Power of Narrative Animation: Tips & Techniques
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 9 min read


  1. What is Narrative Animation?
  2. Why Narrative Animation Matters
  3. Tips to Write a Compelling Story
  4. Animation Techniques to Bring Your Story to Life
  5. How to Create Engaging Characters
  6. Expressing Emotion through Animation
  7. Animation Tools and Technology
  8. Examples of Effective Narrative Animation

In the colorful and expressive world of animation, a unique form of storytelling unfolds. This is the territory of narrative animation—a creative sphere where art, technology, and storytelling converge. If you've ever been mesmerized by a Pixar film or found yourself rooting for a character in an animated series, you've experienced the power of narrative animation. This blog will guide you through the intricacies of narrative animation, offering tips and techniques to help you create compelling stories of your own.

What is Narrative Animation?

At its core, narrative animation is a method of storytelling that uses animated visuals. It's like bringing a storybook to life, but with moving pictures instead of static images. But what sets narrative animation apart from other forms of animation?

  • Vivid Storytelling: Narrative animation breathes life into stories. It's not just about flashy visuals—every frame, every movement, every color choice works together to tell a story. Think about your favorite animated movie or show, and you'll see what we mean.
  • Character Development: In narrative animation, characters aren't just visually appealing figures—they have personalities, emotions, and goals. They evolve over time, making you feel invested in their journeys. For example, in the Pixar movie "Up," the character Carl transforms from a grumpy old man into a caring friend.
  • Emotional Engagement: What makes narrative animation so powerful is its ability to stir emotions. Whether it's laughter, tears, or a sense of adventure, narrative animation can evoke a wide range of feelings in viewers, making the story more memorable and impactful.

Now that we've answered the question, "what is narrative animation," let's move on to why it matters and how you can create your own narrative animations. From writing a compelling story to expressing emotions through animation, we've got a lot to cover. So, buckle up and let's get started on this exciting journey!

Why Narrative Animation Matters

So, we've talked about what narrative animation is, but why does it matter? Why should anyone pay attention to it? It's simple—narrative animation matters because it's a powerful way to communicate, entertain, educate, and inspire.

  • Communicate: Narrative animation simplifies complex ideas and makes them more digestible. Whether it's explaining the process of photosynthesis to kids or detailing a company's product, the visual and dynamic nature of animation makes it an effective communication tool.
  • Entertain: From Saturday morning cartoons to blockbuster movies, the entertainment value of narrative animation is undeniable. The magic of animated stories is their ability to entertain people of all ages—captivating kids and adults alike with their creativity.
  • Educate: Complex concepts can be hard to understand when explained in plain text or spoken words. But when these concepts are presented through narrative animation, they become fun and engaging, making learning easier and more enjoyable.
  • Inspire: Narrative animation has the power to inspire. It allows us to imagine different possibilities, empathize with characters, and learn valuable lessons. Take, for instance, the animated film "Finding Nemo." It's not just about a clownfish's adventure—it's a story of perseverance, courage, and the enduring bond of family.

So, whether you're an aspiring animator, a business owner looking to create promotional videos, or simply an animation enthusiast, understanding the power of narrative animation can help you create content that resonates with your audience. Now, let's move on to tips on writing a compelling story for your animation.

Tips to Write a Compelling Story

Creating a compelling story is the heart of narrative animation. Here are some tips that can help you craft a story that will captivate your audience.

  1. Start with a Clear Idea: Before you start writing your story, have a clear idea of what you want to convey. Is it a tale of adventure, a love story, or a lesson about the environment? Once you have a clear idea, it becomes easier to build your story around it.
  2. Develop Your Characters: Characters are the soul of your story. Make sure you develop them well. Give them a background story, personality traits, and emotions. Remember, your audience needs to connect with your characters to feel invested in your story.
  3. Have a Strong Plot: The plot is the backbone of your story. It should be original, exciting, and well-structured. A well-crafted plot keeps your viewers hooked from start to finish.
  4. Include Conflict: Conflict adds drama and tension to your story. It could be a conflict between characters, within a character (internal conflict), or between a character and their environment. Conflict keeps your story interesting and drives the plot forward.
  5. End with a Resolution: Every story needs a good ending. It could be a happy ending, a tragic one, or something in between. The important thing is that it provides a resolution to the conflict and ties up loose ends.

Remember, writing a compelling story takes practice. Don't be discouraged if your first few attempts don't turn out as you expect. Keep trying, keep learning, and soon, you'll be able to create amazing stories for your narrative animations.

Animation Techniques to Bring Your Story to Life

Alright, you've got a great story. Now, how do you bring it to life with animation? Here are some techniques that can help you animate your story effectively.

  1. Storyboarding: This is the first step in bringing your story to life. It involves creating a series of sketches that represent each scene in your story. This gives you a visual roadmap of how your story will unfold.
  2. Layering: This technique involves creating different layers for each element in your scene. This could include characters, background elements, and special effects. Layering allows you to manipulate each element independently, offering more control over your animation.
  3. Timing and Spacing: Timing is about when an action starts and ends. Spacing refers to the speed of the action. Effective timing and spacing can make your animation look more realistic and engaging.
  4. Squash and Stretch: This technique can make actions feel more dynamic. For example, when a ball bounces, it squashes when it hits the ground and stretches as it bounces back up. This adds a sense of weight and flexibility to your animations.
  5. Anticipation: This involves showing an action that prepares the viewer for a major action that is about to happen. For example, a character bending their knees before jumping. Anticipation helps make your animation more believable.

These are just a few of the techniques you can use to bring your narrative animations to life. Remember, the key is to keep practicing and experimenting with different techniques until you find the ones that work best for your story.

How to Create Engaging Characters

Characters are the heart of any narrative animation. They can make or break your story, so it's important to create characters that your audience can connect with. Here's how you can do that:

  1. Give Your Characters a Purpose: Every character in your story should have a purpose. It could be something big like saving the world, or something small like finding a lost toy. A purpose drives a character's actions and helps the audience understand them better.
  2. Make Them Relatable: Your characters don't have to be perfect. In fact, flaws can make characters more relatable. By giving your characters strengths, weaknesses, hopes, and fears, you make them feel more human.
  3. Design with Care: A character's appearance can tell a story too. Think about what your character's design can say about their personality or background. A neat, tidy character might be very organized, while a character in bright, bold colors might have a vibrant personality.
  4. Let Them Grow: Characters should evolve as the story progresses. This could be in terms of their personality, relationships, or goals. Character development can make your audience more invested in your story.
  5. Keep It Consistent: It's important to keep your character's behaviors and actions consistent. If a character acts out of character without a good reason, it can confuse your audience and break their immersion.

Creating engaging characters is a blend of good writing and thoughtful design. By investing time in creating well-rounded, compelling characters, you can bring your narrative animation to a whole new level.

Expressing Emotion through Animation

One of the biggest challenges in narrative animation is expressing emotion effectively. How do you make a drawn character express happiness, sadness, anger, or surprise? Here are some tips to help you tackle this challenge:

  1. Use Body Language: Just like in real life, your characters can express a lot through their body language. A slumped posture can suggest sadness, while wide eyes and a raised eyebrow can show surprise. Pay attention to the small details — they can make a big difference.
  2. Utilize Color: Colors can evoke different feelings. Bright, vibrant colors can suggest happiness and excitement, while darker colors might be used to represent sadness or fear. You can use this to your advantage when animating your characters.
  3. Make the Most of Facial Expressions: A smile, a frown, a furrowed brow — facial expressions can convey a wide range of emotions. Make sure to use them effectively in your narrative animation.
  4. Don't Forget About the Voice: If your animation includes voice acting, this can be a powerful tool for expressing emotion. The tone, volume, and pace of a character's voice can all contribute to their emotional state.
  5. Timing is Key: The timing of your animation can also play a big role in expressing emotion. A quick, sudden movement might show anger or surprise, while slower, more deliberate movements can suggest sadness or contemplation.

Expressing emotion in animation isn't always easy, but it's a crucial part of bringing your characters and story to life. By using these techniques, you can create a narrative animation that resonates with your audience on a deeper level.

Animation Tools and Technology

Animation is a field where the right tools can make a big difference. But with so many options out there, how do you choose? Let's break down some of the top tools you might want to consider for your narrative animation project:

  1. Adobe Animate: Formerly known as Flash, Adobe Animate is a favorite among many animators. It's ideal for creating interactive animations for the web and it's a great starting point for beginners too.
  2. Blender: Blender is a free and open-source 3D computer graphics software toolset. It's perfect for those looking to create more complex, 3D animations.
  3. Toon Boom Harmony: This is a professional-grade tool used by many animation studios. Toon Boom Harmony offers a range of sophisticated features for creating high-quality animations.
  4. Maya: Known for its advanced features and flexibility, Maya is another tool popular in professional settings. It's great for 3D animation and has a steep learning curve, but it's worth it.
  5. Storyboarder: Before you even start animating, you might want to map out your story. Storyboarder makes it easy to visualize your animation scene by scene.

Remember, the best tool is the one that suits your needs and fits your budget. Don't be afraid to experiment with different tools until you find the one that feels right for you. Animation is an art form, and like any other, it requires practice and patience. But with the right tools in hand, you'll be well on your way to creating a narrative animation that truly shines.

Examples of Effective Narrative Animation

Now that we've explored what narrative animation is and the tools you can use, let's look at some examples that brilliantly showcase the power of this art form:

  1. "Up": Pixar's "Up" is a masterclass in narrative animation. The opening montage is a perfect example, where a whole life story is told in just a few minutes, without a single word uttered, but filled with emotion and depth.
  2. "The Lion King": Another classic, "The Lion King" by Disney, uses narrative animation to create a world of talking animals. Yet, it tells a story of leadership, friendship and courage that resonates with audiences of all ages.
  3. "Spirited Away": Hayao Miyazaki’s "Spirited Away" uses narrative animation to transport viewers into a world of spirits and magic. The story is both engaging and visually stunning, showing how animation can create realities beyond what we can see in live-action.
  4. "Wall-E": "Wall-E" tells a compelling story mostly through the actions of its robot protagonist. It's a powerful example of how animation can express character and narrative without relying heavily on dialogue.
  5. "The Breadwinner": This animated film tells a deeply moving story about a girl living under the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. The animation style is unique and serves to enhance the narrative, proving that animation can tackle serious and complex themes.

These examples are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to narrative animation. Each one has its own unique style and approach to storytelling, showing how versatile and powerful this medium can be. So, when you start your journey into narrative animation, remember: there's no limit to the stories you can tell.

If you're captivated by the power of narrative animation and want to learn more about storytelling in visual art, check out our 'Daisie Original Animation Course' with none another than Alex Jenkins who will you take you through his complete animation process. Dive in and take your animation skills to the next level!