Animation Area Courses

The Animation area offers a comprehensive and diverse array of classes, covering both traditional and computer based techniques. Courses such as drawing and anatomy are cornerstones of the curriculum.

Introduction to Animation Techniques

A beginning production course in which students learn the basic principles of animation, develop visual language, storytelling, observation, and communication skills. A freshman core production selection, but open to students at all levels. It is the prerequisite for several of the other animation and visual effects courses. Prior drawing experience is not necessary.

The first half of the semester consists of weekly exercises in which students explore various styles and methods of animation including optical toys, stop motion, traditional drawn, and 2D digital animation. Students will be introduced to programs including Dragon Stop Motion, After Effects, Avid, Flash, and Photoshop. Various technical topics covered include aspect ratio, frame rates, storyboarding, editing animatics, scanning, working with image sequences, alpha channels, vector vs. raster art, compositing, rendering, using a Cintiq, and shooting stills with DSLR camera. During the second half of the semester students will complete a 15-30 second animated film with sound.

Intermediate Animation Production

An intensive intermediate core production class exploring "personality" animation: creating characters that think and express emotions. Students analyze live action and animated films frame-by-frame. Also, by semester's end students will produce a short film or video (less than one minute) using 3-D or 2-D techniques that incorporate the principles of personality animation. Students will gain experience in all phases of animation production, including concept art, storyboards, layouts, exposure sheets, test animation, inbtweening, final animation, color, sound, etc.


This production and workshop class explores a wide variety of experimental animation techniques and technologies, from the historic (including pre-cinema) to the present and on, looking to the future. The very nature of cinema/animation will be the jumping off point for an aesthetic and philosophical consideration of the phenomena of persistence of vision in the context of moving pictures. A wide range of work will be presented in screenings, trips to galleries, guests and on line. The spirit of experimentation, trusting your "what ifs" and how to learn and apply the results of experiments in the creation of finished works will be pursued throughout the class. There will be weekly assignments and in class review of the results. How to structure an experimental film, the use of sound as well as display and distribution mechanisms will also be discussed. Students are expected to complete all assignments and create a two to three minute "experimental" animation by the end of the semester.

Advanced Animation Production

A one-year (two semester) course in which a finished film -- picture with sync soundtrack -- is required. Designed to meet individual problems in concept and technique. Use of varied equipment, mixed media techniques, and a personal approach to content is encouraged. An opportunity to work closely with the instructor, as well as to meet and consult with other professional animators for criticism and advice. Individual development is stressed.

Advanced 3D Animation Production

A collaborative, one-year (two-semester) core production course in which students will work in teams to complete at least one 3D animated film (a “short”) with sync soundtrack in time for the Spring Animation Showcase at the end of the spring semester. Modeled after real-world 3D animation studios, Advanced 3D Animation Production will expose students to tried-and-true 3D production practices by breaking the work down as if by department.

Students will have numerous opportunities to hone and expand their 3D, compositing, audio, design and story skills and gain valuable production experience while creatively contributing to a polished 3D short that will showcase their talents and look great on their reels.

Action Analysis I

The key principles and mechanics of animation motion, including timing, spacing, staging an image for clarity, imparting a feeling of weight in animation graphics and characters, etc. Live-action and animated films are studied frame by frame; live models (i.e. a dancer and an actor) pose and perform various actions which students visualize and break them down into drawings, and an analysis of the movements. Students shoot test animation exercises (i.e., the bouncing ball) onto video for class criticism. This course is based on the intensive studies done in the 1930's at the Walt Disney Studio for the purpose of improving their animated films. "I definitely feel," Disney wrote in 1935, "that we cannot do the fantastic things, based on the real, unless we first know the real."

Action Analysis II

A further development of Action Analysis I. Students will learn how to put individuality and personality into characters, how to create a "thinking" character using both traditional and CGI animation. Frame-by-frame studies of live action and animation on film, DVD and laserdisc allow students to explore techniques and stylistic signatures of professional animators (e.g., Chuck Jones, Bill Tytla, Otto Messmer, Tissa David). There will also be sketching of human and animal models. Assigned student tests on video will focus on expressing emotions in animation.


This course is an ideal next step for students who have completed Introduction to Animation Techniques; students who are preparing to go into production level animation courses, such as Stop Motion, Intermediate Animation, Advance Animation; and students who would like to start a path in motion graphics and visual effects; or students who would like to spend the semester developing an idea for animation. This course covers a fundamental animation production pipeline (workflow) for producing an animated film from start to finish. The 1st half of the semester focuses on visual development for pitching a project by creating a set of style frames, mood boards, and storyboards, to an animatic. The 2nd half of the semester is devoted to creating a motion test for the developed idea. Software used in the class, includes Adobe InDesign, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, and Adobe After Effects. This class can be a development opportunity for Stop Motion, 3-D Animation and Experimental Animation techniques.


This course offers students an increased technical proficiency and, more importantly, stylistic and creative channels for dealing with common drawing problems. In animation, drawing is not simply seeing. It is thinking and, when successful, doing so on a deep level. The class includes one, two and three point perspective, figure drawing, character rotations, drawing exercises related to fine artists (Picasso, Matisse, Giacometti, etc.), use of tones, continuity sketches, layouts, animatics.


A chronological survey of the art and commerce of the animated film internationally over the last 100 years. Designed to expand students' awareness of the origins of a significant 20th-century art form and to acquaint them with a wide variety of practical techniques and styles, from pre-film influences to computer-generated images; from "Golden Age" studio cartoon factories to today's independent avant-garde animator-filmmakers. Designed to expand student aesthetic sensibilities and sharpen critical perceptions about this unique genre.


This is an introductory course to the fundamentals of 3D computer animation. Through in-depth discussions and hands-on assignments, students will gain a thorough beginner's understanding of the 3D production process. Using industry-leading Autodesk Maya running on high-end Mac Pro workstations, students will learn the basics of modeling and proceed through UV layout, texturing, rigging, animation, lighting and final render. At the end of the class students will have completed a series of exercises that will culminate in a show reel that highlights all they learned.


This course is designed to train animation students to think visually, and to strengthen their overall drafting and design skills. The focus of the course is drawing humans and animals from live subjects, thereby learning to translate the three-dimensional world into two-dimensional terms. Drafting skills are important to all animators, regardless of their chosen media or focus. In particular, strong drafting skills are essential for character animators. (Can be taken during same semester as Life Drawing Anatomy – emphasis is on drawing in Life Drawing: The Figure, whereas emphasis is on anatomy in Life Drawing: Anatomy.)


This course offers detailed lectures and sketching from the model; including studies of "anatomical landmarks" of human and animal anatomy, proportion, and portraiture. Development of each student’s drafting skills through the study of anatomy of the live model. (Can be taken during same semester as Life Drawing: The Figure – emphasis is on anatomy in Life Drawing: Anatomy, whereas emphasis is on drawing in Life Drawing: The Figure.)

Motion Design & Titles

A critical analysis on the use of titling and special effects in film using Adobe After Effects for hands-on production experience. Students create title sequences and produce special effects in a state of the art desktop environment.


This course is perfect for students looking to further their 3D skillset and deepen their understanding of the many interrelated facets of 3D production, primarily using industry-leading Autodesk Maya software. Each semester new topics will be featured and thoroughly explored, providing students the opportunity to concentrate on areas of particular interest, such as animation, game asset creation, dynamic simulations, and photoreastic lighting/rendering. Students will complete the course with a deeper understanding of the subject matter and the ability to apply this knowledge in the digital realm to create final works with added depth and realism. Homework assignments will be project-based, with most models, rigs and sets supplied by the instructor, and a final project will be due at the end of the semester.


Includes all techniques in which the animator works directly in front of the camera. Examples include: Claymation, puppet animation, paint under the camera, in-camera special effects, and pixillation. Demonstrations on character building, set construction, and design, armatures, and lighting for miniature. Several short assignments are required to introduce students to intricacies of stop-motion animation and its relationship to 3-D computer animation. Each student will produce a short film with sound.


Students will create a storyboard from an assigned literary property (i.e., by Ray Bradbury, Grimm Bros., Virginia Woolf, or other authors) and research the chosen material visually in picture libraries, print and photo archives, and museum and gallery libraries. From this basic research, the student will create and develop all the visual elements that lead to a final production storyboard. These elements include character model drawings; styling sketches for costumes and sets; experimental "inspirational" sketches exploring mood, color, and character relationships; and experiments in animation and color test footage. Each week, students will “pitch”, i.e. present material as it is being developed. Through weekly critiques from the instructor and students, elements and shape of the production storyboard are refined to its final form. The approved storyboard at the end of the semester should be ready to go into production, and must reflect character, attitude, design, entertainment, mood, expressions, feeling, type of action, use of dialogue, music and sound effects, and tell the story in the best possible way.

Visual Effects and Compositing

A lecture and workshop course exploring the applications and practical creation of 2-D (green screen, color correction, morphing, etc.) and 3-D (CGI, animation, virtual sets, etc.) visual effects. Students will learn the art and technique of illusion, how to manipulate images and elements combining them seamlessly and photo-realistically, and how to use these techniques in their films.


This course is designed for writing for animation in all forms, including but not limited to advertising, music videos, episodic television, and independent and studio feature films. All styles of visual presentation, from primitive stop-motion to state-of-the-art digital 3-D, will be discussed and screened.The class will also address not just the differences but the similarities in writing for live-action versus animation, from concept to finished screenplay, as well as the beginnings stages of production as a script is delivered to storyboard artists. Students will be encouraged to produce material that can take virtually any form, from experimental shorts to feature-length projects.