One of the key questions to ask yourself as an animator provided by Frank and Ollie: would anyone else besides your mother like what you have done?
This is the day I ask myself that by showing off a student project. My first attempt to create a short subject based on the principals of squash and stretch. And I do mean short, this thing is six seconds long and that’s including the title card.
Squash and stretch is used in everything in creating the illusion of life and that’s why it’s one of the first things any student of animation learns. It’s used for mouth movements of dialogue, body movement in the walk cycle, contact with objects and other characters, and is illustrated best by the classic bouncing ball.
The exercise of creating a bouncing ball is also used to practice spacing and timing; to make the arcs of the ball flow properly. Making sure that it stretches as it falls and squashes when it hits the ground. If it squashes or stretches incorrectly, at the wrong time or the ball changes volume as it travels the movement, it won’t look right to an audience. The most subtle uses of this will be found in pretty much Disney work ever made and more extreme versions can be found in the Warner Brothers Looney Tunes shorts and Tex Avery cartoons.
Finally this exercise is also so good for thinking about the ‘weight’ of a character. Is this a really rubbery ball that has high bounces and lots of squash when it contacts the floor? Or is this a very hard ball that barely has any bounce and almost no squash when it hits the floor? Weight, timing, and spacing are all things the animator will consider when creating any character and making them move, especially when the animation starts getting put to sound, and so they must be practiced.
Now once the ball has been created and moves the way it should the creativity can come out by turning the ball into something that’s actually fun to look at, or at least I hope so: