Is ‘Noodling’ Wrecking Your Animation?

Today animation veteran Mike Gasaway (Jimmy Neutron, Planet Sheen) shares a guest post on “noodling” and how it might be secretly destroying your workflow and final animation. Plus, precisely how to stop it in your future scenes.

What exactly is noodling anyway?

Is it something in my soup? I think I’ve seen it at Italian restaurants, maybe?

Oh wait, it’s drawing little drawings?

That’s doodling.

I’m talking about noodling.

It’s when you have your animation and you aren’t quite happy with it so you make a little change here and there and then do a playback.

Then you hate it again and make more changes and do a playback.


And again.

And again!

When does it stop?

The better question is HOW to make it stop?

The problem with noodling starts way before we hit that dreaded spline button that will turn our awesome stepped animation into floaty, crappy, computer-y animation.

It starts way back in planning when we skimp on drawings or don’t do any video reference or are too impatient to get into blocking. Maybe we don’t add enough tweens before hitting said spline button.

It’s all of the above.

But what if you have done all of that?

What if STILL you find yourself looking at your splined goodness and wonder if it’s too late to be an accountant?

I have a solution for you.

It’s not easy and it will take a ton of patience.

I’m guessing, because you are at this point of your animation, your patience was either non-existent or wearing thin.

Either way, this process can help.

You just have to be focused.

First question. How many times does an audience look at your shot?

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I’ll make it easy on you – once. Just once. If you are lucky, they may watch it twice or even seventy times. BUT they will never see it by itself and never, unless their dvr screws up, will they see it on a loop.

So, the first time you watch your animation, you should turn the loop off and watch it just once.

What are you looking for?

Exactly what an audience sees. Is there anything that bumps you? I’m not talking from an animator’s perspective. Take that hat off and put on the hat of an audience. Are there any mistakes? Like an arm pop, a leg twists weird. A head snaps. Anything that would make an audience member say, “What the heck is that?” (they swear a lot.)

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IF you find anything, write it down on your to-do list. I love lists because I get to check things off. Makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something.

After that, put the animation on loop mode and scoot in closer because we are going to look at very specific things. Don’t get caught up in looking at everything at once. Just one thing at a time.

First up: arcs.

Arcs are easy to see. Do the arms look linear? Write it down with the frame number. What about the head? Does it look too stiff?

I’m not talking about spacing or anything else! Just arcs.

Watch your animation a few more times, writing down anything you see that is arc-related.

After that do it with spacing. Watch it ten more times, writing down what is wrong.

Animation Charts
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Then drag and overlap and finally, speeds. Does everything seem to get to a pose at the same time? If so, write a note; you need to fix it.

After all of that, I’ve watched my animation about 50 times! How many times does the audience see it again? The point is, I’ve watched my animation with a pair of FOCUSED eyes. Not noodling eyes. I saw very specific things that I needed to fix and I wrote it down.

Here’s the hardest part of the whole thing.

Pull your monitor closer so you can get this in all of its glory:

Go into your favorite animation package and start crossing off your list. Right all of the wrongs that were on your list but DON’T do a playback until you have crossed them all off.


Wait, what did you say?

You heard me. Well, you read me. Yep. Do NOT do a playback until everything on your list is done.


Great drawing from one of my students, Markus Steinshaden.  I said I had to put on different sets of eyes when looking at animation.
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Great drawing from one of my students, Markus Steinshaden. I said I had to put on different sets of eyes when looking at animation.

This will take an extraordinary amount of discipline but listen to me; there’s a very important reason why.

Here’s what usually happens.

I get my list and cross one off. I’m so happy to have accomplished something that I want to reward myself with doing a playback. I do and watch it.

Hey wait. What’s that foot doing? I didn’t see that. And that hand? Is that in the wrong pose? And what about the (insert any other body part).

Do you see what I’m doing? I’m noodling.

I just took one off my list and added THREE MORE!

AND guess what?

I just watched my animation FIFTY TIMES and didn’t notice those “mistakes”. How many times does the audience see it again?

So you’ve made it. You’ve crossed off everything and have made a playback. Guess what else has happened and you didn’t even notice it? You got rid of notes because you have “fixed” mistakes that aren’t there. If you would have done fifty playbacks, you would have found things that are unimportant and only sucked up time. By doing one playback – and you will find mistakes – you have eliminated others.

It’s like it’s magic.

Are we done?

Well, almost.

Do that whole process from above one more time.

Only this time, watch it about 5-8 times per principle (arcs, spacing, drag, speeds). Write down the notes. Fix the notes. Do one playback.

I’m betting. No. I’m PROMISING. Your animation will look miles better.


You’ll get it done faster.

Now all you have to do is add secondary action.

That’s it for me everybody! Good night!


“Want to know MUCH more on this subject and how to greatly improve your animation in ten weeks? Check out You don’t know you need it but will be very glad you did it.” -Mike Gasaway, twenty year animation veteran that has held the positions of animator, Supervising Animator, Director, Supervising Director and Co-Producer and specializes in teaching workflow to a new generation of animators.

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sebastian w.

Trust me I’ve been there! I practically live on Ramen and playbacks. 😛

Nice post, I’m going to try this out. Thnx.


lol “ramen and playbacks” XD

Ferdinand Engländer

Thank you very much for the article!
I am currently working on a project with lots of dialog and ended up watching the whole shot again and again after every minor lip-sync improvement. I definitely have to focus more on one thing after another and stop playing back after every small fix. So I gave the note checklist a try and it really helps to get through it faster. Very good advice!


A perfect plan for getting things moving along instead of getting caught up in the details. Thanks for the workflow tips!


There is a chance you get so lost in revision you never finish!


I do that ALL THE TIME, lol!