Today’s secret of animation comes from none other than the master Glen Keane. He advises that if you have an action to animate, see whether or not you can save some of it for “when you get there.”

Glen Keane says:

“Don’t do everything all at once, save something for when you get there. So you have something to do.”

The concept of “don’t do everything all at once” is nothing new to most animators, but this twist on the classic principal might need a little explaining.

Let’s say you have a character whose action is turning and pointing to something off screen, likely in response to talking with another character. Keyframes of this action might look something like this:

At this point you have two options.

Option 1: The Simple Inbetween

The quickest way to achieve this motion is to place a breakdown directly between the two drawings (adding, of course, a blink and head bob on the turn!). That would end up something like this:

And when filled with some in-betweens, you’d end up with the following result:


This works, there’s no doubt about that. But it could be much more interesting if we take Mr. Keane’s advice to save something for later.

Option 2: Turn Then Point

In this case what we’ll save is the pointing motion. Instead of “turn AND point” the movement becomes “turn THEN point.” For this version we have two breakdown drawings.

Here we are almost animating two actions (though they are connected by one larger movement). First he turns, then he points. Here is what that might look like in motion:


The movement becomes not only more interesting, but draws the action out across a longer period of time. If this character were speaking, that would give him something to do besides just stand and talk (which is boring to watch).

Going Even Farther

In the example above you could expand things even more. You may notice the hand has some drag on it in the two-step animation. You could delay that even longer and have the finger “unfold” once the arm reaches its destination, essentially “saving” the finger point a second time. Try it out and see how much you can create out of a simple movement!

The next time you’re animating a scene, look for what you might be able to save for “later” so your character has “something to do.” Remember that you want the actions to be connected, but they don’t have to happen at the exact same time. Variety keeps things interesting and appealing!