ANTICIPATION: 2D Animation principle

17 December, 2008

ANTICIPATION: 2D Animation principle

Anticipation (some times called
ANTIC) is the one of the most important animation principles that plays a main
role in bringing life to a character. We all know the meaning of the term
Anticipation. In general we use the term to express a waiting of the next move.
In animation terms anticipation means a character getting prepared to perform an
action, it means that when a character anticipates, he is also in the process of
gathering some energy to perform the next action.

An animator must learn how to
prepare the audience for an action. Applying anticipation serves this purpose.
Anticipation always happens in the opposite direction to that of an action that
follows after anticipation. You can notice characters in Tom & Jerry using
extreme anticipation to engage into a powerful action, such as a sudden run, or
hitting with an axe, or playing golf. One more factor that is incorporated in
anticipation is exaggeration. This exaggeration and extreme anticipation
followed by some thrilling action brings the character to life, thus helps
animators in achieving the best character animation, which is appealing and
enchanting to the viewers eye. Anticipation can be defined as an attempt by the
character to generate some energy or a force to perform an action.

Anticipation is an important
principle in animation. It is one of several devices in animation derived from
the genre of theater. Anticipations or “Antics” precede most of the main
movements in a scene. Most of the time the anticipation is an action opposite to
the main action. Anticipation pertains to movements by humans, animals, objects,
effects and graphics. Anything you can animate can begin with as anticipation.

Anticipations have several purposes:

  • They set up or telegraph
    your audience and let them know something is about to happen.
  • They keep the audience
    with the character’s actions.
  • It helps the character,
    animal, object, effect or graphic build momentum.
  • Most of the time, the
    anticipation matches the action. Big anticipation-big action; small
    anticipation small action.

Step: 1

Say you want to animate a
character that jumps UP; the character must first “antic” DOWN. Take a look at
the bouncing ball to illustrate anticipation.



As you can see in key drawing
#1 – the ball in its normal round shape. In drawing #2 – we “antic” down. In
this instance, we draw a squashed ball shape to show the weight of the

TIP: Animate in an opposite direction in most anticipations. Follow
with drawing #3, a stretched ball shape as the character jumps into the air. In
key pose drawing #4 the character resumes it normal round shape.

Step: 2

Here we have a character grab a
cup in four key drawings. In drawing #1, the character is at rest. Drawing #2
depicts an opposite action, as the character raises his hand. The next drawing,
#3, the character presents his hand as he moves to grab the cup. Finally, in
drawing # 4, the character has made contact with the cup.



  • Always look for good silhouettes in your key poses.

  • Spread the
    fingers as they near the cup.

  • To increase
    the impact or contact, go from the open position (with the fingers spread) to
    the closed or contact position (with the hand around the cup).

Step:  3

Here’s another example of
anticipation before a walk


Again, in drawing #1, the
character is at rest. Drawing #2, the young lady does a not-so-subtle
anticipation. Then in drawing #3, she steps off. Remember to follow the arcs
when the key poses are inbetweened. An action occurs in three parts: the preparation for the action, the action proper, and the termination of the action. Anticipation is the preparation for the action. Anticipation is an effective tool for indicating what is about to happen.



There are several facts to Anticipation. In one sense, it is the anatomical provision for an action. Since muscles in the body function through contraction, each must first be extended before it can contract. A foot must be pulled back before it can be swung forward to kick a ball. Without anticipation many actions are abrupt, stiff and unnatural. Anticipation is also a device to catch the audience’s eye, to prepare them for the next movement and lead them to especially before it actually occurs. Anticipation is often used to explain what the following action is going to be. Before a character reaches to grab an object, he first raises his arms as he stares at the article, broadcasting the fact that he is going to do something with that particular object. The anticipatory moves may not show why he is doing something, but there is no question about what he is going to do next.

Anticipation is also used to direct the attention of the audience to the right part of the screen all the right moment. This is essential for preventing the audience from missing some vital action. In the very beginning of Luxo Jr., Dad is on screen alone looking offstage. He then reacts, anticipating something happening there. When Jr. does hop in. the audience is prepared for the action. The amount of anticipation used considerably affects the speed of the action that follows it. If the audience expects something o happens, then it can be much faster without losing them. If they are not properly prepared for a very fast action, they may miss it completely; the anticipation must be made larger or the action slower. In a slow action the anticipation is often minimized and the meaning carried in the action proper. In one shot in The Adventures of Andr & eacute and Wally B., Wally B. zips off to the right. The actual action of the zip off is only 3 or 4 frames long, but he anticipates the zip long enough for the audience to know exactly what is coming next.

Anticipation can also emphasize
heavy weight as for a character picking up an object that is very heavy. An
exaggerated anticipation, like bending way down before picking up the object,
helps the momentum of the character to lift the heavy weight. Likewise for a fat
character standing up from a seated position: he will bend his upper body
forward, with his hands on the armrests of the chair, before pushing up with his
arms and using the momentum of his body.

One of the tricks, which an
animator has to learn, is how to attract the attention of the audience to the
right part of the screen at the right moment. This is of great importance to
prevent the audience missing some vital action and so the thread of the story.
Although the audience is a group of individuals, the human brain works in a
predictable way in these circumstances and it
is possible to rely fairly confidently on reflex audience reaction. If there are
a number of static objects on the screen with the attention equally divided
between them and suddenly one of the objects moves, all eyes go to the moving
object about a
second later. Movement is in effect, a signal to attract attention.

The amount of anticipation used
considerably affects the speed of the action that follows it. If the audience
can be led to expect something to happen then the action, when it does take
place, can be very fast indeed without them losing the thread of what is going
on. If the audience is not prepared for something that happens very quickly,
they may miss it. In this case the action has to be slower.

In an extreme case, if the
anticipation is properly done, the action itself needs only be suggested for the
audience to accept it. For instance, if a character is to zip
the screen, it
is enough for him to draw back in preparation followed by perhaps one or two
drawings to start the forward movement.  A few dry brush speed lines or a puff
of dust can then imply that he has gone. These lines or dust should be made to
disperse fairly slowly probably in not less than twelve frames.

An action occurs in three
parts: the preparation for the action, the action itself, and the termination of
the action. Anticipation is the preparation for the action. Anticipation is an
effective tool for indicating what is about to happen.

Indicating Speed: Take
the swing of a bat. If the bat is swung far back, one expects the ball to fly
far and away upon contact, or the batter to fall over from the power of the
swing. If the bat is only pulled slightly back, we expect a ground ball, or a
pop fly with very little distance. The amount of anticipation used considerably
affects the speed of the action which follows it. If the audience isn’t properly
prepared for a fast action, they may miss it completely. The anticipating action
must be made larger or the action slower

Directing Attention:
Anticipation can also be used to direct the audiences attention.[1] A character
looking off screen and reacting provides the audience with a cue to where an
important action is about to happen.

Revealing: In addition,
Anticipation could be used to indicate what a character is about to do. When a
person is about to steal something, their eyes shift up and down the grocery
aisle, looking for security, and then at the item they wish to take. This action
gives the audience an opportunity to see what the thief will take before he

Rules are made:
Anticipation could also be used to mislead the audience. When a person goes to
lift a large object, their body bends over more and they widen their stance. The
anticipated action would be a struggle to raise the object off the ground;
however the action could result in the objects flying off of the ground and the
person falling over from the miscalculation.

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