MA Character Animation

Ideas for stories and characters, but not sure how to go about it? Want to make your drawings move? MA Character Animation appeals to designers, artists, illustrators and others who want to learn how to animate. You don't need to have had much experience of making animation before. This two-year course is very practical and will teach you all about how to make your characters do much more than move – you make them perform. You’ll learn timing, software, storytelling, character design, film language, take weekly life drawing and acting lessons, as well as looking into historical and critical approaches to animation. From the three short films students create on the course, we have had many award winners at international festivals.

This course is subject to revalidation in 2016/17. Whilst the focus of the course remains the same, some of the detailed content may be subject to change.

Our real-life briefs come from the English National Opera, Old Operating Theatre Museum, Royal Shakespeare Company, Cartoon Network and the National Gallery. Each student is allocated a mentor, who is a practicing professional. Frequent visiting lecturers from industry include Shelley Page (Dreamworks), Philip Hunt (Studio AKA), Andy Blazdell (CelAction), Sue Tong (Illuminated Picture Company), Dave Anderson (Dog and Rabbit), Clare Jennings (Aardman/Laika Pictures), Joanna Quinn (Beryl Productions), Barry JC Purves, Osbert Parker, Rose Bond and Pete Bishop.

We have a high employment rate after the course and our award-winning students are working at Cartoon Network, Framestore, the Mill, BBC, Dreamworks, Industrial Light and Magic, Disney, etc. Two of our graduates have so far been nominated for Academy Awards for their animated short films – could the next one be you?

This course is part of the: Drama & Performance Programme

Scholarships, Awards and Funding available:

Vice-Chancellor’s Scholarships:
Home/EU | International
Jane Rapley Scholarships

Postgraduate loans of up to £10,000 are now available for eligible UK and EU students. A full list of eligibility criteria and information on applying can be found on the postgraduate loans webpage.

Meet former Course Leader Birgitta Hosea and students.

The Degree Show 2015 will feature the work of 38 talented animators.

Showreel by Yukai Du, MA Character Animation alumna

Former Course Leader Birgitta Hosea talks gives a retrospective of her work at CSM for Adobe education.

Reasons to Apply

  • MA Character Animation enables you to pursue your studies whilst also undertaking part-time employment, internships or care responsibilities. You are expected to commit 30 hours per week to your studies; your taught input will normally be scheduled over a maximum of two to three days per week during term time. 
  • No previous animation experience needed – if you have shown us the potential to be an animator you'll have access to a comprehensive range of practical and technical workshops in animation techniques and supporting studies.
  • Develop the performance of your animated characters - you’ll benefit from links with Drama Centre London, with classes in performance techniques including Visual Storytelling, Acting and Movement Studies.
  • You’ll experience simulated work experience through team projects and each student is allocated a current practitioner as a mentor to provide insight into the profession and to advise you on your development.
  • You’ll enjoy close links with the industry, including numerous high profile guest lecturers, and take part in live projects with external agencies, who have previously included the London Transport Museum, the Royal Shakespeare Company, Cartoon Network and the National Gallery.
  • Short films created by students on the course have been nominated for prizes at numerous festivals and competitions including the British Animation Awards, Adobe Design Achievement Awards, Taiwan International Student Design Competition, Virgin Media Shorts and Soho Rushes.
  • Over 80 per cent of our graduates find employment in the animation industry. They work in Oscar-winning special effects teams on films such as Gladiator, Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter; acclaimed television series like Walking with Dinosaurs and Charlie and Lola; commercials; award-winning websites; TV graphics and games.


Course Leader

Steve Roberts

Course Location

King's Cross, London.

Study LevelPostgraduate
Study ModeFull time
Course LengthFull time: 2 years (60 weeks)
Home/EU Fee

Tuition fees for 2017/18: £4,500 per year.

Please note that fees for second year of study will be subject to inflationary increase.

£500 per annum discount for all students who have completed a PG Dip/Cert or an undergraduate course including Grad Dip/Cert, at UAL.

You can pay course tuition fees in instalments for this course. 

Use our Fees and Funding Calculator to estimate how much your studies may cost you in your first year, and what funding may be available to you.

International Fee

Tuition fees for 2017/18: £11,510 per year.

You can pay course tuition fees in instalments for this course. 

Use our Fees and Funding Calculator to estimate how much your studies may cost you in your first year, and what funding may be available to you.

Start DateSeptember 2017
Autumn Term DatesMonday 25 September 2017 – Friday 8 December 2017
Spring Term DatesMonday 8 January 2018 – Friday 16 March 2018
Summer Term DatesMonday 16 April 2018 – Friday 22 June 2018
Application Route

Direct application

Content and Structure

All applicants considered for September 2017 entry will be applying for the newly revalidated version of the course.  Further detailed information will be published as it becomes available however the focus of the course remains the same.

Instead of trying to cover every aspect of a complex subject, this postgraduate course specialises in one area - animation of characters. You'll broaden and challenge your contextual awareness of animation while gaining advanced skills in communication, project management and technique.

MA Character Animation's distinctive features include:

  • Links with Drama Centre London enabling unrivalled use of performance techniques through classes in Storytelling, Acting and Movement Studies
  • Classes in Animation History & Theory, Life Drawing and Anatomy that complement the technical animation curriculum
  • Simulated work experience through team projects, with input from industry professionals
  • Wide-ranging commercial and creative partners in London and beyond, including the National Gallery
  • An extensive alumni networking community

The course is supported and advised by Visiting Professor Shelley Page, Dreamworks.

About the course

  • MA Character Animation lasts 60 weeks structured as two consecutive periods of 30 weeks each (i.e. two academic years) in its 'extended full-time mode'.
  • MA Character Animation is credit rated at 180 credits, and comprises 2 units. Unit 1 (60 credits) lasts 20 weeks. Unit 2 (120 credits) runs for 10 weeks in the first year and 30 weeks in the second year.
  • Both units must be passed in order to achieve the MA, but the classification of the award of MA derives from your mark for Unit 2 only.
  • We expect you to commit an average of 30 hours per week, within which your taught input will normally be scheduled over three days in first year and two days in second year. The course structure is intended to allow you to pursue your studies while also undertaking part-time work, internships or care responsibilities.

Course rationale

From the internet and mobile phones to television commercials, games and special effects for blockbuster movies, animation is everywhere. The medium, which today takes many different forms, has permeated our visual culture.

Technologies used to create animation are evolving rapidly. The competitive nature of the software market means certain computer programmes dominate in one year before becoming obsolete the next. Against a backdrop of constantly changing industry standard software, MA Character Animation fosters a specialist, practice-based knowledge you can apply to different software packages, technical processes, creative approaches and distribution technologies in the future. Instead of focusing on a narrow range of software-specific skills, you'll build universal skills and contextual awareness of character animation.

Originally called the London Animation School, MA Character Animation grew out of an initiative by the Guild of British Animation, which represents the interests of many of the UK's top animation houses. Many existing courses, it was felt, failed to equip students with either the right skills or level of experience for swift assimilation into useful roles in the workplace. In partnership with Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, funding was raised from the Central London Training Enterprise Council (FOCUS TEC) to provide quality animation training.

Animation is a universal medium capable of communicating concepts and narratives without spoken language. A popular art form in a global marketplace, it appeals to all cultures, inviting them to apply their own visual and storytelling traditions. A feature and strength of MA Character Animation is that it attracts applicants from a wide range of practices and cultural backgrounds. About a quarter of students come from the UK, a further quarter from within the EU, while half are from outside Europe representing a wide range of nationalities. It adds up to an exciting opportunity to learn about other cultures and to develop international networks. You'll be encouraged to investigate and apply a range of different visual and storytelling traditions to your own work.

Course outline

MA Character Animation aims to develop both creative and technical skills. Learning to animate is about much more than software. At the core of engaging and effective animation is an understanding of motion, characterisation and the portrayal of performance. Our hands-on, practical approach focuses on creating innovative animated characters that can move convincingly and perform with emotional and psychological nuance. The curriculum covers motion analysis and performance based animation, from the simplest bouncing ball techniques to movement in animals, acting in humans and the representation of speech.

Lectures and critiques deliver a programme of rigorous enquiry into key areas of the theory and context of character animation. Established links with the other courses in our School of Performance mean this postgraduate course offers an unparalleled application of performance methodologies to the practice of animation. Because animation is the representation of performance, the MA Character Animation course team strongly believes that all animators benefit from a study of movement and acting. As a result, MA Character Animation emphasises the analysis of characterisation through acting and the study of motion through drawing. Drawing is an important part of the course - animation classes are supported by life drawing workshops and drawing field trips. You'll also have workshops in relevant software techniques.

Throughout the postgraduate course you'll be expected to extend your present knowledge and understanding and apply them to new areas of professional practice. You'll keep a blog from the start of the course in which you document your work and reflect on your progress. Working as an animator demands professional skills - you'll be encouraged to develop your experience in problem solving, project management, planning, and communication while working both collaboratively and independently.

We encourage a networking environment through collaborative team projects, simulated work placements, group critiques, and an industry-based mentoring programme that gives you continuous external input. You'll also benefit from regular visits from practitioners in all aspects of production and live projects with external agencies. Our goal is to help you become a reflective, innovative practitioner able to locate yourself within the animation industry.

Unit 1 - Character and Movement Analysis (60 credits)

Unit 1 is an intensively taught period of 20 weeks designed to develop and extend your understanding of animation principles. Animation techniques are covered in depth and applied to traditional, pencil-drawn 2D and 3D digital techniques in a series of short exercises. The critical analysis of motion - including the articulation of movement, basic anatomy, timing, weight and effort - will be supported by contextual studies in life drawing, acting, and animation history and theory.

Throughout this unit we expect you to keep a blog in which you record your work in progress and reflect critically on your creative process. You'll also be encouraged to contextualise and present your ideas confidently in public via presentations, group 'crits', feedback from tutors and assessments. You'll be allocated a mentor to provide further insight into professional roles and conventions and to advise you on your development. The unit culminates in a simulated work placement in which you assist a second-year student on their final graduation film. All exercises for this unit are assessed in a final mark at the end of the unit. You'll get an idea of your progress through crits and assessments throughout the unit.

Unit 2 - Applied Character Animation (120 credits)

Unit 2 enables you to become a self sufficient, critical practitioner with clear career aspirations and the confidence to pursue your goals.

The Unit begins with a project based on a 'live' brief set by an external agency that prepares you to move from shorter animation exercises to developing your own style and individual area of specialisation in a short film. A second, collaborative project is based around working in a team. You'll then devise your own brief and develop a proposal by negotiation with teaching staff for a self-directed graduation film that you can complete as an individual or in a team.

Throughout this unit you'll be encouraged to contextualise and present your ideas confidently in public through project proposals, essays, reports, reflective blogging, pitching, presentations and group crits. We encourage a networking environment through a programme of visiting practitioners, screenings, discussions, collaborative projects and buddy groups. You'll be allocated a first-year student to assist you for two weeks on your graduation film. All the projects for this unit will be assessed in a final mark at the end of the unit. You'll be given an idea of your progress through crits and assessments throughout the unit.

Teaching staff and resources

Our MA Character Animation staff team consists of experienced professionals who continue to work as consultants and freelancers in the animation, multimedia and software industries. MA Character Animation also encourages a networking community by maintaining links with ex-students, many of whom are now in high-profile employment.

MA Character Animation benefits hugely from being in the heart of London, a thriving international centre for innovative design, the production of commercials, and post-production special effects. Advertising agencies and film companies come from all over the world to have creative work done here.


Acting Course Leader: Steve Roberts

Senior Lecturer:Steve Roberts

Associate Lecturer, Movement:Lydia Baksh
Associate Lecturer, Life Drawing: Dr Maryclare Foá


Based in London near the animation and post-production facilities of Soho, MA Character Animation has close links with the industry. Live projects with external agencies have included Cartoon Network, the National Theatre Archive, and the National Gallery.

Through lectures, demonstrations and workshops by working professionals, as well as through its successful mentor scheme, MA Character Animation maintains and values its links with the animation industry. We are committed to ensuring it remains commercially and artistically relevant in a volatile and fast-moving field.

MA Character Animation works closely with industry to ensure our graduates have the creativity, professionalism and specialist technical skills required for employment.

Short films created by MA Character Animation students have been nominated for prizes at:

  • Austin, Texas IFF Short Animation Award
  • BAF
  • Bitfilm Festival Germany
  • British Animation Awards
  • Cinanima Onda Curto Award, Portugal
  • CobraVision (ITV4)
  • Dervio International Animation Festival
  • Edinburgh IFF McLaren Award for British Animation
  • Festival Internazionale del Cinema d'Arte
  • Foyle Film Festival Animation Award
  • Junior Animator Award | MESH (Channel 4)
  • Microsoft Xbox Outstanding Student Award
  • Propeller TV Studentfest
  • Soho Rushes
  • Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival Audience Prize
  • Virgin Media Shorts People's Choice.

Over 80 per cent of our graduates find employment in the animation industry, in London and beyond. They work in Oscar-winning special effects teams on films such as Gladiator, Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter; acclaimed television series like Walking with Dinosaurs and Charlie and Lola; commercials; award-winning websites; TV graphics and games.

Our graduates are employed by companies like Aldis Animation, BBC, Studio AKA, Cartoon Network, Chase Animation Studios, Cinesite, Dreamworks, EA Games, Flush Draw, Framestore, HRA, Michael Dudok de Wit, the Mill, Moving Picture Company, Richard Purdum Productions, Passion Pictures, Pesky, Saatchi & Saatchi, Slinky Pictures, Tiger Aspect, Tandem, Twelve Foot Nine, Uli Meyer Studios, Unit 9.

For details of the wide range of careers support provided for students, please visit the Student Jobs And Careers section.

Entry requirements

Selection to MA Character Animation is determined by the quality of your application (including a personal statement and supporting material). You'll also need to meet the minimum entry requirements as indicated below, but please note that these qualifications alone won't be sufficient to secure entry to the course.
Minimum entry requirements

We consider applicants who have already achieved an educational level equivalent to an Honours degree. You can demonstrate this educational level by:

  • Having a relevant Honours degree or an equivalent academic qualification
  • Having a professional qualification recognised as equivalent to an Honours degree
  • Prior experiential learning, the outcome of which can be shown to be equivalent to formal qualifications otherwise required
  • A combination of formal qualifications and experiential learning that, taken together, can be shown to be equivalent to formal qualifications otherwise required.

English language requirement

All classes are conducted in English. If English is not your first language, we strongly recommend you send us an English language test score together with your application to prove your level of proficiency. If you have booked a test or are awaiting your results, please clearly indicate this on your application form. When you have received your test score, please send it to us immediately. The standard English language requirement for entry is IELTS 6.5 with a minimum of 5.5 in any one paper, or equivalent. For further information visit the Language Centre.
Applicants who will need a Tier 4 General Student Visa should check the External English Tests page which provides important information about UK Border Agency (UKBA) requirements.
What we look for

Typical MA Character Animation applicants, who have a mature and independent approach to their practice, are either:

  1. Visual artists or designers who've specialised in figurative work and who want to explore kinaesthetic and performance methodologies in a time-based medium. They should have good drawing skills and a well-formed aesthetic language and be able to demonstrate a body of work in which they've developed designs and ideas for characters. They're also expected to show the potential for applying their character designs to the animated form; OR
  2. Graduates of general animation courses who want to apply specialist movement psychology to animation of characters and to develop a performance-led approach to animation. These applicants may already have completed a body of animated work, but they're now looking to extend their understanding and application of concepts of character, performance and storytelling.

Student selection criteria

We normally interview all applicants to confirm the appropriateness of the postgraduate course to your needs and your potential to succeed on the course. Selection for interview is by submission of a link to a website containing your portfolio. The portfolio should consist of:

  • Work that includes a range of drawings indicating your interest in the observation and analysis of human and animal forms
  • Work that shows a perception of time (e.g. storyboards, character designs, figure studies in motion)

We select applicants using the following criteria:

  • The quality of the applicant's observation
  • Visualisation skills as evidenced in the portfolio
  • The commitment and potential to realise your objectives within the timeframe of the postgraduate course

How to apply

You can apply for this course using our online application form.

Before you apply, we recommend you take some time to read the following details about the application process, including guidance on the extra information we will ask you to provide.

Required information for all postgraduate course applications

You will need to enter the following information in the online application form:

  • Personal details (including full name; date of birth; nationality; permanent address and English language level)
  • Current and/or previous education and qualification details
  • Employment history
  • Referee details (this course requires two, one of which should be an academic or professional reference).

Before you can submit the form, you’ll also need to agree to the terms and conditions for how we process your data – these are explained in the form.

Extra information required for applications to this course

Once you have submitted the form, you will receive a confirmation email that includes links to where you should submit the extra information we require for the selection process:

Personal statement

You’ll need to submit a short statement about why you want to study MA Character Animation. This gives us a picture of your interests and your suitability for our course. It should be between about 800-1000 words.

Here are some tips for what you could include:

  • Why do you want to study MA Character Animation at Central Saint Martins?
  • What have you done before and what do you know already? What are you good at?
  • What do you want to learn on the course? How do you think it will help you to develop your work?
  • In the Second Year, you will be making a 5 minute graduation film. What kind of film do you think you would like to make? (We won’t hold you to this – you can change your mind later) 


You’ll be required to submit a digital portfolio showing up to 20 examples of your work.

In your portfolio we want to see your potential as a future character animator and examples of your visual language. We want to see that you can observe and draw from life, especially human beings and animals, and that you have some awareness of a time-based medium. You can demonstrate this through observational drawing, storyboards, character designs that show a variety of poses and facial expressions, production stills of animations or films you have completed.

Additionally, if you're interested in developing 3D animation work, we'd like to see evidence that you can think in three dimensions and have spatial awareness. This could take the form of architectural or technical drawings, designs for products, photographs of sculptures or stage design or work produced using a 3D computer programme. We also want to see that you have a basic knowledge of a 3D computer programme. This could be shown through digital prints.

Please remember - our course team is very well placed to spot work copied from books. It's our job to teach you animation so we don't expect you to have completed lots of animations, just to exhibit a demonstrable interest in animation. Graphic design, typography, interactive CDs, abstract paintings, rocket ships, aliens and writing don't give us what we need to judge your potential for character animation.

Please note, you can submit text and as many website links as you need to, but the portfolio form does not allow you to upload files.

If you're invited to interview it's a good idea to bring examples of current work (i.e. work completed since your application). The interview gives you the opportunity to demonstrate an objective, critical and reflective relationship to your work.

Start your application now

The application form can be saved as you fill it out, so you don’t need to complete it all at once. You will also have the chance to review all the information and make any necessary amendments before you submit the application form.

We will send you emails as you progress through the application process, so do check your inbox (and junk folder, just in case). These emails will contain important information about your application, and links to the online forms you should use to submit the extra information required.

What happens next?

We read and consider all application forms and personal references. Please note we give particular attention to your project proposal and references.

Subject to your meeting the entry requirements and consideration of your application form, preliminary selection is based on your project proposal and documentation of work and supporting information. You may then be invited to attend an interview. For candidates applying for external funding, interviews will be scheduled prior to funding body deadlines.

Can't attend the interview

If you're a home/EU or international applicant unable to attend for interview, the Course Director would hope to discuss your application by telephone.

In the case of applicants unable to attend for interview and unable to discuss their application by telephone, a decision regarding the offer of a place on the course will be made on the basis of a review of the application materials. We keep notes about decisions made following the initial application review and the interview process.

Selection is by two members of staff (normally the Course Leader and one other), and offers of places are made on the basis of our selection criteria. Applicants are informed of the decision via either the Student Administration or the International Office.

Open days

Open days are a great opportunity to meet staff and students and to find out at first hand about courses, teaching and student life. Bookings can only be made online, not by phone or email.


The deadline for receipt of Home/EU applications is 30 June 2017.

Frequently Asked Questions

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