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12 principles of animation: All about Straight Ahead & Pose To Pose

12 principles of animation - The illusion of life

During the 30s of the last century, as pioneers in their field, Walt Disney and his associates (Frank Thomas, Ollie Johnston, and others) created and developed a list – 12 principles of animation. Published in the book "The Illusions Of Life", this is what has laid the foundation and core direction of the animation industry throughout its nearly century-long history.

Straight Ahead & Pose To Pose - 12 principles of animation - The illusion of life

Being a pioneer with great enthusiasm and passion, Disney did not invent these 12 principles out of the blue. Instead, it was the result of a lengthy process of comprehending, analyzing, and summarizing a myriad of Walt Disney Studios’ experiments.

Disney wanted to find ways to create “real” and “soulful” motions, and even convey the essence as well as the character’s personality through them – a truly ambitious vision especially during the infant stage of the animation industry.

Although nearly 100 years have passed, we still view these 12 principles of animation as a "bible" for animation enthusiasts. Throughout that time course, all the animation that we have ever seen, including every iconic film and movie character, were built based on Walt Disney’s framework.

Straight Ahead & Pose To Pose - 12 principles of animation - The illusion of life

Even nowadays, those principles have all been so fully presented to the animators in the training process that there is no need to explain “anticipation” or “follow-through” in a discussion. In other words, the 12 principles of animation have subconsciously become a common language among animators.

With the next series of articles in “The Animation Study”, DeeDee Animation Studio will give you an overview of what laid the foundation for the animation industry as we know it today. If you’ve read about the first three principles: Squash and stretch; Anticipation, Staging, let’s move to the fourth one: Straight Ahead & Pose To Pose.

Principles of animation - Straight Ahead & Pose To Pose

Straight-Ahead & Pose-to-pose are two different methods of creating motion in animation. Let's learn more about each method with DeeDee!

What are Straight Ahead & Pose To Pose?

Straight Ahead: The straight-ahead technique means to animate one drawing after another back to back in sequential order.

Straight Ahead & Pose To Pose - What are Straight Ahead & Pose To Pose?
Demo of Straight Ahead technique (Source: Creative Bloq)

Pose to Pose: The pose-to-pose technique is a bit different as it means to draw the key poses first and then fill in the inbetween drawings to smooth out the animation later.

Straight Ahead & Pose To Pose - What are Straight Ahead & Pose To Pose?
Demo of Pose to Pose technique (Source: Creative Bloq)

Other related terms:

Keyframes: The most important drawings that define the starting and ending point of any particular movement.

Breakdown: Drawings between two keyframes determine the direction of movement

Extremes: Commonly used for both Keyframes and Breakdown

Straight Ahead & Pose To Pose - Other related terms:
The definition of pose-to-pose method (Source: Internet)
Straight Ahead & Pose To Pose - Other related terms:
Some other terms relate to the pose-to-pose method (Source: Internet)

Applications in animation

Pose to pose:

This is the most popular approach in animation (2D hand-drawn, 3D, etc). Pose-to-pose allows animators to tightly and effectively control the stages of production. Usually, using the straight-ahead method is much harder to keep the scale of the characters and objects consistent. It’s more time-consuming if you want to go back to do any retake when you’re already finished.

Straight Ahead & Pose To Pose - Pose to pose:
The difference between the two approaches of animation (Source: Toniko Pantoja)

When compared to straight-ahead, pose-to-pose is a bit intricate but more efficient. If from the beginning, animators can figure out the shapes and order of drawings then they should apply the pose-to-pose method. Finalize the keyframes first, adjust them if needed, then decide on the character's movement through breakdowns, then insert the inbetweens.

Straight Ahead & Pose To Pose - Pose to pose:
Source: Internet

With the pose-to-pose method, animators can easily identify the key poses as well as the main problems. It is more efficient when it comes to doing slow-motion with emphasis on the character’s facial expression. This method helps animators focus on details and control the sequence.

Straight Ahead:

The below video will give you a vivid example of this method.

The advantage of straight ahead can be seen in animating objects that do not have solid states such as flames, water drops, or dust, etc. Such natural effects are flexible. However, animators can still apply pose-to-pose to add in the inbetweens to create smoother transitions.

Straight Ahead & Pose To Pose - Straight Ahead:
Straight ahead approach in making flame effect (Source: giphy)

In many other cases, animators can combine two methods to handle overlapping motions. For example, you have to draw a running rabbit, you can apply the pose-to-pose technique with the body then use straight ahead to draw the physical movement of the rabbit’s ears. This approach can also be applied to animate hair, tails, and other extra details.

Straight Ahead & Pose To Pose - Straight Ahead:
Mixing the two methods in describing the movement of a running rabbit (Source: Looney Tunes)

In addition, straight ahead is also applied in stop motion materials (puppet animation, paper cut-out, etc). With "real-life" materials, it is very difficult for an artist to build keyframes by using the pose-to-pose method and then insert breakdowns and inbetweens in the middle like 2D or 3D. Therefore, before making a certain scene in a stop motion animated film, animators will have to prepare and calculate the movement very carefully to avoid mistakes.

Straight Ahead & Pose To Pose - Straight Ahead:
The Straight ahead method in Laika’s famous film Coraline (Source: gifphy)
Straight Ahead & Pose To Pose - Straight Ahead:
Example of the Straight ahead method in Stop motion (Source: Laika Studio)


It can be said that the two methods of straight-ahead & pose to pose are important skills that any animator needs to master. Applying a combination of these two methods helps animators to create vivid movements for the characters.

Visit our other principles of animation:

In the next article, DeeDee Animation Studio will share about the 5th principle: Follow Through and Overlapping Action.


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