety of slow and fast timing within a scene adds texture and interest to the movement. Most animation is done on twos (one drawing photographed on two frames of film) or on ones (one drawing photographed on each frame of film). Twos are used most of the time, and ones are used during camera moves such as trucks, pans and occasionally for subtle and quick dialogue animation. Also, there is timing in the acting of a character to establish mood, emotion, and reaction to another character or to a situation. Studying movement of actors and performers on stage and in films is useful when animating human or animal characters. This frame by frame examination of film footage will aid you in understanding timing for animation. This is a great way to learn from the others.


Exaggeration is not extreme distortion of a drawing or extremely broad, violent action all the time. It¹s like a caricature of facial features, expressions, poses, attitudes and actions. Action traced from live action film can be accurate, but stiff and mechanical. In feature animation, a character must move more broadly to look natural. The same is true of facial expressions, but the action should not be as broad as in a short cartoon style. Exaggeration in a walk or an eye movement or even a head turn will give your film more appeal. Use good taste and common sense to keep from becoming too theatrical and excessively animated


The basic principles of drawing form, weight, volume solidity and the illusion of three dimension apply to animation as it does to academic drawing. The way you draw cartoons, you draw in the classical sense, using pencil sketches and drawings for reproduction of life. You transform these into color and movement giving the characters the illusion of three-and four-dimensional life. Three dimensional is movement in space. The fourth dimension is movement in time.


A live performer has charisma. An animated character has appeal. Appealing animation does not mean just being cute and cuddly. All characters have to have appeal whether they are heroic, villainous, comic or cute. Appeal, as you will use it, includes an easy to read design, clear drawing, and personality development that will capture and involve the audience¹s interest. Early cartoons were basically a series of gags strung together on a main theme. Over the years, the artists have learned that to produce a feature there was a need for story continuity, character development and a higher quality of artwork throughout the entire production. Like all forms of story telling, the feature has to appeal to the mind as well as to the eye.

Eye Direction and Lying

Eye Movement and Direction and How it Can Reveal the Truth or a Lie

This is a continuation of our previous article " Detecting Lies". Many comments by our visitors have asked about how eye direction can indicate the presence of a lie.

So can the direction a person's eyes reveal whether or not they are making a truthful statement? Short answer: sort of. But, it isn't as simple as some recent television shows or movies make it seem. In these shows a detective will deduce a person is being untruthful simply because they looked to the left or right while making a statement.

In reality, it would be foolish to make such a snap judgment without further investigation... but the technique does have some merit. So, here it is... read, ponder and test it on your friends and family to see how reliable it is for yourself.

Visual Accessing Cues

The first time "Visual Accessing Cues" were discussed (at least to my knowledge), was by Richard Bandler and John Grinder in their book "Frogs into Princes: Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) " From their experiments this is what they found:

When asked a question a "normally organized" right-handed person looks (from your viewpoint, looking at them):

Up and to the Left
Indicates: Visually Constructed Images (Vc)
If you asked someone to "Imagine a purple buffalo", this would be the direction their eyes moved in while thinking about the question as they "Visually Constructed" a purple buffalo in their mind.

Up and to the Right
Indicates: Visually Remembered Images (Vr)
If you asked someone to "What color was the first house you lived in?", this would be the direction their eyes moved in while thinking about the question as they "Visually Remembered" the color of their childhood home.

To the Left
Indicates: Auditory Constructed (Ac)
If you asked someone to "Try and create the highest the sound of the pitch possible in your head", this would be the direction their eyes moved in while thinking about the question as they "Auditorily Constructed" this this sound that they have never heard of.

To the Right
Indicates: Auditory Remembered (Ar)
If you asked someone to "Remember what their mother's voice sounds like ", this would be the direction their eyes moved in while thinking about the question as they "Auditorily Remembered " this sound.

Down and to the Left
Indicates: Feeling / Kinesthetic (F)
If you asked someone to "Can you remember the smell of a campfire? ", this would be the direction their eyes moved in while thinking about the question as they used recalled a smell, feeling, or taste.

Down and To the Right
Indicates: Internal Dialog (Ai)
This is the direction of someone eyes as they "talk to themselves".

The Gist of it...

How this information is used to detect lies:

Example: Let's say your child ask's you for a cookie, and you ask them "well, what did your mother say?" As they reply "Mom said... yes." they look to the left. This would indicate a made up answer as their eyes are showing a "constructed image or sound. Looking to the right would indicated a "remembered" voice or image, and thus would be telling the truth.

Animating two characters - Shawn Kelly (ILM Animator)

Animating two characters

"I think my biggest tips would be:

1) film reference with a friend(s). Don't try to do reference of 2 characters acting with each other by yourself by filming one and then the other. You'll miss out on many opportunites to subtly interact that you would discover by filming reference with another person physically in the scene with you. Even if the characters never actually touch, this is a really important step.

2) Be very careful about leading the eye of the audience. It's better to have one character bordering on "dead" than having the audience not knowing where to look. Most importantly, make sure it's very clear which character is talking when. Overacting can wreck a scene, but it can doubly wreck a multiple character scene because you can't tell who is talking or who the animator wants you to be looking at.... Anticipation can help you direct the eye of the audience, as can staging/composition, etc.

Anticipation is one of the big ways though. It's like your secret line of communication with the audience. "hey - look over here because something funny is about to happen!" or maybe subtly moving a character's left hand just before he waves with his right gets the audience to switch over to look at that character and not miss the wave... "

Moving Hold - Bobby Beck (Pixar Animator)

Bobby 'BOOM' Beck (Animator Pixar Studios)

Moving holds, thoughts on the character to be animated, making subtle animation interesting, blocking, rhythm of dialogue:

" 1. Moving holds? advance techiques. In all the pixar stuff the moving hold are excellent what advance techiques do you use? do you have some sort of noise on the bones?

First off, Animation is observation. If you are doing a shot where you really want to drive home a single idea we sometimes push that moment into a "POSE." that pose then needs to stay alive and we call this a moving hold. A moving hold is just as hard as any other part of your animation, if not more!

Before actually getting into the computer and posing things out I have a 90% clear idea of what I want to do already. I do this by "PLANNING" in depth most EVERY scene I tackle. Why do I do this? It saves me tons of time and sometimes at work we dont' have a lot of time and we need to be clear, communitcate the main story points, and get it done in a timly manner. Planning is the backbone of animation (for me).

The Reason I say this is that when I get to a point where I'm blocking my scene out I will already know which parts of the body will "land" first and possibly overshoot and settle. What's happening in the eyes? They eyes are key in any medium to close up shot. Especially for keeping your character alive.

So for moving holds I'd say, in my planning a lot of that stuff becomes clear to me via video reference (What am I doing in this moment? A subtle head move? What are my eyes doing, what are my hips doing???) all these questions become clear with observation and study.

2. What is your thought process before you animate your character? I.e What set of questions do you ask your self before you start on a acting piece?

#1 is "WHO IS THIS CHARACTER?" You have to know who your charcter is. That's not just to say it and dismiss it. If you are trying to convince people that your character has ANY kind of personality you have to BELIEVE that this character exists. You create a back story. You give your character an Age, a history.

When I was developing Nemo's character I made a little web page for him and in one of those areas I had a "character description" section that went over how old Nemo was, what he thought about his father and himself, what is struggles were internally and how he would approach certain situations. This stuff is key for animators. You have to imagine your character as truly being.

In "Finding Nemo" I had a HUGE BOOOM revelation and I called this "Animating from the INSIDE out." My character is not just some spans of geometry. My character has a heart, has flesh, has a brain, thinks on their own, etc. AfterI would put my blocking in there shortly thereafter I would think, okay, this character has ALWAYS done this, they have always moved in this way, They are living this moment of their life RIGHT NOW. I think this kind of thinking has happened over many years of thinking and animating. But the sooner anyone can start thinking about Animation like this the sooner their animation willl become "ALIVE" and not just a series of movements.

3. How do you make Subtle animation Intesting?

You Observe. Subtle animation is VERY interesting. Most interesting in the study of the movement. I think the final result is largely subliminal (things like subtext, etc.) but it is in the study and the Intent behind the characters thoughts that bring about this "subtle acting."

4. Blocking? you block out in stepped right but how far do you let it go untill you start to convert the to smoothed curves? do you block out facial animation also? can you show us a good example of one of your block outs?

I keep things stepped for a long time. One animator put it really well (Quote of Mike Venturini)."As soon as I put things on smooth I'm letting the computer do things for me and I want to make sure I'm winning the battle." This is put super well. A lot of times I won't convert to smooth at all, I convert it to linear because I have a key on every frame. But as soona s I feel that all I need is a straight inbetween I will then convert that section to spline or linear. But sometimes due to time constraints I convert it too soon into spline because I have to get the shot out.

Facial animation I block out with Poses. I get the key poses in there and then I usually work that area more "Straight Ahead."

As for an example I am currently working on a web site that should have some good examples of this in my work.

5. In your dialougue acting pieces what techiques do you use to break down the audio into different beats? and as Keith reffers to as thematic moments?

Shawn Kelly is the master of this. There are so many ways to break down an audio track. But you must first ask yourself "Why does this shot exist?" "What is the point of this shot?" Once you know that it is key to listen to the track about 500 BILLION times and listen for key beats. Sometimes those beats are in the quiet moments. Those quiet moments can actually be the BREAD AND BUTTER of the whole scene. But it takes a kean ear to listen for those beats. Then, in the end it's all about the choices you make (Acting choices, posing choices, timing choices etc) Freaking Booom O matic!

Sure there are natural Peaks in the audio track. Those tend to be the places where we choose to put a "Drawing" or Image/Pose whatever. I call these Drawings. It is key to SIMPLIFY what you are hearing make it clear and easy to read. If you hit EVERY beat in a line you will kill the audience with too much information. This is a common tendency with new animators. Too much too complicated. Just keep it simple and clear and the audience will thank you for it! "

Persepolis - 2007

Video Bitrate: 955 kb/s
Framerate: 25
mp3, 126 kbit/s
700 MB

"Persepolis" is the poignant story of a young girl coming-of-age in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. It is through the eyes of precocious and outspoken nine-year-old Marjane that we see a people's hopes dashed as fundamentalists take power - forcing the veil on women and imprisoning thousands. Clever and fearless, she outsmarts the "social guardians" and discovers punk, ABBA and Iron Maiden.Yet when her uncle is senselessly executed and as bombs fall around Tehran in the Iran/Iraq war the daily fear that permeates life in Iran is palpable.

File Size: 700 Mb

Final Draft v7.1.2.34

Use your creative energy to focus on the content; let Final Draft take care of the style. Final Draft is the number-one selling word processor specifically designed for writing movie scripts, television episodics and stage plays. It combines powerful word processing with professional script formatting in one self-contained, easy-to-use package. There is no need to learn about script formatting rules - Final Draft automatically paginates and formats your script to industry standards as you write.

File Size: 29,54 Mb

Solar - Shor Animated Film

Solar is a short animated film by graduate creatives Ian Wharton & Edward Shires. A tale of the sun, moon and two characters who inhabit a world that relies on day and night perhaps more than it would seem.


Solar - Making Of

Making-Of Coca-Cola Happiness Factory

Agency: Wieden + Kennedy, Amsterdam
Exec Creative Director: Al Moseley, John Norman
Creative Directors: Rick Condos & Hunter Hindman
Art Director: Barney Hobson
Copywriter: Rick Chant
Executive Producer: Tom Dunlap
Producer: Sandy Reay

Production company: Psyop, New York
Directors: Todd Mueller and Kylie Matulick
Audio Interview Directors: Todd Mueller, Psyop & Wayne Waterson, Dab Hand Media
Executive Producers: Justin Booth-Clibborn and Boo Wong
Audio Interview Producers: Paul Middlemiss, Psyop & Luke Beauchamp, Dab Hand Media
Live Action Producer: Paul Middlemiss
Producer: Mariya Shikher
Coordinator: Tarun Charaipotra
Editors: Brett Nicoletti, Cass Vanini, and Brett Goldberg
Storyboard Artist: Ben Chan
Animation Director: Nicholas Weigel
Lead TD: David Chontos Animators: Pat Porter, Jeff Lopez, Aja Bogdanoff, Henning Koscy, Michael Taylor, Gordana Fersini, Chris Cauffield, Dovi Anderson, Simon Allen, Aaron Koressel, Raquel Coelho, Ryan Gong Rigging: Tony Barbieri and Gooshun Wang
Modeling/Texturing: Anthony Patti, Stanley Ilin, Yaron Canetti, Sheng-Fang Chen
Lighting: Saira Matthew, Brian Drucker, Michael Marsek,
FX: Reeves Blakeslee, Clay Budin, Damon Ciarelli, Dylan Maxwell, Pete Hamilton, Jed Mitchell
Compositing: Theo Maniatis, Jason Conradt, Molly Schwartz, Matt St. Leger, Stefania Gallico

Ren and Stimpy in Life Sucks Animatic

Life Sucks explores the difference between Ren and Stimpy's outlook on life. They each look at the world and see the same evidence yet judge it in opposite ways. Stimpy is an optimist and Ren is a pessimist. In Life Sucks, Ren realizes it's his duty to cure Stimpy of his naivety and he takes him on a journey through biology, religion, history and evolution in an attempt to make him wake up and smell the coffee.
This is just one sequence from the cartoon. Ren tells Stimpy a story from the history of his religion, a story of people's devotion to the divine Cat-Jesus. Richard Pursel and I concocted this warm little Ren and Stimpy scene.

This is a storyboard reel (animatic) from an epic Ren and Stimpy story called "Life Sucks". Many of the folks who worked on it figured it was the best R and S story we had ever written. Unfortunately it was never produced.


The Making Of The Road To El Dorado - Part 1 of 3

The Making Of The Road To El Dorado - Part 2 of 3

The Making Of The Road To El Dorado - Part 3 of 3

The Making Of Treasure Planet - Part 1 of 4

The Making Of Treasure Planet - Part 2 of 4

The Making Of Treasure Planet - Part 3 of 4

The Making Of Treasure Planet - Part 4 of 4

The Making Of Tarzan - Part 1 of 3

The Making Of Tarzan - Part 2 of 3

The Making Of Tarzan - Part 3 of 3

Careers in Filmmaking: Segment One of Five

Careers In Filmmaking: Segment Two of Five

Careers In Filmmaking: Segment Three of Five

Careers In Filmmaking: Segment Four of Five

Careers in Filmmaking: Segment Five of Five

Zero Budget Storyboarding

Writing a Script - 4 Minute Film School

Casting - 4 Minute Film School

Storyboarding - 4 Minute Film School