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How To Draw Animation: Acting and Dialogue

Christopher Hart continues his series of six tips on how to bring animated characters to life. This month Chris discusses the impact of acting on dialogue.

My book, How to Draw Animation, has found its way into many animation classrooms. So I was delighted when the people at Animation World, a Website I frequent, asked me if they could reproduce some of the art from the book. My aim in creating the book was to marry art instruction with appealing characters. Appealing characters lie at the heart of animation; and it always struck me that unless you create great characters, it's pointless to put so much energy into making them move. If you are interested in learning more about character design (both cartoony and semi-realistic types), as well as in creating fluid, convincing motion based on fundamentals and more advanced techniques, then give these pages a look. Although the examples given are of 2D animation, the same principles may carry over to 3D.

Last month we covered "Sounding Out Words." Now we are going to discuss the impact of acting on dialogue.


Consider the character's entire body when animating dialogue. Here, the pigs say the same line in two very different ways. The top pig tries to remember how to pronounce the word; he rotates his torso to show indecisiveness and displays relief at the end by relaxing the tension in his body and ears. The bottom pig has been watching too many horror movies and knows exactly how to say the word; his body remains in the same basic pose throughout and the acting becomes more focused. Always think about how your characters feel and have their actions express their inner thoughts.

© Christopher Hart; illustration by Nancy Beiman.

© Christopher Hart; illustration by Nancy Beiman.

How to Draw Animation by Christopher Hart. New York, New York: Watson-Guptill Publications, a division of VNU Business Media, Inc., 1997. 144 pages. ISBN: 0-8230-2365-6 (US$19.95)

Christopher Hart has written and illustrated many successful "how to" cartoon and animation books for Watson-Guptill, in addition to writing for many studios and networks like NBC, Showtime, 20th Century Fox, MGM and others. He is also the author and on-screen host of a popular art instruction CD-ROM series. Hart has worked in animation, comic strips (Blondie), and magazines, including contributing regularly to Mad Magazine.