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How To Draw Animation: Sounding Out Words

Christopher Hart continues his series of six tips on how to bring animated characters to life. This month we move into the difficult business of mouth movements.

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 "Simplifying Characters for Animation." Now we are going to move on and tackle the difficult task of creating mouth movements.


It's not what you say, it's how you say it. No two characters will say a line the same way; they can have physical differences that will affect the way they move their mouths. See how the mouth changes when a simple word is said by a man, a horse and a bird.

Think phonetically. Don't literally articulate every letter unless it's called for. Sometimes a few letters in a word are bunched together; the word "probably" might be spoken as "probbly," with only two syllables.


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.