Saturday, 13 December 2014

Ruben Aquino, Thumbnail Sketches - and the Secret of Great Animation

The secret of great animation is in the planning. Open up a copy of Maya, the leading 3D software, and you just get a blank screen. With CG animation (or indeed any animation) you get nothing for free. So how do you fill this blank space with creative, entertaining animation? The secret of good work is to thumbnail - that is to say, to plan out your work with sketches and scribbles which create a kind of road map of where you want to go.

Usrula thumbnails by Ruben Aquino
The video above talks through some thumbnails done by the great Disney animation master Ruben Aquino - these were prepared for one of his shots in The Little Mermaid. Look closely at the thumbnails, check out the final shot, and you will see how closely Ruben's planning matches his final animation result.

And this really is the secret of great animation. Plan it out well, think it through, and know in advance what it is you want to do. Do this right, and your shots will always work. Fail to do this, and you will always have difficulty creating great animation.


For more on the experience of studying at Bucks New University, come and visit us at one of our Open Days,  take a virtual tour of one of our animation studios, check out what our students think of our course, and see why we're ranked in the top 12 creative universities in the UK. Find out why we're giving free laptops to all our students, and why we give all our students free access to videos at Also, see what financial assistance might be available to you. Learn which is better for animation, a PC or a Mac? Get hold of a copy of a map so you can find your way around campus, and learn about motion capture at Bucks.  


  1. These thumbnails are by Ruben Aquino , not Glen Keane.

  2. Hi David, who are you, and how do you know this? What is your source? I was working at Disney when Glen handed out these thumbnails, but perhaps you know something I don't?

  3. Thanks David. I checked with Ruben and you are correct.