Secondary animation is all about adding depth and substance to your work.
This is where your attention to detail and observation of the world around you really shows.
Secondary animation is where your work reveals your idiosyncrasies – the details that separate interesting from dull, and delightful from mediocre. It doesn’t need to be obvious: it can be extremely subtle, building layer upon layer to enrich the main action.
However, the minute these additions become focal or distracting to the viewer, they either become part of the primary action or muddy and confusing.
In the image above, we see Remy becoming very alert as he smells something strange. The primary animation is his stretching gesture, his facial expression and his nose working overtime. A nice bit of Secondary Animation that supports the main animation could be his tail – notice it moves and reflects his state of mind and becomes very straight and rigid the moment is brain recognizes the poison.
You can break secondary animation into two rough groups. The first is made up of motion derived from primary actions. This means your usual suspects of loose hair, clothing, skin and so on, but also any other object that is being driven by another force.
The second group consists of performances or actions that are secondary to the main idea of the shot. In the It’s about adding the subtleties, the little quirks that make an individual or shot work.
When the old woman discovers Remy in the kitchen, out comes the shotgun and chaos breaks loose. Nothing actually struck the light fixture, but it begins to swing wildly to enhance the action and frantic animation of the scene. The main action is the woman firing shots around her kitchen – the Secondary Animation is the swinging light and the spinning shadows on the floor which enhance the pandemonium. Would the shot have read without it? Sure. Would it have been as effective? Absolutely not.
Remember, the best Secondary Animation work best when they seem completely natural and supports the overall idea, not overshadows it.
From Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnson:
All of these actions should work together in support of one another. Think of the walk as the primary action and arm swings, head bounce and all other actions of the body as secondary or supporting action.
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