Acting for Animation: Decision, Action, Reaction

Since being a lead I’ve had to think a LOT more about conveying my thoughts behind things. I figured I would write down some ideas and ways of thinking about acting and motion that try to distill my basic approach to animation. I think this is a core concept and it also relates to storytelling so hopefully if you’re working on a good story you will be presented with scenes that are structured with clear arcs for characters. Often though there will be room for you to bring things to the character/scene that could add some subtlety and subtext and to do that you need to think AS the character.


Behind every single movement a character makes there should be some thought associated to it. If you look at a character who is not moving at all but you see them thinking (in expression/attitude) this is engaging, and it works as an anticipation to action for the audience. If you put yourself in a character’s shoes and really honestly consider what are they thinking at this moment your animation will always be engaging. This is very important for supporting characters too. The characters who are just listening – what are they thinking while listening? Maybe their thought leads them to action. If you can show this process clearly to an audience your scenes will shine.



If you have done your job with decision then the audience will know why the character is moving. So now you have to think about how. Are they cautious, enthusiastic, happy, sad, nervous, excited? These emotions will affect how a person acts/moves. Are they thinking internally or externally? If they are talking more to themselves they are unlikely to gesture out to the world.



We are building up a complicated series of events that all impact each other. When one character thinks and acts you have to consider how the other characters respond. This will lead to a new decision for them. Will this prompt them to act? How will the first person respond to this?
If all your scenes have this back and forth of clear thought and action then the audience will be thoroughly engaged.



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Acting for Animation: Decision, Action, Reaction