The first thing that you have to realize is that all characters are different from each other. Therefore they will act differently and move differently. So what is different about your character from other characters.
|"The character should also make the viewer feel something as a response."|
Every action, every performance, even every pose should tell your audience who your character is. Therefore you have to know who your character is first, before you can animate (or bring life) to them. If you do not know who your character is, you will not know how to make them move and perform. Write down your character's Personality Profile and refer to it, to remind you who they are and how they act and react in any situation. You should know these facts about your character, their: Age, Sex, Culture, The Year/Time of Day, Profession/Training, Education, Emotional State, Situation, Size/Weight and Personality.
All good studios will have a lead/supervising animator animate a few scenes of a new character first before anyone else does, to help establish how they move and act. This allows the other animators to have a guide to follow. These scenes will often show gestures, mannerisms and poses that can be used again, so that all future scenes feel like the same character. Another great animation test that reveals a lot about a character is a walk cycle. Always know what part of a character is leading them in a walk, this helps show their personality. It could be their nose, chest, stomach, or hips. Every student should know this and strive to do great character walks, only after they know how to do a basic walk.
Now the first thing that you should realize about good acting, is that it should not look like play acting, it should feel real, honest and sincere. This is a great piece of advice that I first heard from some Pixar animators. Characters should look as if they are moving themselves, not being pushed around by invisible forces, or held up so that they are breaking the laws of gravity and inertia. When you have a good performance, the character should also make the viewer feel something as a response to what they have seen. Good acting requires more then just good movement. Good acting requires good animation with a purpose and motivation of movement. Good acting also shows a character thinking and reacting to situations in a unique way that reveals their personality.
|"You have to be a good actor to be a good animator."|
Should you take live-action acting classes to improve your acting? Definitely, even if it just gets you used to getting up out of your chair and acting out your scene. Like all things, repetition will improve your skill. Acting out your scene over and over will result in better acting choices. I always say that you have to be a good actor to be a good animator. Realize that animation is not a copy of live-action. People will always look alive, even when we are doing very small actions, because we are breathing and always moving slightly. However, your animation will look stiff and lifeless, or your character's actions will not be seen if you just copy live-action. You must exaggerate a character's actions and poses in order for them to be seen clearly. That means going up and down more with the hips for the hip movement to show up. That means lift a hand up high and opening up the fingers before going down and closing the hand around something. That means holding a pose longer so that the audience can see and enjoy it. When you watch live-action closely, you will observe that we often do not do an anticipation before every action. A common mistake by animation students is to not do an anticipation before every action. Do it. Having an anticipation before every action will enable your audience to clearly see your acting. Which is what it is all about, good acting that is clearly seen. See ya!
I am a professional ex-Walt Disney Feature animation artist.
Have a look at my filmography at: http://www.imdb.com/name/