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We address the 3D tracking of pose and animation of the human face in monocular image sequences using active appearance models. The classical appearance-based tracking suffers from two disadvantages: (i) the estimated out-of-plane motions are not very accurate, and (ii) the convergence of the optimization process to desired minima is not guaranteed. We aim at designing an efficient active appearance model, which is able to cope with the above disadvantages by retaining the strengths of feature-based and featureless tracking methodologies. For each frame, the adaptation is split into two consecutive stages. In the first stage, the 3D head pose is recovered using robust statistics and a measure of consistency with a statistical model of a face texture. In the second stage, the local motion associated with some facial features is recovered using the concept of the active appearance model search. Tracking experiments and method comparison demonstrate the robustness and out-performance of the developed framework.