Character Animation

Before applying, please make sure to familiarize yourself with the Character Animation Program, faculty, facilities, curriculum and view student work.

Please note that you must complete all Admissions Requirements as well as the portfolio requirements to be considered for admission.

The Program in Character Animation supports animation focused on character development and narrative storytelling. The faculty admissions committee seeks portfolios that show evidence of strong, creative life drawing skills, artistic originality and the potential to tell stories and develop characters using sequential imagery. The committee values artwork that reveals a unique and imaginative voice, showcasing the applicant’s artistic interests and conceptual abilities. We welcome a range of creative work, including drawings and other traditional artwork, 2D digital art, and computer graphics (CG).

Please carefully review the specific Portfolio Requirements listed below. Portfolio-related questions can be addressed to the CalArts Office of Admissions; we also encourage applicants to find solutions to questions through their own creative exploration and introspection.

The Character Animation program is a four-year program. All students begin at the BFA1 (first-year undergraduate) level because of the highly sequential nature of the curriculum. Transfer students please review our transfer credit policy . Transfer of courses may lighten a student's academic course load, however, they will not shorten the length of residency.

Portfolio and Application Guidelines (BFA)

All parts must be completed in order to be considered for admission

  1. CalArts Application Materials
  2. Artist Statement (uploaded to the written materials section CalArts Application)
  3. Online Portfolio (Three part submission uploaded to the portfolio section of the CalArts Application)
    • Observational Artwork
    • Other Creative Work
    • Video Introduction
  4. Sketchbook (Mailed)

Artist Statement

  • What inspires you to make your art?
  • Why are you applying to the Character Animation program at CalArts?
  • What are your artistic goals?

Online Portfolio

Part 1: Observational Artwork (minimum of 15 total)

A. Observational life drawings of human models:

  • These observational drawings should range from short pose lengths (gesture drawings) to longer pose lengths, and should indicate the models’ faces, hands and feet. Drawings of nude models are preferred, but costume drawings may also be included. Applicants in the Character Animation program must have demonstrated experience working with the live model and ideally have at least one year’s worth of experience studying figure/life drawings.

B. Observational drawings from real life:

  • Drawings and sketches of people and animals from real life
  • Drawings of interior and exterior environments
  • Urban sketching, location drawings, café drawings etc.

Keep in mind:

  • Drawings should be from observing real life, exploring elements such as shape, form, contour, contrast, ambiance, and mood.
  • Do not erase all of your construction lines while drawing from life – they are especially helpful to the faculty in understanding your approach to observational drawings.
  • Do not submit traced pictures or copies of work by others.

Part 2: Other Creative Work

Include any combination of the following:

  • Sequential image storytelling: Work that showcases your ability to tell a story and develop a character. For example: storyboards, graphic novels, flipbooks, short animations or short stories with thumbnails.
  • Digital creative work (animated or still): Creative work that you produce, or manipulate, in one or more computer programs. This might take the form of 2D digital art, illustrations, concept art, character designs, prop designs, cartoons, photography, or computer graphics (CG).
  • Other Work (non-digital): Paintings, drawings, illustrations, concept art, character designs, prop designs, cartoons
  • Plastic Arts: Sculptures, ceramics, installations etc.
  • Online presence: provide URL’s to your blog(s), Tumblr, Instagram, website etc. Add the URL’s in the “links” upload of the online portfolio.

Part 3: Video Introduction

As we look at your work, we would very much like to meet you. Since this would be impossible in practical terms, we ask that you send a brief video, introducing yourself.

  • Duration: minimum of 30 seconds, maximum of 90
  • Speak directly to the camera
  • No edits
  • No special effects or on-screen overlays
  • File should be uploaded or linked directly to the portfolio section of the CalArts Application
  • Does not require professional-level equipment; cellphone cameras or consumer cameras are okay.


  • A filled sketchbook with your drawings, observations, stories, ideas, thumbnails, character designs, studies of images from films or other sources that interest you, etc.
  • Please draw directly in a sketchbook.
  • Drawings in your sketchbooks should be different than the drawings submitted in your online portfolio.
  • We receive sketchbooks in many different shapes and sizes. Please feel free to work in the type of sketchbook that you like best. 

Submission Format

Sketchbook Submission

Sketchbooks should be mailed to the following address:
CalArts Office of Admissions
24700 McBean Parkway
Valencia, CA, 91355

Mailed sketchbooks should include a completed Sketchbook Submissions Form [1] and be mailed using the Sketchbook Mailing Label [2].

The Office of Admissions will return your portfolio to you by mail only if you send a prepaid self-addressed package for return mailing. Be sure to complete and include any of the necessary forms required by your service provider. Prepaid mailing labels and packages from USPS, UPS, FedEx, FedEx Ground, and FedEx International are all acceptable. If necessary, your local post office will be able to provide you with an estimate for the return postage amount.

Please contact the Review Coordinator, Patrick Schmid, if you have questions about sketchbook submission and shipping:; 661.255.1050 x 2187

Online Portfolio Submission

The online portfolio (artist statement, observational drawings, personal work and the video essay) should be uploaded in the application.

The application accepts MP3's, documents, images and video. You may scan or photograph your drawings to submit them digitally.

Please submit one image per slide. Do not combine multiple images into a PDF document. Do not include captions on images. If appropriate, captions should be added to the designated captions section on in the application.

Once your portfolio is uploaded, it can be viewed and rearranged until the final submission is made. No changes can be made following the final submission of your portfolio.

If you experience technical difficulties while uploading your portfolio, you may send an email to the Review Coordinator, Patrick Schmid at the email above.