Often, the one idea being put over in a scene can be fortified by subsidiary actions within the body. A sad figure wipes a tear as he turns away. Someone stunned
shakes his head as he gets to his feet. A flustered person puts on his glasses as he regains his composure. When this extra business supports the main action, it is called a Secondary Action and is always kept subordinate to the primary action. If it conflicts or becomes more interesting or dominating in any way, it is either the wrong choice or is staged improperly.
The chief difficulty lies in making a unified statement through the drawing and timing of separate, but related, parts. If the sad figure has an expression on his face that should be seen, the hand wiping the tear must be carefully planned to support that look. A broad, overwhelming gesture with a fist covering half the face would hardly be acceptable. Still, if the action is too subdued, it will be mushy, restricted, and inconsequential; if it is too strong, the face will never be seen. Should this Secondary Action be made to work with the features so that the expression is actually emphasized, the scene will be outstanding.
Sometimes the Secondary Action will be the expression itself. Suppose there was to be a change from a painful hurt to a helpless, bleak look as the character turns away, before he wipes the tear. The danger now is not that the expression will dominate the scene but that it never will be seen. The change must come before the move, or after, and must be staged so that it is obvious, even though of secondary importance. A change in the middle of a major move w ill go unnoticed, and any value intended will be lost.
One animator found the proper relationships among all these parts through a "building block" technique.3 First he animated the most important move, making sure that it worked the way he wanted, communicating his thought in the strongest way. Then he went through the scene a second time animating the Secondary Action, and even once more if necessary, to make the rest of the drawing relate to those two actions. He continued to change and adjust until all parts of the drawing worked together in a very natural way.
It is advisable in any case to try it all in thumbnails—little exploratory sketches—before doing anything else, to make sure that everything will stage well and will look as convincing as the animator had hoped. When used correctly. Secondary Actions will add richness to the scene, naturalness to the action, and a fuller dimension to the personality of the character.
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