Many problems exist in synthetic human modeling because of the limitations of current models. The paper discusses the use of finite-element analysis for the computer animation of humans in contact with their environment. The authors' hybrid animation system is described, and the deformations due to contact forces generated during the pressing of a soft ball by a finger are modeled using FEM-based simulation of the environment and of the skin. An appropriate algorithm is presented. The limitations of the current system are discussed, and directions for further research are identified.