Learn to Animate

Animation Storytelling & Preparation

Animations go through several stages of planning and development before the actual animating begins.


The stories for films and animations often are planned out in a variety of ways and often go through several drafts.
Professional writers might begin with a basic concept - such as Cinderalla in a society of time travelers. From that starting point, a basic outline of the plot would likely be created. The outline would include major points of interest without going into great detail:

  • C's father dies in a time traveling accident
  • C is forced into becoming her step-family's time machine mechanic...
A synopsis expands upon the story in a few paragraphs:

Due to an unfortunate incident involving her father and a time machine backfire, Cinderella has been forced into a life of...
A story treatment is sometimes created to tell the story in even more detail. There are different approaches but generally this involves putting your story into a short story format using the present tense:

Once upon a time, far in the future, a young girl is...
  • Complete the story structure worksheet (similar to an outline)
  • Create a synopsis of your story with 2-3 paragraphs in a Google Doc


It's important to have a deep understanding of your characters. This includes surface things like how they look, clothing choices, hair styles, colors and etc. Also how the character looks from multiple angles and with multiple expressions.

Beyond the physical appearance, it is also important to understand the character on a deeper level:
  • How do they think?
  • What are their motivations?
  • What is their personality like?
  • How do they feel and respond in different circumstances?
Drawing a Front View
Drawing a Side View
Drawing a 3/4 View
Drawing with Stick Figures
Drawing a Figure with a Scale
For living beings, emotions can be shown visually in:
  • Face
    • Eyebrows (the angle)
    • Eyes (the shape and position of the eyelids)
    • Lips (position of the corners, shape, angle)
  • Body's posture

Having the emotions of your characters visually change in response to the situations and interactions in your animation can really make your characters more relatable. Not choosing to display emotions often makes a character more robotic and hence less relatable.

In the animation stage, the speed and force of movement, motion lines, trembling and etc. can also really add to the sense of emotion.
  1. Q&A
    • Read the 2 questionaires posted in Google Classroom
    • Choose 10 questions to answer about your main character
    • Answer the questions in the provided Google Doc (open the assignment to access the Doc)
  2. Create character sketches (on paper or digitally)
    • Full body sketch
    • Front view of face
    • Side view of face
    • 3/4 view of face
    • Sketches that show different emotions

The Script

The script goes into detail about how the story is organized, where actions are taking place and includes sound effects and dialogue. The script should show the emotions and personalities of the characters. Names of characters are usually written in all caps.
Scene 9 - The PRINCE and his GENERAL pace outside the time machine chamber (gentle electronic whirring sound, footsteps and chatter in the distance)

  • PRINCE: Seriously!? You cannot mean to say you've lost track of her in time! (voice rising)
  • GENERAL: I apologize my prince, but I — ahh, well you see—
  • PRINCE: (whips around - interupting) I see that you are incompetent! (footsteps getting louder)

A HERALD arrives and bows to the PRINCE. The GENERAL begins inching towards the doorway.

  • PRINCE: Yes (turns wearily)
  • HERALD: I have news sire...
Dialogue in a script can do a lot to show the personality or emotions of your character. Some aspects to consider include:

  • Does your character talk really quickly?
  • Do they talk more slowly as if they are considering each word before they speak?
  • Are there certain words that they use frequently?
  • Do they talk a lot or are they monosyllabic?
  • Are they extra loud or super quiet?
  • Does your character try to sound extra important or intelligent because of their word choice?
  • Does your character try to sound tough or stupid or childlike?
  • Does your character stumble over their words?
In a Google Doc, create a script for the single scene you most want to animate. It should include:
  • The scene number
  • A list of characters
  • Basic description of the location
  • Specific background noises and/or music
  • Basic descriptions of any actions
  • At least 2 lines of dialogue
    • Clear labels to show which character is speaking
    • A sense of personality/emotion


The exact format of a storyboard varies but does usually include:
    Storyboard from Miyazaki's 'Spirited Away' is missing
  • A frame for:
    • Each camera movement
    • Changes in action
  • Drawings in each frame with:
    • Identifiable characters
    • Clear sense of lighting
  • Written information:
    • Camera shot number and type
    • Description of camera movement (sometimes drawn with arrows instead of written)
    • Description of the action
    • List of audio included in the shot

While there are many other camera shot types, these are some of the most common:

VWS example is missing
Very Wide shot(VWS) - more of the environment is shown and the subject is barely visible in the distance
WS example is missing
Wide shot(WS) - displays the entire subject
MS example is missing
Mid shot(MS) - shows some detail while still giving an impression of the overall subject
MCU example is missing
Medium close up(MCU) - shows more detail of the subject without showing much of the background
CU example is missing
Close up(CU) - the camera is focused on a specific part of the subject
ECU example is missing
Extreme close up(ECU) - shows very close, precise detail
Cut in example is missing
Cut in - shows a different detail of the subject
CA example is missing
Cutaway(CA) - shows a different subject
OSS example is missing
Over the Shoulder(OSS) - the camera is looking over the shoulder of a subject
POV example is missing
Point of View (POV) - the camera follows the viewpoint of a subject
Complete a storyboard for the one scene you are most interested in animating (the same scene your script is about). Feel free to use the storyboard worksheet or to create your own storyboard format. Either way, make sure to include:
  • A frame for:
    • Each camera movement
    • Changes in action
  • Drawings in each frame with:
    • Identifiable characters
    • Clear sense of lighting
  • Written information:
    • Camera shot number and type
    • Description of camera movement (sometimes drawn with arrows instead of written)
    • Description of the action
    • List of audio included in the shot


An animatic is similar to a moving storyboard. This is where animators plan out and perfect the overall timing of each action/movement. Drawings and animation are later perfected and optimized. An animatic often includes:

  • Line drawings (without fills)
  • Different line colors for each character
  • Basic tweens to get a general sense of movement