Animation Basics: Thoughts on Walk Cycles

Let take a moment and talk a little bit about a basic piece of animation – the walk cycle.

The Ups and Downs of Animating a Walk Cycle

On one hand, walk cycles may seem boring… it may seem like a lot of work and a whole lot of steps (no pun intended) to get a character from one place to another.  It would be easier to have everybody on roller skates, right? On the other hand, the good thing about animating a nice walk is…it is a cycle.  That means once you have animated each leg, you can repeat your drawings over and over again. Let’s take a look at some great examples of recent walk cycles I’ve found and a classic sketch to talk more about animating this basic character movement.
Well, a walk cycle can tell you a lot about a character.  Look at the walk as an opportunity to tell your audience more about your character.  Each of us has our own walk, determined by out size, agility, age, etc.  Then, add onto that, each walk can tell you about what a character is thinking.  Are you walking quickly with determination?  Are you dragging your feet with reluctance?  Are you bouncing along in joy?


Walks Can Convey Emotion

Walks can be funny, sad, inspiring, cringe-worthy and so on.  When a character walks somewhere in a film, they usually have some kind of purpose.  What are they doing?  How do they feel about it?  A walk to meet your true love at the door will look a lot different than a walk to a prison cell.


Walks are really, really hard to animate!  To animate a convincing walk, so many body parts have to work together.  If the character has a cape or long hair, that becomes an additional challenge.  Walking is such a simple thing to do, but such a complex thing to break down into 24 drawings per second.  Each step, we are falling forward, only to catch ourselves at the last moment…and then we do it again…and again. This applies whether the subject is human or animal…

Have you ever animated a walk cycle? What were the hardest parts? What did you think was easy? Tell me in the comments, I’d love to continue the conversation.

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