Animation Secret: To Err is Animation

We’re human, we make mistakes. As animators, we are in charge of a thousand details in every piece of work, so we make MORE mistakes than many other people. Mistakes can be seen one of two ways, and this article will guide you to make every mistake going forward turn into something absolutely great.

Part of animation, and life in general, is that we’re bound to fail sometimes. When you’re working on a piece of animation you might have it perfectly planned in your head, but when the footage rolls and you see your drawings or model come to life, it just isn’t right. Good news: You’ve just succeeded at failing, and you’ve gotten something back that is more precious than gold.

Often times we look at failure as this terrible thing that should be avoided at all costs. In school if you fail a test or fail a class, you’re probably in trouble with several different people when that report card comes out. What isn’t taught, and absolutely should be, is that with every failure comes a terrific lesson that you might have never gotten any other way. As animators, we have a unique and BRILLIANT advantage: We can fail as much as we like, and quickly, with very little consequence.

Now, that isn’t to say that there are NO consequences in our field for failing, but consider this. If you do 100 frames, and of those only four work well, you have a “grade” of 4%. That is completely without question in the “F” category, if we’re talking about a school grade. Here’s the amazing thing, though:

You now have 96 examples of what not to do.

Can you imagine if you were a scientist, say, trying to invent a new light bulb? Think how LONG it would take for you to learn a lesson that provided 96 examples of what not to do. Months. Maybe YEARS. For us as animators, we have results extremely quickly. We are able to learn a thousand times faster than most other professions!

As said above, there are two ways to look at mistakes. One is to see them as failures, and nothing more. You set out to do one thing, but you did not achieve that thing. What does this view give you? Frustration, maybe anger, and a feeling of being defeated. The second, and infinitely better way is to collect as much real-world knowledge from that mistake as you possibly can. Think of the mistake as an orange. It’s your job to squeeze out every last drop that you can, and what you’re left with is a refreshing look at how to do things better the next time. And as animators, the “next time” is usually this very second. You don’t have to wait weeks for new parts to come in or to set up an advanced experiment. You can leap right back into the scene a better animator than you were just one minute earlier.

When you think about it, animators really are extremely fortunate. We can learn faster, and apply what we learn more quickly, than almost any other people out there. The next time you “fail,” remember this animation secret: Failure is a lesson in disguise, and as an animator you get to learn that lesson quicker and with less consequences than everyone around you. Now get out there and animate some mistakes!

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Great advice, especially for a brand new year. I think as you get older you start fearing failure a lot less. Maybe because you don’t have as much time left ha ha!

Ferdinand Engländer

So true! Failure is the best teacher!

Annie L.

A lot of times when I paint I worry about messing up so I probably don’t do as much as I could. But I guess that’s a little different because painting takes hours just to get started!

One time I’d like to do like four of the same painting so I could try a bunch of stuff on the other three and not worry about it so much. Maybe that’s what I’ll do for the new year! 😀

Deedee S.

thank you thank you thank you thank you for this! It made me feel so much better because I feel like I’ve been doing terribly at school work (3D stuff) lately. I keep getting “redos” on my projects. I’m running out of time…..


Man, this is spot on. The article could be longer though, failure is so prominent in Animation. For me I am always afraid of perception and how whatever I am making or writing, won’t fit in with everyone else’s idea of a good ‘cartoon’. It’s not easy to get over, when you spend your time on something only to not finish it because of this invisible fear. The people who make cartoons every week, or month, have finally gotten to this point, flipped everyone in the world the bird and say, ” I am going to make what makes me laugh ( or cry etc. )”. Failure is in every chapter of every animators book, great article, keep writing em!


Sometimes I look at how complicated all this animation stuff is and want to quit. But then I love it too much to!! 😀

Tasha Burman

I hate making mistakes!

Nina Starling



sucks we gotta be so afraid of failing all the time. you fail in school and they punish you to no end.


Nice to become a vistor to your site. This was very inspiring. : )