Principles of Animation: Squash and Stretch

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Principles of Animation: Squash and Stretch

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Welcome to a new blog feature covering a subject we know all too well here at IdeaRocket – animation!

Over the next few months, we will provide a weekly sojourn into the basic foundations of animation. The intent here is to create an accessible starting point for those interested in the art and craft of animation by focusing on a number of basic principles which are essential to the process of animation.

This week we’ll cover squash and stretch. The purpose of squash and stretch is to give a sense of weight and flexibility to animated objects of a fixed volume. This, in turn, breathes life into an animated character or object. Simply put, the squash and stretch is a way with which an animator can distort a shape to properly convey the impression of the forces acting upon it.

Anyone who has seen an animated picture – whether a more cartoonish approach like an old Fleischer Brothers cartoon, or the more contemporary realism of Pixar – has surely witnessed countless examples of this technique without even realizing it. And that’s a sign that this principle is being used well. As with any form of visual storytelling, the techniques tend to operate at a transparent level, and bring the story to life without drawing too much attention to themselves.

Let’s look at an example from an explainer we made for Global English, which concerns two anthropomorphic buildings speaking with each other. Notice how much more lifelike the building on the right appears as he squashes slightly before stretching to lean over and console the building on the left. Can you imagine how stiff the buildings would appear if they were to remain still the whole time?

Take a look at another example below from a spot we did for Eastlink. When the letters spring from the ground, they elongate as a means to show the impression of speed. Conversely, the letters will squash horizontally when they come into contact with the ground. This works to convey to the viewer a sense of weight in each letter.


And that’s all folks. Check back soon for our next installment, where we cover the principle of anticipation and follow-through.

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