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Character Animation Requirements

BFA only

The Character Animation program supports animation that focuses 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 faculty welcomes a range of creative work, including drawings and other traditional artwork, 2D digital art, and 3D computer graphics (CG). Please view the specific Portfolio Requirements listed below.

The committee values artwork that reveals a unique and imaginative voice showcasing the applicant’s artistic interests and conceptual abilities. 

The Program in Character Animation requires a physical sketchbook be submitted by mail. Observational and life drawings and other work should be submitted using our online portfolio submission system. Both the mailed sketchbook and the online submissions are due by the application deadline. The application deadline is not a postmark deadline. For the fullest consideration an application, sketchbook and online portfolio must be received by CalArts by the application deadline. Please view the Submission Format section below.

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. Official transcripts of accepted transfer students will be reviewed for academic transfer credit, and equivalent academic course my be credited towards your Critical Studies requirements. Transfer of courses my lighten a student's course load, however, it will not shorten the length of residency. 

Application Portfolio Requirements:

Part I: Observational Drawings (minimum 15 drawings):


  • Drawings of people and animals from life that explore elements like shape, form, contour, and contrast. These drawings should range from one-minute gestures to longer poses. Indicate hands, feet, and faces.
  • Drawings of interior environments and exterior landscapes that showcase depth, ambiance, and mood. 
  • Do not erase your construction lines ––they are especially helpful to the faculty in understanding your approach to observational drawing.
  • Do not submit traced pictures or copies of work by others.

Part II: Sketchbook / Visual Diary (filled or completed sketchbook):


  • Sketches from your everyday life.
  • Drawings that illustrate film ideas and story concepts.
  • Thumbnails of scenes that you plan to animate one day.
  • Random jottings that interest you.
  • Character designs.
  • Studies of images from films or other sources you like.

Part III: Other 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, comics, flipbooks, 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 or 3D computer graphics (CG).
  • Photographs
  • Paintings
  • Sculptures
  • Installations
  • Murals
  • Character designs
  • Cartoons
  • Caricatures
  • Provide urls to online presence (blogs, tumblr), if applicable. List urls on an attached .pdf in your online portfolio submission.

Submission Format:

  • Sketchbooks: Mail to the Office of Admissions at CalArts. Mailed sketchbooks should include a completed Portfolio Information Form and be mailed using the Portfolio Mailing Label. Do not send your portfolio directly to the School of Film/Video. Doing so will cause a delay in the review of your work.
  • 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.
  • Observational drawings and other work (photographs, paintings, large drawings, sculptures, installations, murals, etc.) should be digitally reproduced and uploaded to our online portfolio submissions system. The online system accepts MP3's, documents, images and video. 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. There is a fee for each portfolio submission you make through the online system. Be sure to submit your portfolio to the correct degree level and program. If you experience technical difficulties while uploading your portfolio, you may send an e-mail to support@slideroom.com for technical assistance.

Learn more about the program, faculty, facilities and view student work.

Last edited by mryan on Feb 03, 2015
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