ONE: INTENTIONNothing happens without a reason, everything that the character does is motivated by a larger desire, goal, aim or what I call a WANT. The WANT is usually expressed as attempting to get action from another or others. In other words, the character wants the other character to do something as the result of their desire. In Finding Nemo, Marlon wants Dory to ‘remember the address from the scuba mask’, everything he does in that scene reflects his desire for that address, but everything he does pushes Coral towards ‘remembering the address’. The character ALWAYS must have something to do, in every scene, and this is powered by a desire.
TWO: ALL CHARACTERS ARE HUMAN IN NATUREWhether your character is a lost clown fish, a young outcast lion, a robot built to look like a boy or a singing tea cup, every character is basically human and every story is a human one, about human concerns, and human desires in human relationships. Finding Nemo is the story of an overly protective single father struggling to bring up a disabled child, who just wants to have some independence. The basic conflict between Marlon’s desire to protect his son and Nemo’s desire to have independence is what causes the action of the film.
THREE: CHARACTER IS ACTIONDespite what some Method actors think, a character isn’t a real person, doesn’t have a soul or a personality. Instead, they are a bundle of characteristics, they are as Aristotle called them ‘habitual action’. A character is not given the characteristic ‘kind’ because they were kind ONCE, but because they are habitually KIND. What your characters do regularly is who they are. A character is a cluster of behaviour that the audience read as a persona. Your job is to show those behaviours – in direct response to their INTENTION.
FOUR: ACTING BASICSFor me, there are only two things that are really going on in any actor’s performance, and an animated character should be no different. Each character should have a strong TASK, something achievable that they can fight for in the scene. This changes if their INTENTION changes, but basically means that the animator can keep this TASK in mind when they are developing the character’s actions in every scene. The second part is the moment. Now as animators, there is no immediately live moment, the moment is constructed, but you should nonetheless have your characters balance their actions between TASK and MOMENT. What is happening in this individual moment and how does the character respond to this through the lens of their TASK. In other words, your character must respond to what is happening before them, but taking into account what they need to achieve in the scene.
FIVE: REACTIONEverything is an action-reaction-action-reaction chain. (arguably an action-reaction-reaction-reaction-reaction chain). Characters don’t react on their lines, they react at the point in the behaviour of the other that causes the response. Of course, they can’t speak until they get the chance, but this often builds the tension between the characters, positive or negative. So when one character is telling the other something, the responses can occur long before your character gets to speak.