Search form

VanArts intensive summer course - yay or nay?

22 posts / 0 new
Last post
VanArts intensive summer course - yay or nay?

(formerly rach3)

Just wondering if anyone out there's done the summer intensive courses at VanArts. Would you recommend them? Also, how far will a crash course get you in terms of job prospects? Do you finish Level 2 with a showreel/portfolio that you can wave at a prospective employer? Thanks in advance for any feedback.

I have to be honest with you, I would not suggest one of these "crash courses" from any school. There is just soooooo much to learn in order to animate well, and a course that lasts a couple months is just not sufficient in order to do so. You may come out with some basics, but not enough to get work (I imagine).

When I am looking at portfolios, I do not care as much about how much schooling somone has, if any, but rather their portfolio. However, you have a much better chance of having a great portfolio if you spend a couple years in animation school.

You might want to look into the programs at Emily Carr (although, this is a bit more artsy-fartsy, rather than mainstream, and does not really prepare you for the industry as well), or Capilano College. I have a friend who runs the program at Capilano (actually, he was my first year college teacher in Ottawa), and I have a lot of respect for his teaching ability. If you talk to a Don Perro at Capilano, tell him Wade from Montreal says "hi".

Just my two cents. I look down on these crash courses, and I know many others do as well.


"Don't want to end up a cartoon in a cartoon graveyard" - Paul Simon

I'm the guy you should talk to, since I work at VanArts! Our summer courses are not designed to get people jobs or produce a final, polished reel...for that you should look into our full-time program. These intensive courses are for 'getting your feet wet' and exploring animation as a possible career or hobby choice before diving right in. It's a lot of fun and you get to meet some great people.

Contact me directly and we can chat about it some more. 1-800-396-2787

Cool. Well it is good to hear it from the proverbial horse's mouth. Too many people believe these quick summer "intensive" courses to be the quick solution to getting them into the animation business. They finish the course, and then go out and present their "portfolios" to studios in hopes of finding work. I hope it doesn't seem that I poo-pooed Van Arts in my post, as that was not my intention, but rather, to poo-poo the quick solution of getting into animation, which has become a very popluar practice. I have no doubt that the summer program could be beneficial to someone who might be considering animation as a career, and who wants to see if they like it, or can cut it. But then, if you do find you like it, you would need the full-time deal for a couple years.

Unfortunately I know nothing about Van Arts full-time program, although, I have heard good things about it. I would have suggested it too, had I known anything concrete about it or its reputation.


"Don't want to end up a cartoon in a cartoon graveyard" - Paul Simon

Thanks for the replies. I'm not quite sure what to do yet (just got turned down in round 2 by the one studio in Australia that's taking bites but I'll deal - and then try again). I'm a bit leery of investing all the time and money in a course only to end up unemployed; that goes for crash courses as well, I suppose :)

But if you get the proper training, you will haev a much better chance of being employed. Obviously, it is up to you (your decision), but it is fairly unlikely that you will get work without the education, I am afraid. Being rejected is just something you muct get used to, as an artist. It will not always be rejection though...


"Don't want to end up a cartoon in a cartoon graveyard" - Paul Simon

VanArts is a great school, and I would recommend the Summer intensive if you want to get your feet wet. It's actully a great way to find out if it's something you would really want to do as a career. I have to agree with Wade too. You'd have to enroll in a full-time program to learn everything you'll need to know to get work in the industry. It's really all about what you make out of it. When your taking classes you have to focus and get the teachers to share every bit of knowledge they have. And don't worry about rejection, use that to inspire you to excel further. Cheers

Cereal And Pajamas New Anthology : August 2007

Do you also know anything about the animation programs at the schools Concordia and Sheridan?
I'm still deciding on where to go...
I like Emily Carr because it seems to offer everything I want. I want to do special effects, classical and computer animation, as well experimental animation like stop motion animation (making sets and puppets, animating sand, paint on glass, etc.). The only thing I don't like about it is that you have to get into foundations year, but getting into it doesn't guarantee you get into the animation major the next year.

Sheridan I hear has a good reputation, only that lately many people tell me about how disorganized and slow they are with letters, forms, etc.

As for Concordia, they have a program called Film Animation and they teach the stop motion animation as I described up there. However there doesnt seem to be any computer animation... The computer animation described in their curriculum sounds more like images done/edited on the computer (I can't really explain well this, but it's like making image by image in Photoshop for animation rather than animating in 3Dmax...)

Money is a factor too. Concordia seems expensive with the film


I would highly recommend Shridan over all others. Concordia... Waste of time (in my opinion). It is WAY too artsy, and does not prepare its students for what they are really going to school for... WORKING. Concordia is good if you want to learn NFB type animation, but for commercial animation... Not the best place to go. I have a very poor opinion of Concordia and its graduates (Adam Duff, a fellow member of the forum excluded, as he fought the system, and did his commercial style stuff regardless). I have seen portfolios/demos from a great many Concordia students, and have been far less than impressed (I have yet to hire one). They do have computer animation, in which you learn Maya, but it is a very basic course.

Sheridan has the best program in the country (again, my opinion which is shared by most other studios).

Have you looked at Algonquin College in Ottawa? A good friend of mine runs the program there, and has really TURNED IT AROUND since I went there. He modelled the program after Sheridan's program a bit over the last 8 years or so, and they are turning out some SUPERB grads. I would highly recommend them to anyone. Especially now that they have made their program a 3 year program, giving the students an opportunity in 3rd year to either continue focused on traditional animation, making a short film, or you can focus on 3D. The price of the education there will be comparable to SHeridan or Emily Carr.

Hope this helps you.


"Don't want to end up a cartoon in a cartoon graveyard" - Paul Simon

Hmmm. I probably will end up taking a full-on course in a few years *contemplates half-full jar of change on desk* it's out of the question at the moment, but something to consider.


At VanArts, we cover 2D and 3D animation each for a full year, and we have a stop-motion course as well. It's a part-time course that I teach, which full-timers are welcome to take as an extra bonus to do on the weekends. My approach to the course is kind of arts-and-crafts...we use clay, foam, fabric and paper mache over plastic doll armatures to build puppets. We don't get much into the professional ball & sockets and foam latex stuff, as it's too messy and expensive. I try to focus on actual 'animation' rather than just 'making things move'....exercises include clay morphs, facial expressions, dialogue, and using glass to make things 'fly'.

The VanArts website has a reel of stop-motion work from various students.

Well, I've been lurking around this forum for a couple weeks now and I've been meaning to post a question about schooling as well. This seems as good a thread as any to start...

I too have been looking for a good animation program to enroll in and I've narrowed it down to a few schools: Capilano, Algonquin, Sheridan obviously, and also Vancouver Film School's 2D/Maya 18 month intensive.

The first three have already been mentioned but I wouldn't mind learning more about what people think about it is, the info I've got is from what I gleaned from their websites. for VFS, I've been getting conflicting reports on them...some people call it a cash-grab considering the tuition costs. Others have nothing but praise. I think most of the negative reviews are refering to their Film Production program though, not animation, although I'm not entirely sure.

A year from now, I'll have completed 5 years on a Computing Science degree. Programming is neat and all but doing it fulltime is hell. I'm not sure if it'd be a good idea to spend another 4 years (as it is in Sheridan) in school again. So basically, I'm trying to find a program with a nice balance between program length, quality, and lastly, tuition.

Any advice?

I can't really say more than I already have. What you should do is call the schools and go for a tour. I don't know your geographical location, and there is a great deal of IDSTANCE between Algonquin and Vancouiver Film School and Capilano, but a tour will help you a lot.

If it were me (and it's not), I would choose Algonquin, without a doubt. I am not really fond of Toronto, or Vancouver, and I LOVE the program at Algonquin, almost as much as I love Sheridan's. The only problem is that once you graduate, you will probably haev to move again, as the studios in Ottawa are few and far between right now. Other than that...


"Don't want to end up a cartoon in a cartoon graveyard" - Paul Simon

Thanks for the reply! I'm located in Alberta (where there's a bit of a dearth of animation programs i.e. none) so I'm prepared to move anywhere in Canada really. Of course, this also makes taking a tour of a school very difficult...

I guess I'll just have do some more thinking and research.

looking for schools


I sent you an email but not sure if you've read it....I invite you to check out VanArts at and contact us if you have any questions. Our program might interest you.

Thanks for the really good feedback as well. I'm checking out the schools newly posted. Right now can anyone explain to me why Emily Carr isn't really too good of an animation school? Most say it's more of a fine arts school and that it doesn't really teach you how to work in the "real world." I looked up their website and it says commercial animation is taught in the curriculum. Or maybe I should rephrase the question and ask how good exactly is the teaching (if anyone knows)? Their teaching in computer animation and special effects, for example, is it just like the basics?
On their site, it also says there's emphasis on individual exploration of the different animation techniques. Would this be considered not so good for someone who's just beginning to get into the animation industry?

I definitely would like to do the artsy type of animation, but just as much would I like to do the commercial animation. Perhaps it's best to go to a school focusing more on commercial animation and learn the artistic stuff on your own because they'll know what the animation industry wants? (The reason I'm mainly asking about Emily Carr in this post is because it's the closest to where I live, isn't too expensive, offers a degree, and is 3 years which means I might get to learn more?)
I have taken a tour at Emily Carr but there was no teacher since their tours happen during lunch hour (I think), and the animation students there didn't really have any experience in working already in an animation company, so I couldn't ask if the knowledge they learned in, let's say, computer animation was sufficient to what the industry was looking for.


If you want a job in an animation studio I personally would not recommend Emily Carr. I'm not even sure if I would recommend it for a BFA, though I'm sure it does have some good qualities, like most schools do. This is, of course, speculative hearsay and I have not attended there, but I've met several people who have. The impression I get from Emily Carr is that they encourage you to live in your own artistic bubble and not talk to anyone, just live with your art and don't share your ideas! I've only seen one film come from Emily Carr which apparently got its maker a job at ILM, but the film was so brilliant it really stood in a league of its own anyway. I went to an animation screening once and spoke to some of the grads who made the films, and they were very anti-social and awkward. Reminded me alot of the students I went to art school with in Michigan, most of whom I would never want to work with let alone have anything to do with.

The industry wants to see a tailored demo reel with excellent examples of animation, which means not just drawing but performance. This is what programs like VanArts, etc. offer: actual industry training, practical knowledge of animation principles, acting & history, and opportunity to network with other students and staff who will ultimately help you land jobs. At VanArts we encourage students to feed off each other for ideas and learn from each other as much as from the teachers. Studio production is a team effort, so you need an environment that prepares you to accept criticism and work as a team, not isolate yourself in the name of 'personal expression'. The best personal expression comes from relationships that encourage you to make your work even better.

Art is art, and you can create animation at either place which may impress a studio rep. But I would say the biggest difference lies in that personal interaction and team-player training with actual artists from the industry, as opposed to just fine artists.

Good post, MadKap...

While doing experimental "artsy" animation may give you personally some sense of satisfaction, it is hard to pay the bills by scratching on film, etc. You want to mold yourself into what studios are looking for (commercial animation) if you want a pay check for doing animation. Granted, people like Norm McLaren was making a pay check for scrathcing on film, and animating sound waves, but that was a LONG time ago, when animation in Canada was still a relatively new thing.


"Don't want to end up a cartoon in a cartoon graveyard" - Paul Simon

I'll chime in here and second all that Madkap has said.

I was a teacher at one of Van Arts competing schools; Vancouver Film School--and IMO, the best abbreiviated course in Vancouver right now is likely the one at Van Arts.

The advice about your specific focus is sound--if your ambitions lean towards industry then go to a industry-focused program, if you want to pursue fine arts and experimental animation, then a program geared in that direction is best.
The mistake a student can make is thinking either of the two lead to the biz.

The other mistake is going in assuming any of these schools can teach you HOW to draw.
VFS, though I still love 'em, has a large fundemental flaw with its program in that they advertise a one-year program with the sales ptich that you get your training and "into the biz" in one year.
This is a problem with a LOT of schools--and almost everyone is guilty of it in some way.

The bottom line is that a student needs thinking time to process instruction.
If the course is whirlwind in its timetable then the instruction of new techniques overtakes the fostering/nurturing of traditional drawing skills and students have to play "catch-up".
A student with innate skills is better served by such a program, but a student with weak drawing skills will be left wanting.

Its a pity , really, because the allure of schools like this is that they can teach you how to draw ( myth) and provide you with the skill-set to get into the animation biz ( partial myth) by providing you with a environment exposed to industry instructors and a studio setting ( mostly true).

I'd say that Van-Arts would be a good place to hang your hat.

"We all grow older, we do not have to grow up"--Archie Goodwin ( 1937-1998) for VFS, I've been getting conflicting reports on them...some people call it a cash-grab considering the tuition costs. Others have nothing but praise. I think most of the negative reviews are refering to their Film Production program though, not animation, although I'm not entirely sure.

Any advice?

VFS' 2D Animation programmme strengths lie in its instructors--they are top-calibre. Industry-people, one and all, they are the core of the quality of the program.
I was proud to work alongside them and.......indeed, to be one of them.
I think to VFS's credit, one need only look at the number of alumni over the past 10 years or so that are working in the business--it can be a pretty good testimony to the strengths of their programme.

Truth be told, the schools in the Vancouver area all have their strengths and weaknesses with the admission choice really coming down to simple preference and/or tutition.


"We all grow older, we do not have to grow up"--Archie Goodwin ( 1937-1998)

All this input is great; thanks, I'm now convinced! :)

another alternative to visiting all the schools

Jin -

Another alternative to visiting all the schools would be to go to the Ottawa International Animation Festival in September ( as most of the Canadian schools have representatives there.

- Marla