About me
Rss feed

To twin or not to twin

Posted on November 2, 2010  8 Comments
Filed under Acting, Animation, Education

the W pose

[update] Simple tip to break a W pose: Have the character hold a prop!

As Frank and Ollie expressed it in the “Illusion of Life” in 1981, “Twin, is the unfortunate situation where both arms or both legs are not only parallel but doing the exact same thing”. (p.68)

The typical example of a twin is the most dreaded pose in animation, the W pose. A pose where the character is standing straight with both forearms raised up, forming a W with his arms.

Carson Van Osten, a famous Disney comics artist illustrated it very well in his 1973 “Comic Strip Artist’s kit” and the illustration was reused in “The Illusion of Life”

Having been taught by some of the best animators in the industry during my training at Animation Mentor, I always try to avoid the W pose and find it really hard. I sometimes find myself wondering if there couldn’t be some exceptions. Don’t we, “twin”, in real life? Aren’t there any situation where the W would be acceptable?

Ron Clements seems to be thinking the opposite and in the same chapter of the “Illusion of Life” was quoted saying: “If you get into acting, you would never think of expressing an emotion with twins anywhere but somehow, in a drawing, when you are not thinking , it creeps in time and again”.

That’s not of much help is it? So what to do?

Well, when in doubt, I usually refer to my masters, the good people from Pixar and other feature animation studios but doing a fair bit of research I didn’t expect such an outcome. What a shock, their work is full of twins or at least the trailers I found on Youtube.

I made a funny animated gif to illustrate my findings. I hope no one will be offended, this wasn’t my goal, I could probably find similar examples in other studio’s work but those were the only trailers I had on my hard drive. Ultimately who am I to make fun of Pixar.

The W pose

The most surprising is the Ratatouille trailer where Rémi is twining for a long series of gestures. Wasn’t Brad Bird, Milt Kahl’s protégé, directing the movie?

So what to think of it?

Well if a Pixar director who started at Disney when he was a teenager is not bothered by twins I don’t think they should matter much but I would still refer to Andrew Gordon’s Splinedoctors’s article about cliché gestures.

A gesture here, a gesture there

W poses, with the neck rub and the elbow hold, are some of those cliché gestures that first come to the mind when thinking a performance and we should try to avoid them as much as we can.

If after exploring other acting choices they still feel adequate, then, we can probably use them but they should always, be the last option, not gesturing being the first.

Like listening to music while animating, keep in mind that you should avoid it but if it works for you or if this seems like the most natural thing to do, just do it.


8 Responses to “To twin or not to twin”

  1. Phil Willis on November 2nd, 2010 23:05

    It’s not the W pose in itself that’s bad – it’s that it is overused.

    When it comes from a genuine place and used infrequently I’m sure studios like Pixar can get away with it.

    But when it becomes the first gesture that springs to mind, it’s time to keep exploring more options.

    If you want to see how prevalent it is – just check out some of the 11 second club entries.

    Thanks for sharing on when to break the rules.

  2. Olivier Ladeuix on November 6th, 2010 21:09

    I am not sure Pixar can get away with it Phil. Two W poses with two different characters in just one trailer, that’s fairly extreme. I will have a thorough look when the BluRay comes out.

  3. remi on November 9th, 2010 04:08

    I don’t think all your examples are classsified as the w pose! there’s asymetrie going on on remi, and on the guy from Up as well…

    even buzz has one hand slightly higher then the other. And in Buzz’s case, i think another gesture would look very awkward ( if it’s a “settle down ” kind of moment!

    sha dig?!

  4. Olivier Ladeuix on November 10th, 2010 04:11

    well, that’s a very good point Remi, if the character is sideway like the Muntz shot, is it still a twin? Usually that’s what I do when I am forced to do a twin but in the case of Buzz, Remy and Woody, I am pretty sure that’s a clear Twin.

    If you look at the Mike example given by Andrew Gordon, he still has a slight angle to the camera and the hands are not exactly at the same height but Andrew is the one calling it W.

    I guess not all animators have the same “sensibility” to those things.

  5. alonso on November 18th, 2010 11:45

    p 324 of Survival Kit talks about it, basically saying that when we’re orating sometimes we make a symmetrical pose naturally, Williams suggests coming into and out of it asymetrically & mixing it up with asymetrical poses

  6. leon on November 23rd, 2010 08:47

    another thing to think about is how you get into the W pose, I don’t think there is anything wrong with the W pose , if it is hit naturally, and the situation calls for it, sometime you can fall in the trap of avoiding the W pose just because you to avoid it, rather then allowing the character to hit a natural pose based on the situation. It is also important how you get into the pose as that can also make it more interesting, overlapping the action of the pose, but it is always best to explore every option, the W pose is one of those crutches that is used when the animator may not have explored more options, or really got into there mind of the character
    this is a great topic

  7. sandeep veepuri on December 12th, 2010 23:08

    tats a really good reveal,but even though some knew it,u managed to show it well,and understandable,but as per me,twinning means not to twin too much and always,at some points can be symetrical,depending on characters intention,ex ;when the character is shocked,and or hit by some thing,even great cartoon shows,showed twinning but any way thanks for that gif u showed tats lil helpful.]

    hope to see more from u

  8. Olivier Ladeuix on January 25th, 2013 01:11

    having worked with Motion Capture and untrained actors few month ago, I have now a new insight on the W pose. Expect a new post very soon

Leave a Reply