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51 Great Animation Exercises to Master

Quickest way to improvement? Practice. It’s a simple bit of advice that rings with absolute truth. Articles, tips, mentors, and study will never get you as far as rolling up your sleeves and getting down to work, be it animation or any other skill. Today we’ve compiled a list of exercises, like animation push-ups, that will get your art skills buff and toned.

Maybe you still need convinced of how important the “Art of Doing” is? Look no further than the early days of animation, especially at the Disney studio. Here were a group of animators (before being an animator was even a thing) who HAD no books to read, or websites to visit, or even experienced animators to ask. They learned via the age old art of hands-on training, experimenting and discovering as they went. And some would argue they created some of the greatest animation to ever be seen. Masterpieces like the dwarfs dancing in Snow White or the terror of the Monstro scene in Pinocchio. So be like them! Get out there and do animation!

Some of these exercises you may have done or seen before; some maybe not. Consider doing each of them, even if you did once previously, because returning to an old exercise to see how much you’ve progressed is a very valuable experience.

Level 1 Exercises

(Do not discount their simplicity! Here you have the principals of animation, which all other animation is built on. They are worth your time and effort.)

2. Ball Bouncing across the screen

3. Brick falling from a shelf onto the ground

4. Simple Character Head Turn

In our big 2D animation class we share the most important moments of a headturn (but really any animation) in this video.

5. Character head turn with anticipation

6. Character blinking

7. Character thinking [tougher than it sounds!]

8. Flour Sack waving (loop)

9. Flour Sack jumping

10. Flour Sack falling (loop or hitting the ground)

11. Flour Sack kicking a ball

Level 2 Exercises

12. Change in Character emotion (happy to sad, sad to angry, etc.)

13. Character jumping over a gap

14. Standing up (from a chair)

15. Walk Cycle [oldie but goodie!]

16. Character on a pogo stick (loop)

17. Laughing

18. Sneezing

19. Reaching for an object on a shelf overhead

20. Quick motion smear/blur

21. Taking a deep breath [also tougher than it sounds!]

22. A tree falling

23. Character being hit by something simple (ball, brick, book)

24. Run Cycle

Level 3 Exercises

25. Close up of open hand closing into fist

26. Close up of hand picking up a small object

27. Character lifting a heavy object (with purpose!)

28. Overlapping action (puffy hair, floppy ears, tail)

29. Character painting

30. Hammering a nail

31. Stirring a soup pot and tasting from a spoon

32. Character blowing up a balloon

33. Character juggling (loop)

34. Scared character peering around a corner

35. Starting to say something but unsure of how

36. Zipping up a jacket

37. Licking and sealing an envelope

38. Standing up (from the ground)

39. Pressing an elevator button and waiting for it

Level 4 Exercises

40. Character eating a cupcake

41. Object falling into a body of water

42. Two characters playing tug-of-war

43. Character dealing a deck of cards out

44. The full process of brushing one’s teeth

45. A single piece of paper dropping through the air

46. Run across screen with change in direction

47. Sleeping character startled by alarm then returning to sleepy state

48. Opening a cupboard and removing something inside

49. Putting on a pair of pants

50. Opening the “world’s best gift” and reacting

51. Any of the above exercises using a very heavy character/object next to a very light character/object. Enhance the differences the weight change makes!

Things to keep in mind:

  • Reading these exercises will do as much for you as reading about push-ups would do for your physical muscles: NOTHING. If you want the benefit, you must animate them. Take a deep breath and just do it.
  • Do not forget the famous words of Ollie Johnston: “You’re not supposed to animate drawings [3D models]. You’re supposed to animate feelings.” If a character isn’t thinking, they aren’t alive, and the animation has failed.
  • Keep it simple! There is no reason to over complicate any of these exercises. Going back to push-ups, would push-ups be harder if while doing them you also recited the Gettysburg Address? Yes. Would they be any more beneficial? No. Keep things nice and simple and clear.
  • Do your best. There is no reason to do these exercises poorly. Give it your all. You don’t have to show anyone, these are for you. You owe it to yourself to try your very best. Something not quite right? Take the time to fix it.
  • As always, have fun. Push ups are not fun. Animation is supposed to be. Be joyful in your work!

Have any questions about the exercises above? Leave a comment below and we’ll answer them the best we can! Someone else may be wondering the exact same thing, so you’ll help them too. Likewise if someone is looking for possible exercises, why not share a link to these and give them a hand?

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Amazing list…and tough too..
It’s well organized, i was hoping to find more words to put here but you’re danm right: I must start doing them instead..
[saved and printed]


Great list! And really great example for “not sure what to say”. You should do more of the animated examples like that.




Nice list, lot of good ones on there. Did you get some from the 11 second club?

Earl Vespiti

thanks for the article. Really Cool.


Totally awesome, and totally gonna be done!!


This is just what i needed! Challenge accepted!
i’ll try to complete the entire list, and post every exercise on this blog http://animacaco.tumblr.com/


Thank you ever so for your article. Really looking forward to reading more. Keep writing.


Just found your website and I’m obsessing over it. I love the articles you post!



I always have such a hard time starting on a new test. I end up making it too long and complicated. I am going to do every test on here and push my skills. I will post them on Youtube and send a link when I get started


fast man

I truly have to ponder just how useful doing such simple things can be. If one wants to be a professional animator at the likes of Pixar or Dreamworks or Lucasfilm we will be doing much more complex items than just bouncing balls or brushing teeth (when was the last time anyone in a film brushed their teeth!)

Instead rather you should practice complex exercises copied directly from actual films so that you will be prepared for the real world. These are all silly school exercises and school is nothing like the industry I think. You never see a bouncing ball in the theater on the silver screen. X.X

Jonah Sidhom

They’re useful because you learn the basics and foundations of animation through varied and diverse forms of movement, not because you’re preparing because one day you *might* have to animate someone brushing their teeth.

And I can’t think of many bouncing balls in films, besides maybe Toy Story, but that’s not the point. The point is that the principles behind the bouncing ball are applied to many different forms of movement, such as walks. They are not in the same form, obviously, but the same principles (squash and stretch, timing, spacing) are all there.


That is the stupidest thing ever. Copy movies because that is what you will be animating? When will you ever animate the exact same thing again? If you animate like Stitch dressed up as Elvis playing guitar you will never use that again becauses every character is totally different! That is why like they are saying you need to know the principals not just only be able to animate a few scenes and nothing else!


How can they be useful? I will say something that is not to be taken as gloating but for credibilaty. As an animator i make sure to take all opportunities to make myself better at the craft. Ive taken a Pixar Masterclass taught by Andrew Gordon and Matthew Luhn. Ive gone to the Pixar benefit where me and a good friend got incredible advice from Mark Walsh and Ronnie Del Carmen. Currently I am taking animation workshops taught by the animators from disney such as Michael Woodside and Marlon Nowe. Guess what? they all said what is said right in this article. Their advice is always keep it short and simple, because you can have a complex leghthy shot and it may be rendered beautifully but it can completely lack in the principles. you have to be able to walk before you can run. In all of these conversations and classes they asked us to always practice the basics because something like a simple vanilla walk cycle can be the hardest thing to ever get right. bringing life to a character doing mundane tasks is always going to be more impressive then focusing on a elaborate scene where the characters are lacking something. Andrew showed us his demo reel that got him into pixar some odd 14 years ago. the piece that caught their attntion was a animated flour sack that was rough and just a pencil sketch. He was embarrassed by it now ( as all animators are after a certain point) but he was told that it was the way he showed the flour sacks thought process and overall timing. And bouncing balls are in everything not literally but figuratively. Most of my current teachers have said that if their assigned shot looks off they animate a quick bouncing ball next to it to see if whether the timing is off or if something is arcing the way its supposed too.

your forgetting that when you animate as a professional in a studio like Disney or Pixar or Dreamworks, you can spend weeks to months on a shot, but all you have to show is a 40 second clip from that work. Animating at that level is a team effort so learn your basics to keep your work cleaner for the next animator who has to work with your shot.
Keep all of that in mind.


When I saw the link to this page I thought it was going to show me how to do it. How to animate a ball bouncing.

Dr. B

The whole community is thankful to you I’m sure! Good to see so many exercises in one spot. Look forward to seeing more.

Prince Charming

It never fails to astound me just how lacking people are in practice so having this number of exercises is invaluable to all. As you said now we must simply complete them. Otherwise it will all be fornot.


great list, thanks

pika pii

I’m really inspired along with your writing abilities and also with all the huge list of exercises. Keep up the nice high quality writing, it’s rare .

na syra

This should be in a published book!


Excellent list. Already passed on to my students.

Another one – a little complex, but involves timing, spacing, acting, thinking character, etc: A walk across screen where the pacing changes. For example: moderate walk pace, then a pause for a thought or glance at a text on a phone, slow walk as the thought is processed or the text is read, then a faster walk offscreen as the thought is completed or as a reaction to what the text message said. Three different walks, and transitions between for thinking time. Have at it! :0)


Brilliant thanks! I’ll get on these straight away! Looking forward to the challenges.

Jordan D.

I appreciate you sharing this post. Really great.

corny cal

An intriguing list is definitely worth comment. Time to get animating!


Woah this list is AWESOME! Time to get crackin! Thanks for the list! 😀


I love your blog.


Bookmarked!! I really like your website!


This is my first try… when you begin it you can’t stop…
and when you finish you just want to retry…
here is:

Thank you “anyway” Mr. J.K. Riki

John H.

I’m amazed, I have to admit. I am very happy I stumbled across this in my hunt for animation excersizes!


Very good list, thank you for posting it.


Friend linked me to this. Fantastic set of exercises, many thanks.


This is awesome, I’m gonna try do every one of them.




Great list, thanks a lot.


Thank you for posting this list! I found this through the ASIFA group on linkedin.com

I’m going to do every one of this exercises and hopefully I’ll improve.

Dan Garcia

Wonderful article! This is the kind of info that is meant to be shared around the web.
Thanks =)


Wow wow WOW this is good stuff!!! THANKS!


This is great. I’ve been having fun playing with these.
I started only ever attempting animation once or twice while at school so this is pretty new to me.
But with the combination of this list and this video( http://vimeo.com/80851591 ) I think i’ve made some okay progress.
Just about to start number 10/11(gonna try to combine them).

If anyone wants to have a look at what i’ve done so far you can check it out here:


More than happy to receive any relevant feedback/criticism. 🙂

Thanks again for the list!

gilbert l.

These are fantastic! I am going to try to do some right nwo.

ian chaffardet

Hey, I just want to let you know that a few of my friends and me are going to start the 51 exercises and we are going to share it with everybody in this blog http://animationfiftyone.blogspot.com/
Thanks for Such an awesome List.

Cassandra Brogan

That’s super cool Ian! I wish I had time to join you!!


These are terrific. Definitely going to try them all.


This list is genius! I am going to try some of them straight away.


I think this is a really great list. I’ve done a lot of these as assignments in classes and I think they are really useful. The only thing is that I was interested in why in Level 1 you put the flour sack exercises after the character exercises. I would have thought the flour sack would have been better to start with as the inexperienced animator might choose a really complex character design to use and thus become overwhelmed by the exercise. The flour sack also has no face so that’s a few less things to think about when creating the performance. Just switching those exercises could make this list much stronger and even something I could recommend to a beginner animator without any hesitation.

lina valdez



Hi there! I just wanted to say thank you for the great list of exercises. I am going to try them all! It will probably take a long time I am just learning.


Its a great post indeed. I like the kind of information provided here.


there is no exercises for fire,water,smoke.why?


Thanks Vijayan for that question, I also had the same question in my mind. And Also thanks J.K.Riki. for the future plan – “top 10 exercises for effects.” That will be of great use for beginners like me.

chaser sosa

yes please make top 10 exercise for fx 😀

Yue Shen

I love what you guys are usually up too. This type of article exactly! Keep up the awesome works guys I’ve included you guys on our blogroll. 😉


I’m excited to get to work on this. And you chose good words of encouragement throughout! Might have to hang a few of these on the wall for later motivation (your name credited of course).
Thank you for sharing this with all of us 😀

Preston T.

In the grand pattern of life it’s details like this that make all the difference! Thank you for an excellent list, I will recommend it to every animator I know! Too often we don’t practice we just “create” and that is no good for us!


How do I do these practices in Anime Studio Debut 10 software? And if I cant do it that way, is there a good way to do it on paper?

Elias Hawkins

My question is, how many times do you do each exercise? do you do one until you master it or do you do one and than the next regardless of how good it is?(I understand doing a whole level over and over again but should I do each individual exercise before moving on to the next?)

Brittney T.

LOVE these. Thank you! Would also love to see more animated examples if anyone has done these!