Tag: animation storytelling

2024 Student Animation Showcase

The highly anticipated 2024 Student Animation Showcase is here! Watch the amazing work of AnimSchool students from over the past year featured in the annual showcase. Each year, students choose audio clips from various TV shows, films, and other media and reimagine them into a new animation with guidance from AnimSchool instructors who actively work in the industry.

This year, along with the release of the showcase, AnimSchool held a livestream with some of the animators whose shots are featured in the showcase to discuss their inspirations, workflows, and other behind-the-scenes information related to their work. Check out the livestream (link below) to hear the unique perspective and insight that each animator has to offer.

Sarah Crepeau

Noemi Rajczyba

Heather Vidal

Daniela Lobo Dias

Many of the audio clips featured in the showcase include Bo Burnham’s Unpaid Intern Song, Donna Champlin’s CW “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” “The Break-Up” movie, “Booksmart”, “The Straight Story,” “Adman” short film, “Requiem for a Dream” movie, a “Funny Or Die” skit, “Young Sheldon”, “The Producers” movie, musical podcast “Loveville High : Episode 1”. “We have a Ghost” movie,  “The Equalizer” tv series, “Anthony Starr, The Boys Season 3”, “Desperate Housewives” tv series, TikTok video by @freshmozzerella, “The Lighthouse”, BBC interview with Judi Dench, “Dungeons and Dragons” movie, Neil deGrasse Tyson interview, Chris and Jack YouTube episode “Future Ex-girlfriend”.


The showcase and livestream premiered on YouTube on May 21, 2024. Watch below:

AnimSchool Student Animation Showcase 2024

AnimSchool Student 2024 Showcase Livestream with the Animators


At AnimSchool, we teach students who want to make 3D characters move and act. Our instructors are professionals at film and game animation studios like Dreamworks, Pixar, Sony Pictures, Blizzard & Disney. ⁠Get LIVE feedback on your Animation from the pros. 
Learn more at https://animschool.edu

Storytelling in Animation

What is the role of an animator? Is it to have the best spline pass? Is it to have a masterful lip sync? At its heart, the role of an animator is to be a storyteller. As animators, we have to bring characters to life – but it’s our choices, how a character jumps, how a character sits, even how a character breathes – that tell the story underneath. 

From a walk cycle to a dramatic all-out fight, every decision made by an animator can tell a different story. Similar to a painting, posing in animation is an integral part of storytelling, every frame gets sculpted, every pose is thought out and together the sequence can become a masterpiece. 

In a snippet from a live AnimSchool class, Brendan Fagan takes viewers through the main role of an animator as a storyteller by explaining how the fundamentals of storytelling can be combined with the principles of animation to produce unparalleled animators.

The Role of an Animator

  • To help tell the story
  • To entertain the audience
  • To bring characters to life
  • Use acting skills to communicate ideas
  • Creating a variety of animation styles
  • To make adjustments according to feedback of directors or supervisors
  • Work to a deadline

Animators are actors! Understanding how to create appealing and entertaining poses to help communicate the story to the audience is a crucial part of an animator’s job.
(Animation by AnimSchool graduate Catarina Rodrigues)

Telling the Story

  • You are writing a story with pictures; goal is to entertain the audience
  • A picture is worth a thousand words – an idea can be conveyed with a single image/single pose
  • Any good story has a beginning, middle and end – your animation should, too!
  • Know where your scene fits within the wider story; know where your character is coming from and going to so you can apply the overarching theme to your process
  • Each animator, if given a story, can come up with a different visual representation to best convey it
  • Avoid cliche ideas – make things unexpected!
  • Keep it simple!

What is the main character feeling here? What might the story be? What hints from his body language, facial expressions, etc., help to convey that?
(Animation by AnimSchool graduate Piotr Jalowiecki)

Storytelling Factors

Stories generally have a three-act structure: setup, conflict/obstacle, and resolution. Even in short scenes, the three acts are still present, but may not be as noticeable or traditional with how they appear.

Reflect on some questions about the story you are trying to tell: 

  • What is the situation?
  • Who is the character?
  • What is the character trying to accomplish?
  • What is the outcome?

(Animation by AnimSchool graduate Marcus de Andrade)

Considering this information and familiarizing yourself with the overarching story can help you become a better visual storyteller through your animation. 

Watch the full snippet from an AnimSchool class lecture here:

At AnimSchool, we teach students who want to make 3D characters move and act. Our instructors are professionals at film and game animation studios like Dreamworks, Pixar, Sony Pictures, Blizzard & Disney. ⁠Get LIVE feedback on your Animation from the pros. 
Learn more at https://animschool.edu/

The Basics of Animation Smears

Smear frames bridge the gap between individual frames, contributing significantly to the illusion of smooth, lifelike movement. These subtle, elongated, or stretched frames create a sense of speed, impact, and energy, enhancing the overall visual experience. By strategically distorting shapes and lines, smear frames add finesse and character to the motion. 

AnimSchool instructor Mitchell Jao explains why smear frames are necessary in standard 24fps film animation. Oftentimes, 24 frames per second simply isn’t enough to capture quick motion, and can result in a choppy-looking animation. However, animators can find ways to use this to their advantage and exploit the frames by adding smears and multiples.

Smear Basics
Smears are used to connect shapes that are spaced far apart, mimicking the idea of a motion blur between them. The degree of motion blur occurs as a result of the shutter speed of cameras; at 24fps, the shutter speed is roughly 1/48th of a second. For something like sports photography, the shutter speed would be much faster to capture the shot clearly and with little to no blur for a “freeze frame” type of shot.

The quick action of smears can also be used to hide mechanics that don’t always logically make sense – Mitchell points out a scene from Ice Age: Collision Course, where a Dino Bird quickly shifts his arm behind his back in a seemingly impossible movement, hidden by the smearing circular movement of swinging another character around.


Multiples and Ghosts
Ghosting can be used like smears, but, when used improperly, can feel like a stuck frame. Ghosts are best used when the movement is so quick that the motion is illegible without them, such as a limb scramble.

Mitchell explains that he prefers to use multiples in a rapid repetitive movement, rather than a singular wipe.

Be careful!
While it is important to utilize squash and stretch, using too much can result in the loss of form, especially if the character or object is meant to be more solid. 


Watch the full excerpt from a live AnimSchool lecture below:

At AnimSchool, we teach students who want to make 3D characters move and act. Our instructors are professionals at film and game animation studios like Dreamworks, Pixar, Sony Pictures, Blizzard & Disney. ⁠Get LIVE feedback on your Animation from the pros. 
Learn more at https://animschool.edu/

Narrative Tips for Animating

AnimSchool instructor Scott Guppy discusses the most common forms of storytelling structure, and how you can use it in your animation to convey a complete story. 

By distilling your narrative to its basic structure, you unlock a compelling journey that resonates with your audience. Keep it concise, and focus on key elements. In simplicity lies the magic that makes your tale unforgettable.

Stories typically follow a three-act structure: Setup, Conflict, and Resolution. As with animation, these rules can be broken; however, we must first understand the rules


Act 1: Setup

  • Establishes a scenario that the audience can identify quickly. Ensuring that the audience can identify the situation quickly is essential for animators.
    • These are typically stereotypical settings (i.e. a western is set in a desert with older, rundown buildings)
  • The setup helps to relate important information about the story to the audience.

Act 2: Conflict

  • This part contains the story; the obstacle that the character overcomes in an escalating fashion.
  • It needs to be interesting and intriguing; otherwise, you will lose the audience’s attention – the ending won’t matter if the audience does not stick around to see it.

Act 3: Resolution

  • Contains the “gag” – the whole point of the story
  • Does the character win? Do they solve the problem and fail dramatically?

Story Tips

Archetypes and stereotypes are important in storytelling – while they may not be entirely accurate or correct, they contain generalizations that are helpful in conveying information quickly to the audience so they know what to expect from the story. Utilizing these generalizations can help keep your story simple and easy for the audience to follow. If you are not purposefully trying to confuse your audience, ensure that your animation is readable and clear!

Who is your main character?
Dive into the mind of your character: gender, age, race, intelligence, emotional state, goals, dreams, etc. Visualizing your character can give you inspiration for what you want to convey with your story. 


Juxtaposition: two things being seen or placed together with contrasting effect
Juxtapositions are useful in creating a joke with the incongruity of two ideas. They can also be used in establishing an idea with a predictable outcome, then deliberately misdirecting the audience to an unexpected outcome.

Watch the full excerpt from a live AnimSchool lecture below:

At AnimSchool, we teach students who want to make 3D characters move and act. Our instructors are professionals at film and game animation studios like Dreamworks, Pixar, Sony Pictures, Blizzard & Disney. ⁠Get LIVE feedback on your Animation from the pros. 
Learn more at https://animschool.edu/

Animators are Actors

AnimSchool instructor Masha Juergens explores the process of getting into character from behind the camera. 

Acting for animation is a unique art form, where animators bring characters to life not just with the use of technology, but through the use of their own physical and emotional performances. With boundless creativity, they craft compelling personalities that resonate with audiences of all ages, making animated worlds come alive on your screen.


Animators vs. Actors

  • Animators focus on externals in characterization and caricature (facial expressions, body movement, emotional reaction, etc.)
  • Actors, by contrast, learn specifically notto focus on these things because they are “results” – you cannot act results.
  • As an animator, you must understand what your body is doing, what your emotional status is, etc., and translate all of that into a digital space and onto a model.
    • The challenge comes from making your audience feel like your character is alive, not because they are moving around onscreen, but because they are thinking and have a personality that makes them unique!
  • You don’t have to be a physically great actor to be a great actor in your mind, and in turn a great animator!

Becoming a Better Actor

To get better acting in your animations, you must become a better actor. Get into the head of your character – try to figure out and better understand where they are from, what their personality is, what their motivations are, etc. It’s not just about portraying a clear external (happy, sad, etc.) – try to look deeper for an internal feeling, or consciousness
Identify the character’s emotional state and use the thought to drive the action, not the dialogue. When there is a change in the character’s emotional state, change the character’s main pose. Be careful here: don’t change poses simply because there is a new emphasis in the dialogue!


Adding Beats in Animation – Emotional Hang Time

When a character is feeling one emotion and something happens to make the character feel something else in the same shot, the character needs to have a moment to process before the emotional change can take place. Building beats into the animation can show that the character is mentally absorbing and processing the events that are occurring in the shot. These moments can be quick, but readability is key.


Watch the full excerpt from a live AnimSchool lecture below:

At AnimSchool, we teach students who want to make 3D characters move and act. Our instructors are professionals at film and game animation studios like Dreamworks, Pixar, Sony Pictures, Blizzard & Disney. ⁠Get LIVE feedback on your Animation from the pros. 


Learn more at https://animschool.edu/