At the heart of successful animation lie 12 principles. One of these is exaggeration, which refers to the act of taking certain elements and stretching them beyond the realm of normal. All animation requires some sort of exaggeration, even animation that strives to be realistic, because it is exaggeration that makes animation come alive, appeal to audiences, and add comedic relief to otherwise intense scenes. Poorly executed exaggeration, however, can detract rather than add to the appeal and impact of an animated work. As a result, effective exaggeration requires careful work by the traditional animation studio. Following are a few tips for successfully using exaggeration in any animated production.
Exaggerate The Most Important Elements.
The first step in creating effective exaggeration is to choose which elements to exaggerate. The key when making this decision is to remember that exaggerated elements will get the most attention from viewers. Therefore, the element you choose will change the way the viewer understands the scene. As a result, you need to choose the elements that are most important for understanding the scene.
For instance, if you are animating a scene in which a character is sailing, you may decide that the waves’ movements are most important and exaggerate those. On the other hand, you may decide that the character’s reaction is most vital, and, therefore, focus on their facial features. In the first instance, the viewer learns about the environment in which the character is sailing, while in the latter, the viewer learns about the personality of the character. Making the right choice will allow you to create exaggeration that contributes to rather than detracts from your work.
Know What Your Goals Are.
Once you decide which elements to exaggerate, you will need to decide how much exaggeration to use. In order to make this decision, you must have a clear idea of what you hope to achieve with the exaggeration. Exaggeration can be used in a number of different ways. For instance, you can use it to add fluid motions that make the animation look more realistic. On the other hand, you can use it to create caricatured movements that add comedy, or that add personality and appeal.
Each of these goals, however, requires a slightly different use of exaggeration. Take, for instance, the sailor discussed above. If you desire a realistic look, you may choose to slightly exaggerate his facial expressions. However, if you wish to interject humor, you may use extreme exaggeration to give him comedic facial expressions. The right choice will be the one that best contributes to your overall goals for the scene.
Retain The Essence of The Exaggerated Elements.
As soon as you decide to exaggerate an element, you are no longer bound by the strict parameters of reality. However, in order for your exaggeration to retain its appeal, it must still have some connection to reality. If it does not, the object or character being exaggerated will become confusing to viewers, who will no longer be able to mesh what they see on the screen with the basic rules of reality to which they are accustomed.
For instance, say you choose to exaggerate the facial features of the character sailing on the boat. If you remove all identifying elements from the face in order to twist it into a complete caricature of fear or surprise, or delight, you will lose the essence of the character design. The viewer will no longer be able to identify or connect with them. As a result, when exaggerating any animated element, a good rule of thumb is to take what is already there as far as expressions, physical features, or emotions, and exaggerate those elements. By doing so, you increase the appeal of the scene for viewers instead of detracting from it.
Even though viewers of animation expect to see exaggeration and fantasy, they also want to keep one foot in reality. As a result, another key to effective exaggeration is to create balance within the scene. You can do so by only selecting a few elements in each scene to exaggerate. The rest of the elements must remain more natural and realistic. Doing so will avoid an absurd or disturbing look that will leave viewers confused or dismayed with your work.
For instance, if you exaggerate your sailing character’s facial features, you should refrain from exaggerating their other physical features. If you choose to exaggerate the movement of the waves, you may need to refrain from exaggerating the character’s facial features too. With a balanced scene, you draw the viewer’s attention to the elements they need to see, and keep them grounded enough in reality to enjoy the exaggerated elements.
Keep Your Project Appealing.
Finally, when using exaggeration in your animated production, you will need to maintain appeal. Appeal is a fairly subjective, yet crucial, element to animation. It is what makes even a villain a character the viewers will enjoy watching. Making mistakes in the steps discussed above can result in a loss of appeal. For instance, if you use too much exaggeration, viewers will be less likely to enjoy the animated production.
As a result, the last question you must ask yourself is how the exaggeration contributes to the scene’s overall appeal. It may fit all the criteria above, yet detract from the overall entertainment value. On the other hand, you may find that pushing the boundaries a bit yields a bolder look and greater appeal. As a result, exaggeration, as with any element of animation, requires careful crafting in order to achieve the most powerful and appealing work of art possible.
Exaggeration is an effective way to bring your animation to life, whether you are doing video game animation, advertising animation, or a feature length film. By exaggerating the most important elements, knowing what you want to achieve, retaining the essence of the exaggerated elements, creating balance, and keeping your project appealing can help you to create truly effective exaggeration in your animated art.