Follow Through to Create Realistic Animations

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Follow through and overlapping action are crucial principles in animation. Follow through refers to the continuation of an action after the main action is finished, while overlapping action involves multiple actions happening simultaneously.

To understand their significance, we can examine some examples.

Follow through and overlapping action in animation

Unraveling the Magic of Follow Through and Overlapping Action in Animation

Once upon a time, in the magical world of Disney animation, two talented animators named Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston set out on a quest to identify the basic principles that made their animated characters come to life. In their authoritative book, The Illusion of Life, they revealed the 12 principles of animation that have since become the language of animators everywhere.

Follow Through and Overlapping Action: Two Sides of the Same Coin

Among these 12 principles of animation, they identified a pair of closely related techniques that work hand in hand to create the illusion of life: Follow through and overlapping action. These techniques fall under a general heading, as they share a common goal: to make the action in animation more fluid, natural, and believable.

Follow Through: The Aftermath of Action

So, what exactly is follow through? Picture this: You’re watching a cartoon dog running at full speed, and suddenly it comes to a screeching halt. The dog’s body stops, but its floppy ears and tail continue to move, following the momentum of the action. That, my friend, is follow through. It’s the continuation of movement in certain parts of a character’s body after the main action has stopped. Some key points to remember about follow through are:

  • It adds realism to the animation by showing the effects of inertia
  • It helps to emphasize the main action
  • It can be used to create comedic or dramatic effects

Overlapping Action: A Symphony of Movement

Now let’s dive into overlapping action. Imagine that same cartoon dog running again, but this time, pay close attention to the different parts of its body. Notice how the legs, ears, and tail all move at slightly different times and speeds? That’s overlapping action at work. It’s the technique of offsetting the timing of various parts of a character’s body to create a more natural and fluid motion. Here are some essential aspects of overlapping action:

  • It breaks up the action into smaller, more manageable parts
  • It adds complexity and richness to the animation
  • It helps to convey the character’s personality and emotions

Rev Up Your Realism: Tips for Mastering Follow Through and Overlapping Action

1. Observe and Analyze Real-Life Motion

To create realistic animations, it’s essential to study the way things move in the real world. Pay close attention to the way different parts of the body move at varying speeds and how secondary actions occur after the main action. Observing and analyzing real-life motion will help you understand the principles of follow through and overlapping action, making your animations more believable.

2. Break Down Complex Actions into Simple Steps

When animating a scene, it’s helpful to break down complex actions into simpler steps. This allows you to focus on the primary action and the secondary actions that follow. By breaking down the motion into smaller parts, you can ensure that each element is animated with the right timing and speed, resulting in a more realistic and fluid animation.

3. Use Reference Videos and Tutorials

There’s no shame in seeking help from the pros! Reference videos and tutorials can provide valuable insights into the principles of follow through and overlapping action. Study these resources to learn how experienced animators apply these principles to their work. You’ll be amazed at how much you can learn from their techniques and tips.

4. Experiment with Different Animation Styles

While it’s important to master the principles of follow through and overlapping action, don’t be afraid to experiment with different animation styles. Each style has its own unique approach to motion and timing, and exploring these variations can help you develop your own unique style. Remember, animation is an art form, and there’s always room for creativity and innovation.

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5. Practice, Practice, Practice!

As with any skill, practice makes perfect. The more you work on your animations, the better you’ll become at applying the principles of follow through and overlapping action. Keep refining your skills and pushing yourself to create more realistic and dynamic animations. With time and dedication, you’ll see a noticeable improvement in your work.

6. Seek Feedback from Peers and Mentors

Finally, don’t be afraid to ask for feedback from fellow animators, mentors, or even friends and family. Constructive criticism can help you identify areas for improvement and provide valuable insights into how to make your animations more realistic. Remember, we’re all in this together, and learning from one another is one of the best ways to grow as an animator.

By incorporating these tips into your animation process, you’ll be well on your way to mastering the principles of follow through and overlapping action. So go ahead, get animating, and watch your scenes come to life with newfound realism and fluidity!

Overlapping Action: Breathing Life into Your Animation

Another principle that I learned early on was overlapping action. This principle is all about adding secondary actions to your animation to create a sense of realism. Here’s how I used overlapping action in my animations:

1. Identify secondary actions: I would look for opportunities to add subtle movements to my characters, like a slight head tilt or a hand gesture.
2. Timing is key: I made sure to offset these secondary actions from the primary action, so they didn’t happen simultaneously.
3. Keep it subtle: I learned that less is more when it comes to overlapping action. A small, well-timed movement can have a significant impact on the overall animation.

By incorporating overlapping action into my animations, I was able to create characters that felt alive and engaging.


So, follow through and overlapping action are two animation principles that help bring your characters to life. 

You can use them to make your animations more realistic and fluid, and they’re not as hard to master as you might think. So don’t be afraid to give them a try!

Hi, I'm Kim, a mom and a stop-motion enthusiast with a background in media creation and web development. I've got a huge passion for drawing and animation, and now I'm diving headfirst into the stop-motion world. With my blog, I'm sharing my learnings with you guys.