Flipbook Character Animation Stage 1 – Skeleton Poses

Drawing a flipbook animation that involves human movement requires several steps before producing a quality cartoon animation. Similar to human posture drawing, human animation first starts with drawing the skeleton poses, followed by the volume and eventually the flesh. Drawing the volume of a human can be skipped provided the artist is familiar with human muscle drawing.

The rationale behind drawing the skeleton first in animation is to serve as a preview of the action. Take for example a 5 seconds animation that will be played at 25 frames per second (fps), the artist will need to draw 125 frames of drawing. Without the skeleton animation to act as a preview, any changes halfway along the production will require a lot of time to redraw, thus reduces production efficiency. Once the animation is drawn in the skeleton, it should be reviewed by the artist and the director to be sure that this animation and motion look close to the end results.

In this video, I’m going to animate this bovine casting a fireball, similar to the game called Street Fighter. The bovine will store his energy by his waist and eventually releasing the power in front of him, shooting a fireball outward. Begin the animation with a neutral pose, this serves as a proportion guide for the character. When in doubt during the animation process, do refer back to the neutral pose to check if the character’s proportion is consistent. Consistency is very important in human animation because you do not wish your character to grow taller or shrink in size unintentionally.

There are two types of animation approach during production, the straight-ahead method, and the pose to pose method. The straight-ahead method, which I’ve applied in my video, is suitable for animation with no planning, the artist draws one frame after another base on their own imagination. However, this method can be very creative because it allows the artist to draw anything that comes straight into their mind. The results can be surprising and unexpected.

The pose to pose method is suitable for animation that has actions planned or a storyboard to follow. With pose to pose, the animation is firstly drawn at all the critical poses whenever actions change in directions or when in between poses are ambiguous. This method lowers the risk of re-drawing in production because these key poses serve as another confirmation step before continuing the rest of the in-between frames of the animation.

Animation that involves humans should include more details in force and gravity so that the animation looks realistic or semi-realistic. Even if the character or cartoon is not meant to be realistic, adding elements of realism would make the animation more interesting. The center of gravity (CG) is usually a must-have for human animation. Make sure that when the character is moving, it stays and looks balance on the ground. Small details such as pushing and pulling could make use of the character’s weight to add a force to these actions. For this video, the bovine shifts his CG backward to look as if storing power and pushes forward his CG forward while punching a fireball out.