Rigging choices for a cutout character

I’ve been lurking around here lately and have been glad to see lots of conversation. Mostly too busy to post, but I"m sort of stuck figuring out a solution.

We finally got Toon Boom installed in my classroom last week, just in time for a new animation project and a semester production.

Currently, my students are working on a project that involves a weight lift exercise, in which a bear (our primary actor in our semester production) picks up a large boulder. I used the example and timing from pages 72-73 of Timing for Animation by Whitaker and Halas.

The first stage of the project is to do rough animation on three layers, using the bear, the rock, and the arm that appears in front of the rock. They’re working on this right now and some are doing pretty well with it.

The second stage will have them using a rig I’m working on for cleanup. I’m working out the rig myself at the moment and I need to check my thinking with others.

(sorry for the lengthy lead-in here)

Normally I’d construct the rig based on all parts leading to the pelvis as a central part of motion. However, in this exercise there are parts where the feet need to stay planted, so I’ve been experimenting with a rig where the right foot is the root of the rest of the rig, and the left leg rig sort of floats wiht the rest of the rig as its own root. But in my example, the character takes two steps backward after picking up the rock, at which point I realize perhaps the error of my ways.

Here’s the basic question, then: How do I keep the feet planted in a cutout rig when other parts are moving and affecting all other parts in a standard rig?

Looking forward to hearing from the usual suspects on this one. Thanks for the help. ;D


I don’t think there is any magic solution there. The easiest way I would see to this would be to make yourself some kind of grid (or some markers where the feets are down) where you will be able to see if the animation is sliding.

Else then that I guess you could get yourself some compensating pegs to prevent the sliding (basically add a second peg on top of everything which main purpose is to push back the character on frame by frame basis whenever the character is sliding).

Hope this can help,


I’ve answered easier questions, this is certainly an advanced topic. The first consideration is not be too rigid in your approach to using a rig. I’m assuming that you have an upper and lower torso division as this character is having to bend in the middle to pick up the rock. Now one of the fundamental draw backs of a cut-out character is that they don’t squash and stretch like a hand drawn character and certainly lifting a load requires that ability. stepping back and handling the shift of a load can require part of the torso to stretch and part of the torso to squash so having a rigid torso that can only pivot is not sufficient. I suspect that your legs and feet staying planted aren’t as much the issue as your torso (chest, back hips ect,) responding correctly. Try to figure out through cell swapping and using some temporary pivot points (blue ones) how to work out the torso movements and I think your legs and feet will be OK. Also remember that you are only dealing with forward kinematics in a TBS rig so you can adjust the legs with out an inverse reaction. I probably have done more to confuse then help, this is a tough example to discuss in a quick post. -JK

Thanks for giving me a few good things to think about!!

I’m starting to shift my thinking to include some new ideas:

I think I’m excited about what I’ll get to learn and apply to my own work when I’m finished with the kids this year. Thanks as always for being part of my solution team!


Did you come to a conclusion on which option worked best for you?
(I’m trying something similar)

I started to make the choice again recently in my Postcard Promotion, and had decided to have a rig where the legs floated freely and independently while the upper body was rigged. It would have worked, but I got to a place where I felt that just drawing the frames would work better, so I did that.

It occurred to me in the process that if I create a rough animation on two’s that I could put an un-rigged collection of parts in place and simply move them to fit the rough withouth worrying about a rig. I’d have to use Constant Keyframes to accomplish this on two’s properly as I’ve found that mixing tweened animation with keyframed really looks odd, so I put keys on everything and set keys to constant.

If that makes sense.