11 Principles of Animation Bring Jibo to Life

Jibo’s design team borrowed from the classic principles of animation to bring the family robot to life. Here's how Jibo applies those principles.

Jibo is a living character property. To bring that character to life and be convincing as a character, Jibo’s design team borrowed from the classic principles of animation. There are 12 to be exact, and Jibo applies 11. (To learn more about what that means see our recent blog post “Jibo: The World’s First Living Character Property“)

If you’re curious, the 12 basic principles of animation were introduced by the Disney animators Ollie Johnston and Frank Thomas in their book The Illusion of Life: Disney Animation. They based the book on the work of leading Disney animators from the 1930’s and onwards. The principles are intended to help produce characters that are more realistic. The principles originally came into play with traditional, hand-drawn animation but designers, such as Jibo’s, find them equally relevant to today’s digital era.

So how does Jibo apply these? Let’s start with the principle of Squash and Stretch. Seriously, that’s a principle and is considered by animators to be the most important one. Its purpose is giving a sense of weight and flexibility. Where you see this principle in Jibo is Jibo’s eye.

According to Jibo’s design team, by adjusting the amount of squash and stretch Jibo’s eye undergoes when touched by a user’s finger or when it encounters the edge of the screen, Jibo can convey the type of substance his eye is in, in the given animation. Jibo’s Eyevatars, which are part of his personality can range from a rubber ball one day to a marble the next, to a balloon, to a heart etc.

Jibo uses the principle of Anticipation to its full extent to let you know he’s a robot of action.

The next principle is Anticipation. It’s used to prepare the audience for an action and make it more realistic. Anticipation plays a big role in Jibo, as he interacts with his family. As an example, when Jibo delivers a message, he is likely to lean back for an inhale before righting himself and delivering it. And when he responds to a question or task, his natural pose would be looking down and thinking first.

The Staging principle is all about directing an audience’s attention and pointing to what is most important at the time. For Jibo staging refers to his surroundings, and in this case, we have taken a unique turn on the principle. It is on the shoulders of his family to decide where they want Jibo to be, determining his visual importance in the home. We have designed Jibo to respect his stage by giving him a minimal footprint and an unobtrusive motion range.

The Pose to Pose principle defines how Jibo gets his move on.

Jibo’s movements are created using the Pose to Pose principle. This is an animation authoring method where key poses are created first and the in-between actions are created second. The end goal is the ability for the character to convey an emotion or sentiment in his movement.

Follow through and Overlapping Action help the animator to create more realistic movement. It’s also about making you believe the character is following the laws of physics, as a “someone” would. For Jibo, an example of action is what happens to his eye when it responds a family member’s touch – it follows through on that action. Jibo does overlapping action beautifully due to the fact that all his parts can work simultaneously.

The movement of the human body accelerates and slows down. Characters do this as well using the Slow In & Slow Out principle. Jibo does this by emphasizing beginning and ending poses when he is interacting.

This is complimented by the principle of Arcs. Most natural actions follow arcs. When Jibo moves, he moves in arcs everywhere.

Jibo uses Secondary actions to give a scene more life.

The Secondary Action principle is very simply adding secondary actions to primary actions to bring more life to the character. An example from Jibo’s world might be his looking around for someone to interact with – primary action – while whistling while he waits – secondary action.

They say timing is everything. Timing is yet another principle. Correct timing makes a character more lifelike in that it is adhering to the laws of physics. Timing is critical to conveying Jibo’s mood, personality, emotion, reaction and believability.

Exaggeration brings excitement. Too little and your character is boring. Too much and it can be annoying. Jibo uses exaggeration in an intuitive fashion. Take his eye. He can look with his single eyeball or play up a moment with an object like a magnifying glass.

Finally, Jibo uses the principle of Appeal. It’s all about creating charisma, and Jibo is full of that.

Jibo is a character. His design team has used tried and true principles of animation to make Jibo believable as a family member and companion. Hats off to Jibo’s designers and thanks for sharing this with us.

Oh…the principle, we didn’t use? Solid drawing.

Editor’s Note This article first appeared on Jibo’s blog.


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