Thumbnailing is a necessary step prior to animating. While its essential purpose is the same- to search for a clearer understanding and provide an insight to scene’s unfolding, the approach to thumbnailing is very personal and based on one’s temperament.
In early days, I often sketched out little thumbnails that would unfold like straight-ahead animation, and then proceed to animate; (above, example from Rescuers Down Under). While I’m very clear to where I should go, I often find myself wanting to force the animation drawing into a certain gestural position because I happened to really like the way some thumbnail scribble looked; often, they might be out of path with the at-hand animation, adding complication to the unfolding movement.
But most destructively, the animation drawing somewhat become a copy of the thumbnail blown-up. The trouble then- is that while the thumbnail really looked alive and fresh, the animation drawing looked rather stiff, confined and robotic, being a copy and lost a generation of critical liveliness.
To adjust this situation, I’d worked out the unfolding in thumbnail, but then put it away, letting the animation unfold as it should, only refer back to be reminded of the established phrasing of scene; (below, an example from Iron Giant).
Slowly, I find that in keeping closer to the initial intended force in a scene, I put lesser energy into defining thumbnails, just enough to give me a clear state of mind to approaching the animation stage, letting the raw energy appears as very rough first pass; (here again, another example from Iron Giant).
Feeling and working a scene out by acting and mimicking the intended movement becomes more and more a preferred practice for me; the thumbnail became less and less define; (here an example from Osmosis Jones).
Nowadays, I most often skip the ‘drawing’ thumbnail altogether; acting out a scene and allow the rough first pass as both- a thumbnail and first pass animation.
For me, ‘organic’ force is rather elusive and does not want to be boxed-in; we each find workflows to best translate this elusive force as intact as possible to arrive at end result.