School of Design and Production launches new graduate program in animatronics

The nationally recognized School of Design and Production (D&P) will launch a groundbreaking new graduate program in animatronics for fall 2021, Dean Michael J. Kelley has announced. Applications are being accepted online.

The three-year M.F.A. program promotes out-of-the-box thinking and problem-solving by exposing students to the processes needed to design, build and execute story-enhancing objects that encompass the frame, the skin and the brain.

“Animatronics exists in the magical space where science and technology meet art and design,” Kelley said. “Our graduate students will explore robotics, programming and mechanical engineering, but also hair and makeup and prosthetics integrated with costume, sound, scenic art, stage properties and automation.”


Previous prosthethics work at UNCSA.

The animatronics program is funded by a portion of an anonymous gift of $10 million announced in 2016. It is the university’s largest gift ever from an individual donor and was a lead gift in Powering Creativity: The Campaign for UNCSA, which concludes in June having already surpassed the initial goal by nearly $7 million.

Kelley said the UNCSA animatronics program is unique because it focuses on storytelling. “As an arts conservatory, storytelling is at the core of everything we do. Our animatronics program is grounded in the arts, in utilizing science and technology to tell compelling stories,” he said.

Courses including animatronics design, prototypical project management, 3D design and sculpting, figure design and engineering, and animatronics programming will be taught by D&P’s world-class faculty and guest artists who are industry experts.

Animatronic objects appear in blockbuster films like “Jaws,” “Jurassic Park” and “Aliens,” but animatronic artists will also find career opportunities in theme parks, cruise ships, live destination attractions, live projection, and entertainment shows and spectaculars like the Olympics and Super Bowl, Kelley said.

“We’ve built a graduate program that reflects our reputation for rigorous training and that will fill a specific need for the future of the arts and entertainment industry,” Kelley said. “Graduates of the UNCSA animatronics program will be in high demand.”

Additional information about the animatronics program is available online.

A stand-alone design and production conservatory dedicated to every aspect of modern stagecraft, the School of Design & Production delivers a profoundly creative, hands-on immersion in the behind-the-scenes magic of live theater, with undergraduate and graduate programs in costume design, costume technologylightingproduction and project managementscene designscene paintingscenic artscenic technology, sound designstage automationstage managementstage propertiestechnical direction, and wig and makeup design. Alumni have won or been nominated for major awards in the arts and entertainment industry, including the Emmy, Tony, Golden Globe, Critics’ Choice, Drama Desk, Lucille Lortel, and Helen Hayes awards. 

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February 16, 2021