Disney School of Acting and Mime

"When I hear 2D animators today talking about acting in hand-drawn cartoons, I ask, what kind of acting? Are you talking about the old fashioned acting that animators have always done? You know… the hand on the hip, finger-pointing, broad action, lots of overlapping action, screeching to a halt—all that turn-of-the-century old fashioned mime stuff. Is that what you’re talking about?"
Ralph Bakshi, discouraging the use of this

An animation style, exemplified by the Disney Animated Canon and hence generally considered Disneyesque, which is characterized by a kind of fluid body language and facial expressions that feature realistic poses and movements which are, however, executed in an exaggerated manner, very expressive, often with sweeping gestures of the arms and hands. Characters act and emote not primarily with their faces but at least as much with their arms, hands and legs and move smoothly from one overly expressive pose to the next. In between poses, there's a notable acceleration and subsequent deceleration of the emoting limbs or facial features, making even small gestures and changes in stance or facial expression feel very pronounced and reminiscent of pantomime. Because of the accelerating and decelerating that occurs in every movement, those movements can take rather long and can hence feel a little like Slow Motion.

This animation style can focus on the poses (and have the characters zip from one pose to the next) or on the movements (drawing them out and never quite stopping) to distinguish between emotional states or different characters.

Note that Hamming it Large 101 is a required class at the Disney School of Acting and Mime — after all, gesturing plentifully is a great way to convey emotion silently. The realistic but overblown movements hark back to Silent Movies and Vaudeville when actors had to emote more visibly. The style is rooted in visual realism while many younger animated works (after the migration of cartoons from film to TV) are more stylized and hence easier and cheaper to animate as not the whole body of a character has to move from one frame to the next. This also sets this style apart from Anime.

Recent movies like Tangled manage to transpose the style, which is largely associated with 2D animation, into CGI.

Historically, this often went together with Mickey Mousing, accentuating a character's body language even further.

Also see The Twelve Principles of Animation.


Please don't list individual examples if they belong to a larger group of works that use this style (list that larger group instead)!

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     Films - Animated 
  • Disney Animated Canon: Trope Codifier.
    • In The Illusion of Life, Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston discuss that the reason Disney animators use this kind of acting is because it's simply impossible for animation to match the same level of subtle acting or screen presence as live action, even with tools that closely try to emulate it like rotoscoping, and that its more sensible to exaggerate rather than directly copy real life.
    "The actor is trained to know these symbols of communication because they are his tools in trade. Basically, the animator is the actor in animated films. He is many other things as well; however, in his efforts to communicate his ideas, acting becomes his most important device. But the animator has a special problem. On the stage, all the foregoing symbols are accompanied by some kind of personal magnetism that can communicate the feelings and attitudes equally as well as the action itself. There is a spirit in this kind of communication that is extremely alive and vital. However, wonderful as the world of animation is, it is too crude to capture completely that kind of subtlety. If in animation we are trying to show that a character is sad, we droop the shoulders, slump the body, drop the head, add a long face, and drag the feet. Yet those same symbols also can mean that the character is tired, or discouraged, or even listless. We can add a tear and pinpoint our attitude a little better, but that is the extent of our capabilities."
  • The movies of ex-Disney animator Don Bluth use this, and as such are unfortunately why his films get mistaken for Disney ones. Bluth idolized the style, and wanted to keep it alive through his work at a time when Disney was moving away from it.
  • The Swan Princess films use this, since it's director, Richard Rich, was an ex-Disney animator.
  • All of DreamWorks Animation's hand-drawn animated films use this.
  • Ralph Bakshi avoids this, since he feels the style is stale and cliche. His films usually have very subtle acting. Bakshi even spoke out to young animators to stop using disney style acting and try and experiment with new types of acting.
  • FernGully, Once Upon a Forest, and The Pagemaster use this.
  • Amblimation uses this in its movies.
  • The Thief and the Cobbler uses this.
  • Hotel Transylvania uses this quite a bit.

     Video Games 
  • Sonic the Hedgehog started using this kind of acting in its cutscenes from Sonic Adventure 2 and onward. The earlier games avoided this due to technical limitations. Most of Sega's other games avoid using this kind of acting, too.
  • The PS2 era Ratchet & Clank games constantly used these kind of broad gestures and acting. This started getting downplayed in the Future era games, and the in-game cutscenes from the 2016 reimagining of the first game outright avoid it.
  • The Legend of Zelda CD-i Games are an example of this trope getting far out of hand. The Russian animators allegedly modeled the poses off of pantomime.

     Western Animation 

Alternative Title(s): Disney Body Language