The next time you sit down to watch Archer or The Simpsons, pay a little bit more attention. Watch the way the characters’ heads turn, the timing of their movements, the direction of their eyes and the shadows they cast.
Chances are good that each of the illustrators behind those shows has a copy of The Illusion of Life at home (or at least read it while they were learning their craft). Considered by many to be the bible of animation, the book outlines 12 basic principles of animation as explained by Ollie Johnston and Frank Thomas, two of Walt Disney’s original illustrators, who developed their techniques starting in the 1930s. Briefly, those principles are: Squash and Stretch, Anticipation, Staging, Straight Ahead and Pose to Pose Animation, Follow Through and Overlapping Action, Slow-Out and Slow-In, Arcs, Secondary Action, Timing, Exaggeration, Solid Drawing and Appeal.
In the video above, Italian designer Vincenzo Lodigiani renders those principles in cartoon form, showing how a few simple techniques can transform a solid cube into a relatable character that the viewer wants to root for.
Lodigiani also created an animated GIF gallery of the 12 principles.