Daemen University’s BFA program prepares students with what it takes in today’s world of animation

Next time you’re watching an animated film, consider this: likely 400 to 500 animators and artists worked on the film over a period of a year or more, from concept and storyboard artists to layout and background animators. And that’s just one film.

Student drawing on a touch screen in animation studio.

Now, consider all the other places we experience animation. Movies. Television. Streaming platforms. Video games. Phone apps. Virtual reality. As technology has skyrocketed, so has the demand for animators. Now more than ever, Daemen University’s Animation Program is preparing students to meet that demand and embark on rewarding careers.

Students in the four-year program earn a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts degree, working with the most current software and technology used in studios throughout the animation industry. Perhaps more importantly, they are taught by professionals in the field who are working or have worked in specialties such as character animation, storyboarding, CG modeling and rigging, and character design.

“ I tell prospective students, if you want to be taught by professionals who know what you need to know as an animator, come to Daemen; all faculty are industry pros who have worked at Disney, DreamWorks, Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, and many other studios,” explained Mike Jones, director of the program and animation instructor. Jones himself is an experienced animator with exceptional industry credentials.

Students storyboarding on a white board during animation jam

After earning a degree in animation from California Institute of the Arts in Santa Clarita, he was hired by Don Bluth who worked with Steven Spielberg to create well-known animated films such as “An American Tail” and “Land Before Time.” Jones worked on studio films including “A Troll in Central Park,” which features the voices of Dom DeLuise and Cloris Leachman, as well as “Thumbelina,” featuring the voice of actor John Hurt.

Jones later joined Disney and was working on animation for “Mary Poppins Returns” when a friend told him about an opening for a director of animation at Daemen. He had taught some courses at CalArts and was attracted to the Daemen opportunity, remembering some advice he had been given.

“One of my mentors at CalArts told me that we have got to give back and teach the next generation, otherwise, the art form will not continue,” Jones said.

“ Daemen allowed me to mold our program to the standards, techniques, and technology used in animation studios throughout the world while sharing my experience and knowledge.”

Daemen works with studios throughout the United States to place students in internship programs. Since Jones began as director in 2017, more than 15 graduates of the program are working in the field, with approximately 20 students set to graduate between December 2023 and May 2024.

Seniors work on a year-long project to create and animate their own films. Students in the Daemen program have won 12 international Telly awards, and brought home gold awards for the first time this year. The Telly Awards recognize TV commercials and programs, video and film, and online productions. The annual competition typically receives more than 12,000 entries.

“The animation department at Daemen is incredibly diverse and collaborative, with seniors helping first-year students and faculty sharing firsthand knowledge on everything from cartoons to video games,” concluded Jones. “Animation is everywhere – we aim to prepare students for many different possibilities.”