Beyond the bouncing tail

I bet almost every animator has practiced the follow through and overlapping action principle with tails, bunny ears and/or cloth. These exercises are actually relatively easy and fun and might misguide us into thinking that this is one of the easier principles – but it’s not. Those bits that dangle behind your character and can be added in your last pass of animation are not the core of this golden animation rule!

Follow through and overlapping action applies to the whole body – all the body parts in constantly changing interaction. It’s usually the hips, the shoulders, the head and the wrist that lead a motion (the initiator) at different times and whatever is attached (the effector) follows and comes to a delayed stop when the initiator already came to a hold. Which parts follow which other parts can even change within one motion. These are highly complex processes and the key to making your animation physically believable. The body parts take turns being ball and tail.

So, follow through and overlapping action have to be well planned and are more than just an extra. You can add clothing, tails and ears in the last pass but you should know what body parts drag, pull, push, follow and swing when and how much as early as possible. On top of that the follow through parts all have different weights or at times might be stiffened by muscle tension.

Those exercises that we all had to do at some point (bouncing ball, ball with a tail etc.) and that we might see as easy basics are present in every animation and go far beyond whatever helped us to understand the principle. So if you got the bouncing tail right, go animate somebody climbing a tree and look at the body as dozens of tails all influencing each other and a seemingly easy principle just got much harder to carry out.

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this is the thing which takes your animation to another level and its very challenging for me usually in every shot and i am constantly learning this….i have started shooting and Studying Video reference to determine which body part leads and follows and then start animating!!


There are useful tips that you have to remember when taking the basics and making them more complicated. For starters don’t get ahead of yourself: Always start at the beginning (a very good place to start lol) and work towards getting things working before you start going crazy and adding all kinds of stuff. Like in this one animate the guy climbing a tree as if it was a ball first with the tail and then you go from there.


If you want really good animation of the tail you can study Fox and the Hound. It has amazing tail animation! Story is sad but the animation is good.


Is there a place to get a tutorial on the ball and tail because I see people do it often but I don’t know how.

Chris W.
hacks G.

Hey, thanks for the amazing post! 😀

Prixi Autumn

Great article thanks. I never thought to apply the tail to a whole body like that.

Lee Kim

Heya і am for the first time here. I found this because I want to making the bouncing ball and tail animation test. Where do I start?


Reminds me of a fox.


can you please make a tutorial about how to do the bouncing ball with a tail please and thank you.