Character Animation

Before applying, please make sure to familiarize yourself with the Program in Character Animation, 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 Program in Character Animation 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 (to be documented via video and included in the online portfolio)

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)

Observational artwork consists of drawings done from the direct study of life. This can be any subject in your environment, human and animal alike.

You must include examples of the following categories of observational drawing in any number you chose.

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 (in this case, not models) 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

Images should be uploaded into the online portfolio and can 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 website, Instagram, Tumblr, Behance, etc. Add the URL’s in the “links” upload of the online portfolio.

Part 3: Video Introduction

We would like to meet you, and since this is impossible in practical terms, we ask that you record a short video of you introducing yourself.

  • Duration: minimum of 30 seconds, maximum of 90 seconds
  • Speak directly to the camera
  • Do not read from a prepared statement
  • 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 complete sketchbook filled with your drawings, observations, stories, research for films you’d like to make, ideas, thumbnails, character designs, studies of images from films or other sources that interest you, etc.
  • We want to see what you are uniquely inspired to draw. We recommend you do not use online sketchbooks for reference.
  • Please draw directly in a sketchbook, rather than assembling pages together.
  • Drawings in your sketchbooks should be different from the drawings submitted in your online portfolio.
  • Sketchbooks come in many different shapes and sizes. Please feel free to work in the type of sketchbook that you like best

Submission Format

Sketchbook Submission

This year we require a filmed video page-through of your sketchbook. The requirements for the video of your sketchbook are:

  • A filmed video page-through of your completed sketchbook, starting with the front cover and ending with the back cover.
  • Should be well-lit and shot from above the sketchbook.
  • Pause each page turn for a clear shot of each page.
  • No more than ten minutes in length.
  • Do not include any edits or overlays.
  • Do not include an audio track, audio commentary, or music.

In the interest of the safety of the CalArts Community, we will not open or return physical sketchbooks that are mailed to us or dropped off at our offices.

There will be no exceptions to this rule.


Online Portfolio Submission

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

For your portfolio, please submit one image per slide. Do not combine multiple images into a PDF document. Do not share your personal website or a Google drive in place of a digital portfolio. Do not include captions on images. If appropriate, captions should be added to the designated captions section in the application.

The application accepts MP3's, documents, images and video. You will be scanning or photographing your drawings to submit them digitally, and filming your sketchbook.

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, Ani Kazandjian, at