Animation | Minneapolis College of Art and Design

Animation: Degree Information

MCAD emphasizes a collaborative process and working with students from all majors. For this Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, you will take courses in several different areas, including a core focus, adding up to 120 total credits required for graduation.

Required Courses - These are the core courses that every Animation student takes.

Foundation Studies - These classes help you become a well-versed student; they help you build a solid art background.

Studio Electives - Throughout your studies you can choose from several studio electives that give you hands-on creative time. 

Humanities and Sciences Electives - These classes round out your experience at MCAD, deepen your creative practice, and fulfill non-studio requirements for a degree. 

Learning Outcomes

  • Demonstrate knowledge of the history of animation through written critical evaluation of animated films and be able to analyze work in a historical context.
  • Create work in a variety of animation techniques including hand-drawn, 3D, stop-motion, and experimental methods.
  • Implement the use of storyboarding, animatics, and essential pre-production techniques to develop a narrative concept.
  • Constructively evaluate, interpret, and critique your own work and the work of others.
  • Exhibit knowledge of professional workflow, expectation, and market.

Core Required Courses

27 credits

ANIM 2000 Introduction to Animation
3 credits

This course introduces students to production techniques of 2D and 3D animation. Students learn the basics of traditional character animation (i.e., Disney fundamentals) through a series of exercises including ball bounce, walk cycle, and sound sync. A small portion of the class will include an introduction to Maya 3D, a computer graphics application for animation, modeling, and rendering.  Individual exploration is emphasized in assignments and critique, culminating in the creation of a short, animated project.

Prerequisites: Foundation: Media 1; Foundation: Drawing 1

ANIM 3050 Storyboard
3 credits

This course is designed for animation, filmmaking, and comic art students. Working from preexisting and student-created scripts and narrative ideas, students analyze the various techniques involved in the visualization of stories and sequences for film and animation production. Coursework includes script and story adaptation, continuity, camera placement, image sequencing, shot composition, styling, and mood. Students apply the visual “language” of storyboarding and continuity sketching. Vigorous in-class critiques address storyboard effectiveness with strong emphasis on the process of revision and refinement. Assignments include the development of several short animation and film storyboards, and a final project consisting of a two- to five-minute production storyboard from the student’s own script or story.

Prerequisites: Introduction to Animation, Introduction to Filmmaking

FILM 2000 Introduction to Filmmaking
3 credits

This course is an introduction to telling stories in film. It introduces historical and critical issues of film language, and provides a theoretical and technical foundation for future work. Principles of cinematography and continuity editing are applied through assignments in the forms of documentary, narrative, and music video. Technical processes and practices demonstrated include preproduction planning, shooting, basic lighting, sound recording and mixing, and digital editing. Equal attention is availed to technical and artistic concerns in screenings, lectures, discussions, technical demonstrations, and evaluations. Each student develops their own creative work through the completion and critique of individual and group projects and exercises.

Prerequisites: Foundation: Media 1

ANIM 4000 Professional Practice: Animation
3 credits

The primary focus of this class is to provide media arts students with the tools that will enable them to enter professional practice immediately following graduation. Each student is required to produce a polished resume, artist statement, website, professional identity system, and portfolio. Topics include long-range goal creation and planning; financial, legal, and other business considerations; grant writing; and communication and marketing skills involving verbal, written, and visual presentations. Topics are presented through lectures, critiques, and presentations by experts in the field.

Prerequisites: Junior standing

40XX Animation Collaboration OR Internship
3 credits

Choose between an Internship or Animation Collaboration

ANIM 5010 Advanced Animation Seminar
3 credits

Advanced Animation Seminar is designed for students to develop individual or group projects in close conjunction with faculty guidance. Individual projects evolve through a detailed and continuous process of presentation, critique, and revision. In addition, a wide variety of animation is screened and discussed with regard to production issues, context, and story. All students are required to complete two minutes of animation.

Prerequisites: Character Animation 1 or 3D Animation, successful Junior Review

ANIM 5101 Senior Project 1: Animation
3 credits

This is part one of a two-part course required of each senior animation major to begin the development of a substantial body of work in a specific field. Course content includes critical readings, position paper, individual and group discussion, visiting artists, and informational meetings.

Prerequisites: Successful Junior Review, senior standing

Animation Course Options (select one)

ANIM 3010 Stop-Motion Animation
3 credits

This class provides a thorough understanding of stop-motion fundamentals. Students explore the stop-motion toolbox through a variety of exercises including armature, character building, go motion, lip sync, replacements, simple casts, registration, photo cut, and strata cut. Students produce a stop-motion short for their final projects using a variety of industry standard software. The class will include recommended readings, lectures, demonstrations as well as historic and contemporary stop-motion screenings.

Prerequisites: Introduction to Animation

ANIM 3033 Visual Effects
3 credits

In this course, students learn how to enhance films and stories with visual effects, using both industry techniques and do-it-yourself principles. The focus of the course is to incorporate visual effects into live-action footage using Adobe After Effects. Students learn previsualization, how to shoot footage for visual effects shots, green screen keying techniques, tracking, masking, acting for visual effects and finishing techniques. Students complete engaging and creative technical assignments in order to create a finished short piece utilizing techniques learned in class. This class is designed for both film and animation majors.

Prerequisites: Introduction to Animation or Introduction to Film

MA 3045 Studio and Set
3 credits

This course is designed to provide students with a basic understanding of the aesthetic, technical, theoretical, and conceptual issues related to artificial lighting used in the various aspects of still and moving image production. Technical information covered includes portrait lighting, studio set lighting, architectural lighting, electronic flash, continuous light, camera movement, blocking for actors, and color compensation. In addition to the technical and practical aspects of this course, students are expected and encouraged to develop a personal aesthetic and a conceptual foundation for their images.

Prerequisites: Photography 1, or Introduction to Animation, or Introduction to Film, or Web + Screen

MA 3065 Sound
3 credits

Designed to acquaint students technically and conceptually with the medium of sound, this course provides a basic working vocabulary for understanding, discussing, and producing sounds. Topics covered include basic perceptual concepts and fundamentals of composing sound such as pitch, rhythm, duration, and volume. Students complete a series of assigned projects designed to demonstrate and assess competencies with microphones, studio recording, and digital editing, mixing, and processing.

Prerequisites: Foundation: Media 2

ANIM 3075 Character Animation 2
3 credits

This course builds upon the traditional character animation content (i.e., Disney Principles of Animation) taught in Character Animation 1. Students develop sophisticated secondary movement and overlapping action through several five- to ten-second animation assignments focusing on acting and physicality. Projects are based on everyday scenarios and require the student to produce industry-level animation evoking believable character movement, thought, and emotion. While this is a 2D animation class, students who have completed the 3D Animation course may choose to work with Maya software with faculty permission.

Prerequisites: Character Animation 1

ANIM 3080 Experimental Animation
3 credits

After a brief study of the history of process-oriented animation, students engage in experiments with camera and physical materials. Techniques may include, but are not limited to, pixilation, stop motion, direct animation, straight ahead drawing, and sand and paint animation. With the vocabulary they develop, students plan and execute one larger structured piece. The class then addresses software-based experimental animation also directing their work toward one larger project based on small exercises. The final project of the class is a collaborative piece based on sound.  

FILM 3050 Directing for Actors and Acting for Mediamakers
3 credits

Directing Actors is an acting class for directors. Students learn a variety of classic teaching methods including The Method by Stanislavski and contemporary techniques of acting for the camera. Students participate in acting exercises, observe one another’s abilities to stay in the moment, learn the vulnerabilities of being a professional actor, and prepare a complete scene for a final video project.

Prerequisites: Intro to Film, Intro to Animation, or Intro to Comics

Foundation Studies

16 credits

FDN 1111 Foundation: 2D
3 credits

Foundation: 2D is an introduction to creative thinking that develops students’ skills in research, observation, interpretation, and self-expression. An emphasis is placed on exploring new ways to read and see the world, as well as new ways to report on it. Students learn basic two-dimensional principles through the use of various media, tools, materials, and processes. As a result, students develop a visual and verbal language for analyzing, organizing, shaping, and communicating two-dimensional form and meaning.

FDN 1112 Foundation: 3D
3 credits

This course is an introduction to understanding of visual creation for the development of knowledge, imagination, and perception. Students are introduced to basic three-dimensional concepts as well as materials and technical production processes. Classroom activities include shop demonstrations of tools and techniques, information, lectures, and discussions appropriate to promote the balanced fusion of practice and theory.

FDN 1211 Foundation: Drawing 1
3 credits

Foundation: Drawing 1 is an introductory drawing course designed to prepare students for study in all majors of the college. Students develop basic drawing skills, including the ability to perceive and express visual relationships, organize a two-dimensional composition, and depict and manipulate form, space, and light. Students work from direct observation of still life, interior space, and landscape.

FDN 1212 Foundation: Drawing 2
3 credits

Foundation: Drawing 2 is an observationally based drawing course designed to reinforce and develop the basic drawing skills established in Foundation: Drawing 1. Students work with a variety of subjects, including a substantial amount of drawing from the figure. In addition to working from direct observation, students explore drawing as a tool for invention, conceptualization, and idea development. The course also affords students an opportunity to investigate drawing materials in more breadth and depth than in Foundation: Drawing 1.

Prerequisites: Foundation: Drawing 1

FDN 1311 Foundation: Media 1
3 credits

Students are introduced to digital resources at MCAD while exploring digital media. Areas covered include the Service Bureau, Gray Studio, and Media Center, along with other digital resources. Students use a variety of software and hardware to learn the basics of working with recorded media, including video, sound, and photography, as well as developing critical language for discussing media and media artists.

FDN 1412 Sophomore Seminar: Contemporary Practice
1 credits

Practice is more than working methods: it’s the context, marketing, and creative space that maintain creative work. Contemporary Practice introduces students to the foundations, variety, and tools of a professional practice. Students upgrade websites and documentation, enter contests, and create professional presentations of their work. Classes consist of lectures, student presentations, and guest speakers from a wide range of disciplines.

Prerequisites: Sophomore standing

Choose 2D or 3D Track

12 credits

2D Track

ANIM 2500 Drawing for Animators
3 credits

Expanding upon Foundation Drawing 1, students will construct poses for both 2D and 3D character animation. Students will draw from the nude model to explore techniques and concepts including gesture drawing, basic shapes, line of action, silhouette, perspective, balance, force, and rhythm. In addition to in-class drawing, students will participate in weekly lectures and demonstrations. A completed sketchbook at the end of the semester is required. 

Prerequisites: Character 1 (may be taken concurrently)

ANIM 3020 Character Animation 1
3 credits

Believable characters remain the foundation and most difficult skill of successful animation. This course concentrates on creating credible characters that can walk, talk, and think, depicted through the techniques of timing, staging, and acting. Students begin with a basic drawing method for describing gesture and form, and then go on to produce pencil tests, animatics, and finished movement animations. Beginning with structured projects aimed at specific animation principles, students eventually develop their own scenarios and final project. Lectures, in-class drawing time, and weekly assignments are augmented by occasional demonstrations and visual aids. Students also analyze basic animation principles from single-frame viewing of short selected segments of classic animated shorts and features. Weekly group critiques and individual consultation during in-class work are also provided.

Prerequisites: Introduction to Animation

ANIM 3023 Character Design
3 credits

Students study various models of character creation, including realistic, heroic, exaggerated, and invented form, in addition to a variety of body expressions, facial expressions, and locomotion. Discussions and assignments in character creation for the narrative are explored. Lectures and discussions cover historical and contemporary animation. Weekly journals and exercises are assigned so that students may develop observational and invented figure drawing skills. An emphasis is placed on reducing detail to make a character suitable for animation and developing character sheets to help visual rotations in perspective space.

Prerequisites: Introduction to Animation

ANIM 3027 2D Digital Animation
3 credits

In this class Toon Boom Harmony is taught as a tool for creating limited styles of 2D animation. Exercises are conducted in motion graphics, kinetic typography, cut-out puppet animation, and 2D visual effects. Students research contemporary studios doing innovative work in the field and complete a final project. 

Prerequisites: Intro to Animation

3D Track

ANIM 3030 3D Animation
3 credits

How do 3D animators breathe life into their creations? In this course, students learn how Disney’s indispensable 12 Principles translate into 3D, expand on these concepts, and explore sensible approaches to creating appealing performances. Starting with simple exercises and gradually building to more fully-developed scenes, students gain the ability to harness the creative opportunities of 3D animation.

Prerequisites: Introduction to Animation

ANIM 3040 3D Modeling
3 credits

3D modelers are capable of fashioning characters, objects, and locations out of thin air – but how do they make their creations functional and compelling? In this course, students will explore essential modeling tools and techniques, craft organic and hard-surface assets, and learn how to organize the underlying structures so models are ready for rigging, animation, look development, and lighting. Skills and concepts are applicable to film and television entertainment, video games, advertising, commerce, education, pop art, and more.

Prerequisites: Introduction to Animation

ANIM 3043 3D Rendering
3 credits

A 3D model is a dimensional canvas waiting to be fully realized, its generic gray giving way to wood and metal, paint and rust, freckles and scars. Once surface qualities are defined, evocative light and shadow pull the viewer further into the scene, stirring emotions, and enhancing narrative. Learn how to turn models into works of art by exploring how concepts from character design, production design, photography, cinematography, painting, optics, and other disciplines combine in the CG realm.

Prerequisites: 3D Modeling

ANIM 3070 Intermediate 3D
3 credits

In this course, students will take their 3D skill sets to the next level on two fronts: First, students learn the art of rigging, where objects and characters are given the underlying structures that animators use to create the illusion of life. Discover how to analyze the kinematic requirements for hard-surface and organic subjects, and then build those capabilities using skeletons, deformers, and controllers. Second, students will plan and execute an independent project that promotes research and practice in an area of interest. This work will expand the student’s portfolio and serve as practice for the upcoming senior thesis project.

Prerequisites: 3D Modeling, 3D Animation, 3D Rendering

Studio Electives

26 credits

varying BFA Studio Electives

Choose BFA studio courses to take as electives; amount determined by your major.

Humanities and Sciences

39 credits

AH 1701 Introduction to Art and Design History 1
3 credits

The objective of this course is to familiarize students with the major stylistic, thematic, cultural, and historical transformations in art history from prehistoric times to the nineteenth century. This course helps students develop critical tools for the interpretation and understanding of the meaning and function of art objects, architecture, and design artifacts within their original historical contexts. Class sessions consist primarily of lecture with some discussion.

AH 1702 Introduction to Art and Design History 2
3 credits

This course introduces students to issues in modern art, popular culture, and contemporary art and design. Topics may include the expanding audience for art, the transformation of the art market, the impact of new technologies, the changing status of the artist, and the role of art in society. This course is taught as a seminar with some lecture.

Prerequisites: Introduction to Art and Design History 1 or faculty permission

EN 1500 Writing and Inquiry
3 credits

Key to the creative and critical growth of the engaged, successful artist is participation in a culture of writing and inquiry. Students in this course focus on the kinds of writing they will encounter and produce in their coursework at MCAD and as creative professionals. Regular writing workshops allow students to concentrate on experiential and practical approaches to writing. Students explore a variety of texts and objects through class assignments, and then develop clear compelling essays employing a variety of rhetorical and narrative strategies.

varying Creative or Professional Writing
3 credits

Creative or professional writing elective

varying Scientific and Quantitative Reasoning
3 credits

Scientific and Quantitative Reasoning classes increase students’ appreciation for the power of scientific and quantitative approaches to knowing the world.

varying Histories, Places, Philosophies
6 credits

6 credits of histories, places, philosophies electives

HS 5010 Liberal Arts Advanced Seminar
3 credits

The Liberal Arts Advanced Seminar enables students to pursue their own research and writing goals within a seminar setting. Projects are student-originated and consist of both a written piece and a public presentation. Class sessions are discussion-based and interactive. Group learning is emphasized

Prerequisites: Completion of Cultural Awareness Requirement (4000-level course), Junior standing

Cultural Awareness Requirement (select one)

AH 4731 Art in the Age of Empire (1789-1949)
3 credits

Using a global and historical perspective, this course examines the rise and spread of European colonialism and its impact on artistic practices in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Through a series of case studies, students will explore the ways in which European forms of image-making underwrote and facilitated the colonial project and the multiple modes through which picturing practices offered a venue for both colonizer and colonized to articulate, define, and forge political and social relationships. In each case, indigenous and hybrid forms of art-making will be highlighted alongside European forms in order to understand how the visual arts served as an expression of identity, cultural belonging, and self-fashioning. Topics will be explored by urban centers: Paris, Algiers, Shanghai,
Mumbai (Bombay), Cairo, Istanbul, Port-au-Prince, New Orleans, and other sites.

Prerequisites: Introduction to Art and Design: History 2 and a 3000-level AH or HU course, or faculty permission.

AH/HU 4325 Native American Art
3 credits

Most Native American tribes do not have a word in their languages for “artist,” yet the arts are a living part of both daily life and ceremonial tradition. Focusing on the works of selected tribes, students in this course look at Native American art, architecture, and aesthetics. Emphasis is placed on the nineteenth century to the present. The impact of outside forces on continuities and changes in traditional forms is also explored. Classes are primarily lecture with some discussion. 

Prerequisites: Prerequisite: Introduction to Art and Design: History 2 and any 3000-level AH or HU course or its transferred equivalent, or faculty permission.

AH/HU 4722 Asian Art History
3 credits

This course examines the art of Asia from its beginnings to the present day. It involves a regional approach, focusing on representative works from India, Southeast Asia, China, and Japan. While regional characteristics are emphasized, cross-cultural influences are also studied. Through a variety of media, including sculpture, architecture, and painting, students gain an understanding of the broad themes and concepts that run throughout Asian art. Students consider the role of religion, for example, and gain a basic comprehension of Buddhism, Hinduism, Confucianism, Islam, Taoism, and Shinto. The structure of the class includes lectures, large and small group discussions, and visits to the Minneapolis Institute of Art.

Prerequisites: Introduction to Art and Design: History 2 and any 3000-level AH or HU course or its transferred equivalent, or faculty permission.

AH/HU 4725 Islamic Art
3 credits

This course will examine Islamic art and architecture through religious, historical, political, and cultural practices from the seventh century to the present. Combining a thematic approach (such as kingship, gift exchange, identity, etc.) with the more traditional chronological and geographical approaches, this course will trace the visual and material culture of Islam and its global influence

Prerequisites: Introduction to Art and Design: History 2 and any 3000-level AH or HU course or its transferred equivalent, or faculty permission.

AH/HU 4728 African American Art
3 credits

This course provides a comprehensive introduction to the visual art of African Americans from the Colonial period to the present. The course examines a variety of visual media from painting, sculpture, and photography to popular culture objects and mass media images. In addition, students critically examine the ways in which the constructed meanings of "blackness" intersect with representational practices of gender, sexuality, and class, as well as the training and education of artists, public and private patronage, and the history of arts criticism and art history. Class sessions include both lectures and discussions.

Prerequisites: Introduction to Art and Design: History 2 and any 3000-level AH or HU course or its transferred equivalent, or faculty permission.

AH/HS 4729 Art and Globalization in the Atlantic World
3 credits

This course examines the impact and effects of globalization on the visual culture of the Atlantic world (defined by Europe, Africa, and the Americas) from the period of the Columbian encounter to the contemporary moment. Students examine the circulation and exchange of goods, ideas, knowledge, culture, and peoples across the Atlantic world through an investigation of visual representations, performance, and collecting practices. The course narrative is guided by thematic issues of gender, race, the politics of display, and national and cultural identities, tracing the movement of visual cultures across the Atlantic through individual case studies. This course fulfills a Histories, Places and Philosophies requirement for Humanities and Sciences.

Prerequisites: Introduction to Art and Design: History 2 (may be taken concurrently), a 3000-level AH or HS course, or faculty permission

HU 4511 History of Jazz
3 credits

Duke Ellington once said, “the pull of jazz music in American culture is so strong that no one can resist it.” Jazz is truly an American treasure that has influenced other cultures around the globe. Yet most Americans know very little about its history. This class explores jazz from its roots to its most current forms. Hear the music, study its contributions, and explore the cultural patterns and trends that surround its development. Class sessions are a mix of lecture and discussion, with some demonstrations of performance styles. 

Prerequisites: Any 3000-level AH or HU course or its transferred equivalent, or faculty permission.

HU 3627 Queer Media
3 credits

This course uses standards for information and media literacy (from the Association of College and Research Libraries and others) to explore issues related to queer identities, representations, methodologies, theoretical applications, and interpretations. Using the framework of literacy as a benchmark, students learn how to read "for and from the queer" in a variety of media.

Prerequisites: Any 3000-level AH or HU course or its transferred equivalent, or faculty permission.

HU 4630 Race and Ethnicity in the United States: A History
3 credits

Race and ethnicity have played significant, complicated, and more often than not misunderstood roles in the United States’ history. This course surveys the ways race and ethnicity have been constructed and understood by Americans from the colonial era to the present, focusing on the ways that class, gender, culture, and politics, as well as biology, have defined race and the way race and ethnicity have supported ideologies that have been used to both empower and subordinate the peoples of the United States. 

Prerequisites: Any 3000-level AH or HU course or its transferred equivalent, or faculty permission.

HS 4916 Literature of the Americas
3 credits

This course offers students a hemispheric perspective on the study of literature, focusing on a range of works from underrepresented, marginalized, and outsider authors in the Americas from the nineteenth century to the present. Students have an opportunity to challenge conventional categorizations of writers from across the Americas—not just in the United States—by fostering transnational and transhistorical perspectives while considering concepts including identity, race, citizenship, hybridity, and nationhood.

Prerequisites: Any 3000-level AH or HU course or its transferred equivalent, or faculty permission.

Art Historical Contexts Courses (select one)

AH 2101 Interrogating Post Modernity: The Fine Arts Since 1945
3 credits

This course introduces students to global fine arts production (drawing, painting, sculpture, artists’ books, performance, public, and socially engaged) since 1945. Using a series of case studies this class examines the historical, theoretical, and aesthetic developments in and relationships between fine arts media. Students engage with a combination of primary and secondary texts, apply visual analysis skills, contextualize artworks, and investigate various political and aesthetic points of view. 

Prerequisites: Introduction to Art and Design: History 2 (may be taken concurrently) or faculty permission

AH 2103 Applied Arts and Designed Objects
3 credits

This course traces the history of applied arts and designed objects through furniture, products, packaging, and multidimensional forms of graphic design. Students examine applied arts and designed objects as part of an evolving human culture of habit, convenience, and status. Various movements and styles within the histories of design genres, as well as the processes and manufacturing of consumer objects are considered.

Prerequisites: Introduction to Art and Design: History 2 (may be taken concurrently) or faculty permission

AH 2105 Print Culture, Art, and Communication in the Age of Mass Reproduction
3 credits

Since the advent of print and the printing press, text, image, graphic design, comics, and advertising have played significant roles in cultural formation. This course examines the history of mass reproduction of printed matter from the advent of modernity, including books and periodical designs, to the present. 

Prerequisites: Introduction to Art and Design: History 2 (may be taken concurrently) or faculty permission

AH 2107 Photography, the Moving Image, and Digital Culture
3 credits

The production and reproduction of static, moving, and digital images have grown from work produced by an exotic technology used only by specialists to a socially ubiquitous representational form that generates millions of images, clips, cartoons, gifs, shorts, and films daily. This course surveys the development of (re)produced and moving images from their commercial applications, entertainments, and art to the all-pervasive media in which our popular cultures and artistic cultures exist. Individual artists and makers, as well as their works and contextualized movements within changing technological, economic, and institutional frameworks, are considered. 

Prerequisites: Introduction to Art and Design: History 2 (may be taken concurrently) or faculty permission
Total Credit Hours