Animated Video Production

12 Principles of Animation: Timing

Shawn 06.26.2013

Richard Williams once quoted Disney animation great, Grim Natwick, as saying that animation was, “All in the timing.” After over 40 years in the industry, Williams agreed.

Timing is arguably the most basic of the 12 Principles of Animation, but simultaneously the most tricky to master. It’s truly one of those “less is more” situations.

12 Principles of Animation: Timing

Timing simply refers to how the action (animation) plays out over a given time span. More drawings slows the action down, while fewer drawings speeds it up. Simple, right? No. Not really.

Organic motion – something we take for granted with live-action films – is notoriously difficult to imitate with animation. The speed and deliberateness of big arcing motions combined with subtle facial gestures determines the narrative of an animation.

For example, the speed with which the “dramatic chipmunk” whips around in this video above loads his action with anxious emotion. It tells the story that he’s been surprised. Then the frozen expression elicits the response that he’s mulling over this new information, or that he stands shocked by what he’s learned.

The timing of his actions – both fast and slow – are why people think he’s “dramatic” in the first place. It’s all in the timing.

Timing also loads physical and emotional meaning into an object (or a chipmunk) to establish a character’s mood, emotion, or reaction to something. Variance in the speed of the character’s movements shows whether a character is relaxed, lethargic, anxious, or enthusiastic.

Most of communication is non-verbal. We naturally fill in the details of our stories with the pace, repetition, frequency, rhythm, and tempo of our movements and facial expressions. Interpretive dance isn’t just an expression. And all that nuance is tough to duplicate with animation.

Enjoy this great example of timing as a principle of animation used to evoke emotion and mood. “The Thought of You” from Ryan Woodward. There’s a beautiful slow moment at 1:16.

Timing is a powerful tool for creating a compelling story in your animated video.

Stop wasting time and contact us today for more info, or click here to read more about the other 12 Principles of Animation.


Born in Southern California, Shawn grew up surfing, eating In-N-Out, and growing his hair long. After graduating with a Liberal Arts degree from CSU Long Beach in 2005 he left the crowded freeways behind and spent the better part of a decade traveling the world living for stretches in Rome, Hawaii, Australia, New Zealand, and Brooklyn. He writes novels as well as copy, loves learning keyboard shortcuts, and plays his grandpa’s old lap steel guitar. You can hear his band at

Similar Stories