Principles of animation Squash and Stretch--

When working with clients there’s one area that I find they’re are always fascinated with and that’s animation.

My work usually involves animation in some shape or form. This could be anything from simple logo animations to full animated characters interacting with each other.

The question I usually get asked is “How do I bring the characters to life”

I think there’s definitely a fascination in how something that doesn’t exist in real life can suddenly be walking across the screen with what appears to be a heart an soul.

This illusion has been fascinating audiences for 100’s of years, from puppets right up to the latest CGI feature films.

I may write a blog about the history of animation at some point but for now I think I’ll just stick with talking about some of the principles that go into bringing characters to life.

To keep these blog posts in bite size chunks I’m going to break down the principles of animation one at a time.

There is a common misconception regarding animation between traditional 2D animation and 3D (CGI) animation. A lot of people think that the techniques used are completely different.

Although the tools to produce the work are different (computer verses pencil) the principles are exactly the same and have been the same since they were put into writing by Ollie Johnston and Frank Thomas in their book The Illusion of Life.

These guys were two top animators from Disney, who alongside seven others formed what were known as “The Nine Old Men”

Over the many, many years that they worked at Disney, they begun to realise that there were certain rules/principles that could be applied to every piece of animation that would not only help with realism but also give the animation an appeal and quality.

These became the twelve principles of animation, all of which can and should still be used today.

So to start with here is the first, although it should be said that the order of appearance doesn’t dictate importance.


Squash and Stretch refers to the volume of the character and the shapes it forms through movement. For example a character bends down to jump and then leaps into the air.

This can be seen as squash and stretch. When the character is knelt down they form a more squashed shape, when they leap up into the air they form a stretched shape.

This same principle can be applied to anything. For example a bouncing ball. When it hits the ground, if we apply a squashed shape like in this example

and then follow it with a stretched shape, we get a lot more power and feeling of impact then if we’d just kept the ball as a simple round shape. This also adds a lot of contrast in the images which  gives it a lot of appeal (another principle).

Now although squash and stretch can be applied and should be applied to any type of animation, it can be overdone and might make an animation feel too cartoony, especially if it’s meant to be a photo-real robot or some other rigid form, although as the original example demonstrates, even leaping into the air has squash and stretch in the form of the way the body moves. 

A general rule of thumb is the more squash and stretch you apply to the volume of the body the more cartoony and elasticated it will appear.

That’s all for now but tomorrow I’ll cover another principle.

If you find any this interesting or have any questions then please comment below, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

And If you would like to find out more about animation or are interested in having animation in your business please get in touch.

Till next time,


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