Since I'll be teaching 2 animation classes for the next 12 weeks, this blog will take a look at the methods and tools for making animation, instead of the usual gut reaction posting.
So to start, here's a link to the 28 Principles of Animation. I found this via the Wikipedia entry on Animation.
Normally I distill the principles down to 11. In fact, I use John Lasseter's 1987 presentation to SIGGRAPH that distilled the principles to a tight 11, perfectly applicable to computer animation. You see, computer animation is normally stiff. Mathematically precise, yes. But the precision breeds the stiffness. Look at the original "Mind's Eye" video-- most of the animations are rudimentary, like exercises on a computer. Fluid, natural animation is much easier by hand. To combat the stiffness inherent in computer-generated animation, John presented these principles, which traditional animators knew for years, to the computer nerds... The result? Well, you've probably seen "Toy Story."
Of course, we trace the lineage of modern animation techniques to the masterful artists hired by Walt Disney way back in the day. The techniques Lasseter presented were based on the techniques from Disney's 1930's studio, and the 28 linked above are also from Disney's folks (see Tigger?).
But no matter what method you use to create animation, if you want better results, study these principles.