The Secret Handshake


Here is a great idea for an animation exercise.  The secret handshake.  Secret handshakes show two characters physically interacting in fun ways.  They can involve way more than the hands, and style is hugely important.  Generally, these greetings are believed to have started with men’s fraternities such as the Freemasons or the Shriners.  These private fraternities were lampooned in films from Laurel and Hardy, as well animated shows such as the Flintstones.


Still it is very relevant, and currently alive in “bro” culture. These days, you are most likely to see them at sporting events. This first example is from a team where each player has a special handshake for the captain, who must know them all.  Note how it can include dance moves.

One advantage to this exercise is the fact that the audience will probably understand what is going on instantly, so even a short clip will make sense.  The action can involve the whole body, or small finger movements.  I really like the timing in this shake.


This next video is a series of simple shakes, but each one has a name.  The handshake is then a form of mime that represents the name.

In secret societies that are closed to the outside world, knowing the handshake is a way to prove you are who you say you are.  One of these societies is the college fraternity.  This live skit is built around an extended handshake that goes way beyond the hands to all sorts of silly behaviors.

Then there is this very nice animated example from Disney’s Big Hero 6.


I had this post in a draft form for several months, and I decided to finish it when I discovered this short film by Jackson Read and Susie Webb, students at Ringling School of Art + Design.  They started with the basic idea and took advantage of animation by having them do things way beyond what normal humans can do.

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