Principles Of Animation - Follow Through and Overlapping Action

Posted at Nov 2nd, 2012 by AnimDesk.

Sometimes an animated character will come to a sudden and complete stop when either entering a scene or an action. It did not look natural when an animator played it back. Back at the days Walt Disney concerned himself about this problem. "Every halt has its reasons” he said to his staff of animators. "Any action leads to an action." he urged them to understand.

Follow Through Animation - Tillie

Few methods and techniques developed in the studio to correct those faults; one would be "Follow Through" and the other "Overlapping Action". But no Animator really knew where one ends and when the other starts.

There are mainly five categories to find it out though:

1. If an animated character has a long ears, tail, or even a big coat or long shirt, then these parts would continue to move even after it stopped any action. This is rather easy to notice in our daily real life. The movements of each element must be carefully timed by the animator. The feeling of weight must be well understood, it must move in a believable way so the audience achieves the sense of realism.

2. The body of a character does not move altogether, it can stretch, twist, turn, contracts as forms acts on each other. If a body part stops, other may be still in movement; an arm or a hand may continue an action even if the body is idle. In order to look clearly, the chest, head and shoulders might stop at once, since the audience will see these parts (parts that portray how it’s feeling). Then a few drawings later the rest of the parts would set into their final position (though not in the same time). A "Held" position is called when a character reaches a stop position.

In the beginning, Animators couldn't understand why Walt Disney kept talking how important this method is. They found that their own methods as acceptable during playback, but when the suggestions by Walt were applied at the end, they saw huge change. The characters moved more realistic and the flow of the movement was new and exciting.

Follow Through

3. Loose flesh areas on a character, such as cheeks or belly, will move at a slower speed than skeletal parts of the body. This slow motion action is sometimes called 'Drag' and it gives a more solidity to the character and eventually life. When executing good drawings, the technique would be easily viewed during projection. For an animator, it’s like drawing in a fourth dimension. He is depicting the figure the way it should be at only that precise moment in time and place.

Think of when a snow ball starts to roll down a hill, it will start as a small ball and following that it will grow bigger and bigger as time moves on (frame by frame).

4. The way a scene or an action is finished sometimes tells us more about the character than the drawings used to make it. A soccer player might kick a ball, which takes up few frames. After kicking the ball, what happens after can be much more revealing. Whenever his follow through is of huge joy, sadness, or even rolling on the ground after a success goal his reactions are strong. Anticipation sets up the action that we expect (or an action that a character might expect?), an action happened and now we are at the main event of the action.

The follow through action, shows us what happened, and how it all turned out. The ending obviously needs to be considered as a part of the entire action before any of the drawings have been drawn.

An ending never considered important back then at those days. Animators used to do the actions (I.e., Prepare for a kick) rather than to draw the entire entertainment that would be developed from the character’s personality.

5. “Moving Held” employed parts of different elements of “Overlapping Action” and “Follow Through” used to achieve a new feeling of life in the character. Sometimes a “Held” movement would be on the screen for eight or more frames. The audience then could absorb the attitude of the character. (This would be around a second). But it was enough time to make sure that the information is consumed.

Overlapping Action

When a drawing was held for that amount of time, the flow of the action seems broken. The illusion disappeared, and the playback animation would seem flat. A new method developed to 'Hold' the drawing while the character was still moving!

The idea suggested making two drawings. One is more extreme than the other. Yet both contain all the information of the same pose. It was explained like this:

"You make a pose, and then move to an even stronger pose. Everything goes further, eyes goes up, ears fly out, legs goes apart. But at the end it’s still at the same pose”.

It’s easier to use “Follow Though” now on flesh parts. To give more dimension and weight to the character (using drag), animators strengthen the poses to receive more believable movements. Everything created a more believable animation.