Correct Breakdown Position

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Returning to the walk itself, you may wonder how to animate the rest of the body so that the whole figure is in movement. The most important thing to remember in all standard walks is that if the left leg is forward, the right arm is forward to counterbalance it (see drawing 1). Similarly, if the right leg is forward, the left arm is forward (see drawing 9). Following all the principles you used to inbetween the legs, you can now produce a passing position for the whole body. (First, slowly act it out yourself so you feel the action.) The passing position is roughly this:

From the passing position, the inbetweens 3 and 7 can be produced, completing one step.

Basic Arm Positions For Sketching

Repeat the whole procedure—using the opposite arm and leg positions—to obtain the other step.

Although you can now draw the basic standard walk, it is still rigid and mechanical, without personality. To make it more human, you must look more closely at the walk in action. Next time you are on a busy street, carefully observe people as they pass by. They all follow the basic pattern of movement that's been described, but notice how they differ in their execution of this standard movement. You may see a young girl taking short, sharp, perky strides, while an elderly, arthritic woman limps slowly, with her weight principally to one side. Or a young boy may swing his arms vigorously as he almost marches beside his mother, who is loaded with shopping bags and hardly moves her arms at all. Compare the clipped walk of a businessman with the uncoordinated meandering of a drunk. The more you look, the more you will realize that although everyone follows a basic pattern of movement, no two people have the same walk. Their size, weight, personality, speed, and psychological and physical well-being all contribute to making their walking movements unique.

Obviously, no animator—however experienced—can offer a formula that covers every conceivable style of walk. A few rudimentary guidelines, however, will give you clues about how to approach different walking movements. For example, instead of using the conventional passing position, many of the great animators of the past bent the knee of the free leg inward or outward.

Experiment with this and then explore some variations. You might, for example, turn both knees inward on the keys and passing positions—1, (5), and 9—and outward on the inbetweens—3 and 7. This should give a shaky-legs look to the walk.

Stretch And Squash Animation

Or, instead of drawing the body up on the passing positions and down on the keys, break the rules and draw the body down on the passing position and up on the keys. The combinations are endless. But always remember that—whatever you do—the anatomy of the character cannot change. Legs do not shrink or stretch. If you want the body down, the legs must bend at the knee joints. If you want the body to rise above a straight-leg position, the character has to rise on tiptoe. All the options of squash and stretch (see pages 108-109) are open to you, as long as you respect the character's anatomy.

Can you recall Mickey Mouse's walk, and the way he seems to bounce up and down midstride? This is known as the double-bounce walk. Basically, it is simple to do, although the Disney animators elaborated on it for Mickey. Essentially, the double-bounce walk looks like this:

As you can see, the keys and the passing position are down, but the in-betweens are up. Note the bent knees on the down positions and the straight legs on tiptoe on the up positions. To compare effects, try putting the keys and passing position in the up position and the inbetweens in a down position.

In addition to varying body movements, you can add different head, leg, and arm positions. The variations can be stunning. And the more you try, the more you will learn.

Correct Animation


Additional variations in the walking action may be created by altering the timing. Until now, a simple, even chart between the two keys has been used for the timing.

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