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High School Course Advice for Aspiring Animator

calmomto3calmomto3 4 replies2 threadsRegistered User New Member
My daughter is finishing up sophomore year and is having a hard time figuring out what electives are best for her future goals. Hoping a BTDT parent or student will have some advice.

Thanks to a comment on my one prior post she has applied to CSSSA Animation for the summer, but odds are against her getting in; in which case she'll take a drawing class at the local CC.

In HS she has taken Drawing/Painting 1 and Animation which is equivalent to the intro class at the CC and earns her dual credit. Her choices going forward are: Drawing/Painting Advanced, Film & Video Production, or Animation II which no one else would be taking so it would be a self-study type of thing. She can take one course each year - that's all that will fit into her schedule.

Is it best to focus on the drawing/painting - and take it both years? Is film and video helpful at all - I think there is a digital art aspect to it? Is it worth it to repeat animation? Is something entirely different recommended i.e. taking nothing at HS, but looking for classes at CC? Is what she does on her own the most important?

Background info if relevant - She wants to pursue a degree in animation from a non-art school. We live in CA so the obvious are on the list (UCLA, USC, Chapman, LMU, and CSULB). A few more may be added and maybe a couple OOS. Academics are not a worry as she has a 4.83 at a well-ranked HS and I anticipate good test scores. Merit aid at any non-public school is a must; there will be little to no financial aid (too "rich" to qualify but way too poor to afford $40K+ a year!). So, its important for her academics to stay rigorous.

Thank you! I learn so much from reading through all these posts!
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Replies to: High School Course Advice for Aspiring Animator

  • animal1096animal1096 23 replies2 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    A few years ago when we toured art colleges, every admissions director told my daughter to focus on Figure Drawing and Sketchbook work for any student wanting to go into animation or the concept art industry. Figure Drawing is one of the hardest art forms to master, so the student work tells a lot about their abilities and is a crucial skill for Animation. The Sketchbook lets admissions people see another side of the student: what is inside their brain and how they think.

    One of the best things your daughter can do it take summer pre-college programs at an art school. I say art school not because that's the place to get the degree, but because they offer programs specifically geared toward the industry and are taught by industry professionals. Students learn a ton about their craft, as well as gain a lot of insight into the industry. These immersive classes will help your daughter learn whether this truly is the industry for her. Registration is usually not selective (ie: everyone gets in provided there is space) and begins in Feb/Mar each year, so act fast.

    The summer between her sophomore and junior year, my daughter did the pre-college Animation program at CA College of the Arts (CCA: our local art school) and commuted daily from home. There she learned that Animation was too technical and tedious for her, but also learned about the other phases of the animation production pipeline and found where she wanted to fit into it -- concept art. The next summer she took Figure Drawing and Character Design classes at Otis College of Art & Design while staying in their dorms. Her skills grew exponentially over the 4-week program and probably 75% of her portfolio for college came from the Otis classes. During the school year, she took countless Figure Drawing classes for high school students at CCA to build her skills. If you live near an art college, check out their program offerings for high school students or their extension classes, both during the school year and summer.

    We tried hard to find art fundamental classes for my daughter (composition, color theory, rendering, drawing, etc.), but most were taught at community colleges during high school hours. Those classes certainly would have been helpful, but were not crucial. All colleges will teach those fundamentals as part of their foundation classes.

    Your daughter should also look online to learn about the animation pipeline. There are many steps involved including character design, concept art, storyboarding, modeling, rigging, texturing, animation, etc. She may learn which piece interests her the most. For some of those steps a degree in Illustration is perfect, other steps require Animation. She should also get insights by reading interviews with those in the industry. Animation Career Review is one of the many resources online.

    To get a sense of how good a college's program is, use Linkedin to see where alumni (in her major) at a specific college are now working. You'll see the person's journey from graduation to employment. Compare the results between various colleges and even reach out to anyone whose journey interests you on to get some feedback.

    We did all of the above. My daughter is now finishing her first year at an art school studying Illustration for the entertainment industry (Concept Art) and loves being surrounded by all the like-minded creative students. We are blown away by her work and how much her skills have grown. I agree that art school isn't cheap, nor is it for everyone. There are plenty of traditional 4-year colleges that offer very good programs, and your daughter's grades will be helpful for admission. That said, I suggest you don't rule out art schools. Your daughter can apply to 1-2 whose program she likes, and see what kind of merit aid she gets. The only thing she has to lose is the cost of applying. Remember that you can also try to negotiate for more aid if you aren't happy with what is offered, or decline the acceptance.

    You are smart to start your research early!
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  • Artful4artArtful4art 86 replies3 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    My daughter is on a similar path as your daughter, high gpa and decent sat scores. I would check out animation career review for the list of animation programs. Look for schools that offer full merit scholarships like utd as an option if financially it will be a struggle. Go visit national portfolio day next year with decent selection of your daughter’s work and her sketchbook. I researched every school that was a possible choice during her sophomore year to limit the options to what was realistically affordable and only chose traditional universities in case of a change of heart about her future and the ability to study abroad. We ended up applying to 8 schools and spending close to 1k in applying with application fees and portfolio fees and test scores. I figure my daughter can always supplement her art training outside of school if a program is deficient or have her go attend an art college after her university education.

    If the talent and drive is there, she will make her dreams reality. My daughter has received scholarships at almost every university except the university of Michigan, which gave her need based aid, but not enough to make her give up a full tuition scholarship. Michigan isn’t known for animation, but it is the school I grew up admiring. Use the net price calculator on each schools website and know that your need based aid at most universities will stay constant or decrease while the price of tuition will likely rise. Oh and go visit campuses. I started doing that my daughter’s sophomore year during spring break. Schools she thought would be at the top of her list like Carnegie Mellon, she was turned off by the vibe and was never considered. Sometimes you might have to visit a few times to make sure your first impressions were correct.
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  • calmomto3calmomto3 4 replies2 threadsRegistered User New Member
    @animal1096 Thanks so much for all the tips. She'll be going on her first college tour (Dodge at Chapman) over spring break and trying to get a lot more in by end of summer. Very interesting to hear what the schools say about where to focus ones efforts. I'm pretty sure we will visit at least a few art schools just so she can see and compare - you never know sometimes!
    We are about an hour from LA and 30 minutes from LCAD but she's on the young side and won't have her drivers license this summer. So, she'll have to keep those summer programs in mind for next year.
    I can barely draw a stick figure so this whole process is like learning Greek for me!

    @Artful4art Thanks! I did see the most recent Animation Career Reviews and have been using that as a starting point for looking into programs. Good advice for the portfolio reviews. I have heard of that but thought it was only for those getting ready to submit college apps so I'll have to look into it more. That's great your daughter received a full scholarship! We're trying to be very upfront with our daughter about what's realistic cost-wise and are hoping to avoid loans if at all possible (especially since she has two younger siblings).
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  • gouf78gouf78 7777 replies23 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    D went to Ringling for CA.
    Focus on figure drawing, quick sketch showing action, drawing from life (not still life) ,perspective ( which can be difficult).
    And more action drawing.

    No anime. At all. Fun to draw but need to develop individual style

    Painting is important for illustration major but not animation.

    If she’s interested in computer programming it may be helpful to learn a bit or at least become familiar with some different programs. Just basic stuff.

    Film and video depending on the class focus may be helpful. Learning how scenes are set up, camera angles, lighting, telling the story are all part of animation also.

    Remember it’s COMPUTER animation. If your kids first love is sitting outside drawing they may not like sitting in the dark in a computer lab working a keyboard which is why it’s good to do a pre-college experience before signing up.



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  • mollygrrrlmollygrrrl 30 replies1 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    @calmomto3 Sounds like your D is on the right track. This year, my daughter was accepted to CalArts character animation and USC's Hench DADA animation programs. And while her grades are good, I am pretty sure it was her portfolio that got her in. She wants to do 2d animation/storyboarding. Is your daughter interested in 2d or 3d? Ringling and USC are great for 3d, CalArts better for 2d (or so I've heard. This is new for me and the husband as well - neither of us have a drop of artist blood in us.).

    Either way, great advice above - lots of figure drawing, animal and movement drawing. My daughter sketched in her sketchbook every single day.

    And fingers crossed your kid gets into CSSSA. Daughter went as a rising junior and LOVED it.

    Also - good advice about looking for full scholarships. We are trying to figure out the finances of it now and it's taking years off my life.
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