Creating appeal

Discover what goes into creating appealing characters and animation.

Of all the 12 Principles of Animation, defined by Disney animators, and immortalised by Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston in The Illusion of Life, “Appeal” has to be the most elusive.

Animation students may struggle at first to comprehend the difference between timing and spacing but, once properly explained, they become easy enough to understand, if not master.

Appeal, on the other hand, is far harder to define. We often know it when we see it, but capturing it is a far harder task.

So, what is appeal?

In many ways, appeal is a highly subjective quality, but it is typically defined as something that is pleasing, attractive or interesting.

In The Illusion of Life, Frank and Ollie go further by saying:

“To us it meant anything that a person likes to see, a quality of charm, pleasing design, simplicity, communication, and magnetism. Your eye is drawn to the figure that has appeal, and, once there, it is held while you appreciate what you are seeing.”

Appeal in animation

When it comes to the animation of a character, it’s appeal is the result of a great number of things working together in harmony.

The character must be well drawn, or posed, and move with interesting timing and spacing. Appropriate anticipation should be used throughout, along with overlapping action, and follow through where required. On top of this, the considered use of squash and stretch and exaggeration will add flexibility and style to the mix.

In short, appeal can typically be found at the intersection of the other 11 Principles of Animation.

Creating characters with appeal

Of course, in order to create appealing animation, we first need appealing characters to work with.

If a character design, or model, has no innate sense of appeal then it will be far harder to create a performance on top of that which will engage an audience.

Whilst there’s no simple formula for designing and modelling an appealing character, I’ve broken down the process that I use in my latest YouTube video.

Obviously, the process and suggestions that I share will not guarantee appealing characters but, combined with continued practice, they should provide a good place to start.

Appeal may be hard to define, and even harder to capture, but it’s a quality which is well worth striving for in everything that you create.


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