The Secrets to Making your Character Walk

Some animators are devoted to the practice of bolting the feet of their armatures to the floor of their set, a process referred to as “tying-down”. While this works well for large or cumbersome armatures, it requires a lot of work and will leave holes in any areas where the feet were previously bolted down.

There are secrets to moving you characters around without having to bolt them to the floor. Not only will they take less time, but you will find it easier to manipulate the movements of your armature.

Sometimes, a little weight will work wonders. If your figure is relatively light, you can construct the feet out of harder polymer clay. Make the feet larger and longer than they would normally be, in order to provide a larger base to support the rest of your figure. Insert something heavy into the feet in order to weigh them down, such as a bolt or a nut.

Use thick (but still malleable) wire in the legs of your character. Not only will this act as supporting weight for the feet, but you will be able to bend and flex these appendages throughout the movements of walking and they should be able to stay airborne long enough for you to shoot your frames.

Try to make the top half of your armature as lightweight as possible. There is no hard and fast rule that says a character has to be completely constructed out of clay, plaster or the like! Remember the art of illusion, and give your barrel-chested figure a hollow trunk with fillers like foam, paper or even foil! The more lightweight your character, the more options you will have as a filmmaker.

Experiment with Magnets! They can be used to great effect. Try using a thin sheet of metal for the bottom of your set, and place magnets within the armature’s feet.
If your character is heavy, or designed to a larger scale, this idea can still work. There are many different strengths of magnets that put tying-down to shame. Browse websites such as for ideas. Not only are they practical, but you can achieve some amazing effects, such as using your refrigerator as a foundation to make your character walk up a “wall”!

Another great secret is to use corkboard underneath the floor of your set. Hammer thin nails into the feet of your figure, then paint over the top of the nails or cover them with shoelaces, fur, leather, etc. When your character steps down, push the nail from their foot into the corkboard. You may want to cover the board with a layer of carpeting, grass, dirt, or whatever the set design calls for. For larger puppets, simply use two nails and place them in the feet at an angle. They will anchor themselves when placed into the corkboard.

By employing any of the methods above, your armature should be up and around in no time at all! Whether you use nails, magnets, or good old-fashioned character design,
These time-saving techniques will allow you to give your figures a wide range of motion on a shoestring budget.