Next to the bouncing ball, the walk cycle has to be the most rudimentary of animation assignments. Yet, with it, an animator can define their ability to create life and personality. It combines the ultimate challenge in a single animated movement. In a couple steps the animator has to show distinct personality and attitude, give the feeling of weight, and use fundamentals of animation like overlap, archs, and follow through. Sometimes the walk cycle will be a change in attitude from what you've previously seen in the character. That can be quite a challenge because now you have to make it feel like the same character yet you can't use their signature attitude. And with all this to keep track of you also have the mechanics to plot out. Generally a walk cycle is figured out by having the character walk in place which means you have to keep the steps working to a moving background so the character doesn't feel like they are sliding. Yes the ol' walk cycle does come with it's challenges but when you get it working it can give a lot of reward within a few drawings of animation.
I'm about to embark upon the scene shown above which is a turning point in my film. It is about half way through the film and leads into some of the stronger acting scenes. With this scene I have to show this guy has just about had it, yet there is quite a bit more for him to have to endure so I can't take him to far over the top.
So if you are looking for something to animate that can show your skills or help develop your skills as an animator try doing a walk cycle.