6 animation mistakes to avoid at all costs

If you’ve got your heart set on becoming an animator, check out our 6 key mistakes that you will want to avoid making, to get off to a great start, and to keep your audience engaged…


Animating a scene is a craft that must be honed over many years. It takes creativity, attention to detail, and many countless hours of mind-numbing tinkering! If you’ve still got your heart set on being an animator or being a better animator then there are a number of mistakes that you’ll want and need to avoid at all costs. We’ll take a look at 6 of the key ones but there are many others. Let’s dive in.

1. Over-animating a scene

First up, animators should always be careful not to over animate their scenes. There isn’t much that is more off-putting when watching an animation than if there is just too much going on in the scene to be able to take it all in. If you’ve got your characters animated and objects in the foreground and the background animated then it can all blur into one big mess. This not only overloads the senses of the viewer but it lacks real focus. The viewer has no idea where they should be focusing their attention and it therefore detracts from what the animator is trying to achieve.

Keep your animations simple and focused. Draw the attention of the viewer to the parts of the animation and the scene that you want them to focus on. You can do this by only animating the parts of your scene that are key to the story, and to the narrative you’re trying to communicate. Use camera effects such as depth of field to really make your viewer focus.

kung fu panda render 3d model animation pose fighting
Image credit supplied by Sid Balachandran

2. Adding inappropriate sound or music

Another thing that can really detract from the narrative of an animation is using wrong or inappropriate audio. Hopefully it goes without saying that any voiceover should be bang on with the lip movements of your characters, and any noise that is made from movement in the scene should also match perfectly. On top of that you’ll want to make sure your music or background audio suits the mood of the scene. Obviously, a heavy metal rock band piece during a tender moment between two characters is not going to work. It can be a real chore finding good quality music to support your narratives but it’s worth mining the depths and spending the time to get something that is just right.

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Image credit supplied by Afif Kusuma

3. Not giving viewers time to take it in

Not giving your viewers enough time to process what is happening in your scene is a killer for the effectiveness of animations. Viewers can become disorientated, distracted, and at worse will need to turn it off all together. A classic example would be making sure that cuts are timely and measured and that any animation that happens at the start of a shot is timed to enable the viewer to take it in, especially if it is animation at the start of a new scene.

When you’re working on your animations it can be very easy to become numb to what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. Maintaining objectivity then becomes almost impossible. A couple of great ways to counteract this is to take good breaks, even if the break is choosing to work on a different scene. The second thing you can do is to ask a colleague or a friend to give their opinions on what you’ve done. Getting second opinions is perfect for helping you understand how your animation is being received.

zootopia zootropolis animated character creature design model office 3d
Image credit supplied by Chauhan Monizh

4. Forgetting the why

Every animation that is created has a why. Every object that moves is moving for a reason, and maybe more importantly every character that acts or performs is doing so for a very definite reason. They aren’t just moving for the sake of it. They might move or speak in response to what another character does or an object that is in the scene. They might be responding to something that has just happened to them, or to some news they’ve just heard. Animations that lose sight of the why become disjointed and unbelievable. To be honest, they’re just not very captivating.

Keep your mind focused on the why and if necessary keep revisiting it and reminding yourself of what motivates an action. It’ll keep your characters and objects in your scene knitted closely together and will make your animations more believable.

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Image credit supplied by Hans Eiskonen

5. No consistency between cuts

We’ve all seen it, haven’t we? Whether it be in an animation or in a live action film, and it cuts from one shot to the next shot in the same scene and yet something is immediately different about the scene. It might be that the lighting has changed or that objects in the scene are suddenly in the wrong position. A character might be half way through a movement but suddenly have finished it after the cut. This lack of consistency is really jarring for your viewers.

Pay close attention to your animation and to the cuts. Watch your videos back again and again, studying for consistency. It’ll be sure to pay off.

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Image credit supplied by Zhifei Zhou

6. Going off brand

If you’re working on a project that is part of a bigger whole – it might be a character that already has a key style or set of rules for its movements, or animating a product that has a fixed brand – then you’ll want to make sure you fit into the rules and guidelines that have already been set. For any reputable project you’ll be able to get a hold of brand animation guidelines. By following along with what has been set, you’ll be much more effective at producing something that ties in with what has been created previously, and will likely avoid a complicated sign off process.

When you’re working on your animations it can be very easy to become numb to what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. Maintaining objectivity then becomes almost impossible. A couple of great ways to counteract this is to take good breaks

Who doesn’t love rules?

It’s good to know the rules but it’s also vital to not be ruled by the rules. They are there for a reason, but as you grow as an animator you’ll learn how to break the rules for the purpose of increasing the effectiveness of your animation. Today we’ve looked at 6 of the negative mistakes that it’s important to avoid, but more than focusing on the negative, fix your eyes on the positive – creating beautiful and believable animations that move the hearts and minds of your audience.

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