It's not surprising that Canada is home to some of the best animation schools in the world: the country has a global reputation for excellence in this industry.
"Renowned educational institutions such as the Banff Centre for the Arts, the Emily Carr Institute, the National Animation and Design Centre, Sheridan College and Centennial College, turn out creative talent that is frequently recruited by major studios such as Walt Disney Animation, Fox Animation Studios, Warner Bros., and DreamWorks SKG," reports an article on the multimedia industry produced by the Government of Canada. "These institutions offer innovative and comprehensive training programs in 2-D and 3-D animation for film and television, video game design and programming."
Even though many graduates get recruited south of the border, many remain here, contributing to such success stories as Alias/Wavefront, Softimage Inc., SideEffects, Discreet Logic and Toon Boom Technologies. These companies, according to the article, "are among the world's leading innovators of 2-D and 3-D graphics technology, and are based in Canada. Their technology has been used to create spectacular effects in movies such as Jurassic Park, The Lost World, Titanic, Apollo 13, and The Mask, and has won them Academy Awards and other prestigious accolades. Vancouver's Vertigo Technology Inc. developed software used extensively by BBC, CNN, MTV, Time Warner and Walt Disney Studios."
In fact, it has been estimated that well over half of the software used in Hollywood was developed in Canada.
Canada is also known for its content creation. Toronto's Nelvana produces Franklin the Turtle, Little Bear and Rolie Polie Olie. In Quebec, CINAR turns out Caillou and Zaboomafoo, among other productions. And in Vancouver, Mainframe Entertainment produces ReBoot, Beast Wars and features such as Barbie and the Nutcracker.
Last but certainly not least, Canada is a major player in the game industry, home to industry giant Electronic Arts (EA), based in Burnaby, B.C. According to EA producer Jules Burt, most of his company's employees are recruited from Canadian animation schools. The reason? The calibre of students coming from these schools is high, says Burt, as is their ability to hit the ground running. "These students are usually already producing 'real-world' assets," says Burt, referring to the high quality reels that graduates have in hand when they begin applying for jobs. "The tools that these schools are using are all very relevant, so [graduates] come prepared to start building games and making money."
How do you choose the right animation school? The Association of British Columbia Animators and Producers has come up with a checklist to help you. Here are a few questions to ask yourself when you are reviewing potential schools:
1. Does the animation program teach all of the necessary courses that an animator will need to enter the industry in an entry level position? (assistant animator, layout/background artist, storyboard clean-up, etc.)
2. Does the program teach other skills such as life drawing, color comprehension, animation history and film studies?
3. Is sufficient time given to teach the curriculum and is the program fee set at a reasonable cost?
4. Does the school provide all of the necessary equipment needed for the student to learn and work in the industry?
5. Are portfolios one of the admission requirements for prospective students?
6. Who are the course instructors? What are their backgrounds and industry experience? Are they presently working in or have they previously been successful in the industry?
7. Has the curriculum been developed with input from [industry association] members?
8. Does the school have an ongoing advisory board with [industry association] members to help review course materials and changes to the industry?
9. Does the school promote their graduates to the industry through organized interviews, student showcases and/or mail-out materials? Is there a system in place where [industry association] members are given an opportunity to interview graduates?
10. Does the school invite [industry association] members to talk to classes about their companies, the needs of the industry and how to apply for a job?
11. Does the school provide a list of recent graduates, where they are working and/or provide access to working graduates for opinions of the school and program?
12. Does the school help the students to prepare their graduate portfolios/films and help market them to the industry?
13. Does the school offer students career counselling and in-depth background information about the film industry, both local and international?
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