The art of motion
KCAI’s award-winning animation department provides students with a comprehensive education in the history and practice of animation. We encourage our students to think and act critically in accordance with their unique creative practices and goals.
Majors receive intensive instruction in traditional, experimental and digital animation methodologies but one solution is never prioritized over another. Instead, our approach is multi-tiered and grounded on the theory that self-directed creative exploration, supported and guided by experienced mentors, results in well-rounded animation artists who display excellence upon graduation. To that end, our curriculum is prioritized into a suite of sequential courses with built-in synergies that develop the essential skills and work habits necessary for mastery. Senior animation students are offered a six credit studio each semester in which to design, manage and fully produce an animated work. This year-long project prepares students to confidently enter the field with experience, professional practice and a representative portfolio/body of work.
The animation department features technologically integrated classrooms and studios utilizing Google Fiber. Students work in environments designed to facilitate inspiration and to provide a variety of essential creative tools within reach.
“One of the biggest bonuses to our animation department is the wide range of projects that are possible and encouraged...”Elizabeth Davis
Associate Professor and Chair of Animation
Doug Hudson has been making experimental music and film since the mid-80s, teaching since 2000. Most notably, he designed and founded the award-winning Animation department for the Kansas City Art Institute in 2004. Currently, he teaches full time and is Chair of Animation at KCAI.
His graduates work throughout the industry and have earned many honors and distinctions, including a Student Academy Award in 2010. Additionally, many have gone on to earn graduate degrees from top colleges, including Cal Arts, USC, and UCLA.
Hudson earned a M.F.A. in Experimental Animation from Cal Arts in 2000 (under the mentorship of Jules Engel, Suzan Pitt, William Moritz, Raimund Krumme, and Maureen Selwood) and a B.F.A. in Animation from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia in 1997 (under the mentorship of Sheila Sofian, David Fain, Lowell Boston, and Peter Rose). At Warner Brothers Online in Los Angeles (2000-2001), he was a member of the first team of animators to bring the iconic Looney Tunes characters to the internet via a series of original Flash-based webtoons as well as animating for the DC Comics series, Gotham Girls and Lobo.
Whether mentoring or making, Hudson is deeply committed to instilling and exalting the independent spirit of experimental creative practice. He is currently in production on a stop-motion film about a lost parade (starring over 1000 vintage and antique toys).
John Baker joined KCAI in 2010 and teaches interactive arts and animation. Previously, he was an animator with MK12, a Kansas City-based motion graphics firm, where he was responsible for generating concepts for clients from storyboards to final animation. He also worked as editor and data manager on national and international film and video productions. Baker was responsible for shooting footage, including short films, and he handled filming and processing green-screen footage, rotoscope work and various visual effects. Before that he was an animator with Video Post Productions in Kansas City, where he worked in 2-D and 3-D animation for national and international clients. He has worked on numerous production projects for many well-known national brands.
2019 Guggenheim Fellow Christiane Cegavske grew up among the dark firs and gnarly oaks of Oregon. The woodland environment left a permanent mark upon her creative work, in which her anthropomorphic creatures live out their dramas in natural settings. Cegavske’s work blurs the boundaries between fine art and animation and her gallery art supports and enhances her films, using dreamlike motifs in different mediums. Her finely crafted stop-motion animation is comparable only to a handful of creators in its expressiveness and artistic quality.
Her debut stop-motion feature, the award-winning Blood Tea and Red String (2006), is a dialogue-free film exploring love, greed, and loss among the creatures who struggle to possess a doll they all desire. It received excellent reviews in The New York Times and New York Post, as well as Variety, where it is described as “a David Lynchean fever dream on Beatrix Potter terrain.” A more recent July 2021 review in Fangoria called it, “so original and made with such clear passion that it almost takes you a moment to catch your breath.”
Cegavske is currently an Associate Professor of Animation at Kansas City Art Institute and is working on her second feature-length stop-motion animation, Seed in the Sand. The film explores survival in the midst of ecological and emotional collapse through the adventures of furry creatures, a masked woman, dancing dolls, and a vicious sea monster. She also has a growing body of paintings, sculpture, and installations including life-sized elements from her film.
Her career as an animator and sculptor for television and film includes work on projects for The Oxygen Network, VH1, the Disney Channel and Fox at Space Bass Films and Acme Filmworks in Los Angeles, on a variety of projects with Bent Image Lab in Portland, Oregon, and on animated dream sequences for Asia Argento’s film, The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things. More recently, in 2018 she worked as CG and stop-motion animator, life cast puppet maker, and creative and technical consultant for Benjamin Capps’ award-winning film CIVET. She designed and fabricated the puppet heads for Space Bass Films’ stop-motion animated sequence produced for NBC’s A Very Pentatonix Christmas in 2017.
Once you declare your major, animation students take the following core courses as they progress from sophomore to senior year. For additional electives and liberal arts courses, download the complete Course Catalog.
- Principles of Animation
- Digital Methods
- History of Animation
- Visual Communication
- Contemporary Animation History
- Explorations in Animation
- Ideas in Motion
- Senior Studio I
- Senior Studio II
- Professional Practice
Professional practice is a compulsory component of the KCAI program in which students benefit enormously from insights provided by world-renowned visiting artists, scholars and professionals.
Current software applications being used include Adobe Creative Suite, Cinema 4D, Dragonframe and Shotgun.
Recommended systems/tools: 15” MacBook Pro with retina display (minimum) or PC w/Intel Core 2 Duo or AMD Phenom II processor with Windows 8 or 8.1 and 64-bit support. Recommended add-ons: carrying case, min. 1TB external hard drive, mini display to VGA adapter and damage/theft insurance.
Jobs + Internships
Our graduates have gone on to work in many studios and production houses including: Disney, Warner Brothers, ShadowMachine, Titmouse, Stoopid Buddies, Digital Domain, Bill Plympton Studios, Hallmark, Bazillion and Nickelodeon. Additionally, many have gone on to pursue graduate studies at top colleges like Cal Arts, UCLA, SVA and UMKC.
Professional practice seminars are a compulsory part of the department and all three levels benefit from exposure and interaction with visiting artists and animation professionals who present lectures, demonstrations and engage with students one on one. The department has been honored to host many artists over the years including the following: John Canemaker, Suzan Pitt, Jorge Gutierrez, Sheila Sofian, Joanna Priestley, Phil Mulloy, Jeff Scher, Rob O’Neill, Laura Harrison, Nathan Fariss, Claudia Hart, Chris Sullivan, Corky Quakenbush, Bill Plympton, David Levy, Sarah De Gaudemar, Betsy Nofsinger
Student Academy Award, Multiple Emmys