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Model AME Pathways: Animation

Burbank High School Animation

Burbank High School is a diverse urban high school, located in northern Los Angeles in the heart of the entertainment industry. Jonelle Pickett is the Animation & Sculpture Instructor.

Pathway Courses: 

  • Introductory Course: Animation 1

  • Concentrator: Animation 2 (Advanced Animation)*

  • Capstone: Animation 3 (Entertainment Arts)

*Animation 2 is articulated with Glendale Community College for college credit for Art 201. Our district worked with area colleges with all our CTE classes as we were developing our pathways to create articulation agreements.

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Industry Partners

At our district level we have a CTE Advisory Board that is comprised of area studios and businesses that help inform our programs and experiences. This advisory board has guided our new classes, curriculum and technology purchases. In the BHS Animation program specifically, we work with several studios and artists that visit our classroom, and we work most closely with Nickelodeon. Our partnership with Nickelodeon started in 2012 with a few classroom speakers and visits to the studio, and grew each year to include workshops that target skills in the Animation Pipeline, and mentorships in CG, Animated Shorts and Series Development.

Industry Partner Engagement

Our industry partners visit our classroom to provide students with knowledge in industry skills and practice, tell their life story to demonstrate the different ways of entering the industry, and interact with our students to provide opportunities to practice communication skills and make connections. We enjoy guest speakers and artists from Nickelodeon, Dreamworks, Warner Bros and other area businesses, that discuss a variety of topics related to Animation, VFX and Game Design, and inspire student work


Nickelodeon works with our students in three mentorship tracks: Animated Shorts, CG Modeling and Series Development. Mentors are from all aspects of the pipeline, from production to writing and art directing. Additionally this year, we had a DEI coach critique our Series Development project as she would any studio project, providing students with very relevant feedback on how to approach culture and characters. Students are responsible for meeting mentor deadlines, preparing for meetings, presenting their work and enacting feedback. Most of the mentorship activities are in teams, which provides experience with the studio work environment. We celebrate these mentorship projects and our best animated shorts at our annual BHS BASh' in the Nickelodeon screening room. Additionally, Nickelodeon has supported us with equipment and furniture donations in our classroom and throughout the district, and with community opportunities, such as drawing along with Nickelodeon artists at the Burbank Pride event last fall. Just recently we received a resin printer, and students are printing their original CG characters. Past donations include cintiqs for our computer lab, furniture for our back studio, and funding/guidance for our sound studio equipment.

Work Based Learning

In Animation 1, students create work based on all aspects of the 2d Animation Pipeline. One of the most aligned projects is their Stop Motion Animation project that is developed in teams that function as mini studios. Students learn to lead in their roles, from storyboarding, animatic, art production and directing. These habits carry on to Animation 2 & 3 as they move into mentorship teams, and within our general class as students learn to support each other in a studio environment. Advanced students also create projects based on professional examples and techniques, such as animated shorts on Toon Boom Harmony, CG modeling in Blender, collaborative pieces with music composition and other campus groups, and marketing art for their own projects and our year end celebration. 


One of the strongest work-based-learning opportunities is our mentorship project with Nickelodeon. Of note is the Series Development, which really takes into account the range of skills that goes into an animation project. Students in that team need to include writers, artists, editors and managers. They are responsible for research, character design, show synopsis, episode overviews, scripts, world building and animation examples. They spend a majority of the time in discussions to really hone their ideas, and students tend to live and breathe this project at all hours. They learn to critique and compromise, and move forward together as a unit to develop a cohesive concept and style. Last year's team carried on with improving their pitch to present to studios, which shows the student investment and quality of the project and that it can lead to professional opportunities.

Student Success

Our alumni are employed at the majority of the local studios and entertainment businesses, but also have careers in business, management, murals, tattooing, fashion, stage production, etc. 


There are couple stories that are notable. One is of Jonathan Rodriguez, whose cartooning skills were noticed in my Animation 2 class by one of our guest speakers, and he ended up being in a custom internship to help him develop his portfolio and then moved into a full time job. It is best explained in this video:


Most recently, the first group of mentees from our Nickelodeon Animated Shorts mentorship graduated from college and moved into jobs at Disney Animation and Nickelodeon. This group carried forward their strong artistic skills, their community network to support each other, and their drive to pursue internships and jobs in the local Animation industry.


A success story from last year was one of our Senior Focus students, Ruslana Yakovenko. Ruslana immigrated from Ukraine and her family chose this area, which provided Ruslana with opportunities for four years in the BHS Animation program and other educational opportunities within our district. She was involved in a wide variety of artistic efforts, from being our Animation Ambassador, to the Nickelodeon Animated Shorts Mentorship (independently completing her animation during the pandemic), to marketing art and community art project at our school. She was honored with several awards for her animated short, and with the nationally competitive Hanna-Barbera Honorship, which provides an internship at Warner Brothers for four summers of her college experience. Her success demonstrates the impact of our educational community and industry partners efforts towards giving our Animation students strong experiences and connections that allow them to move into their dream pathways. Here is an article on Ruslana:

Pictures of our program can be found on IG @jp.bhscreatives and our animations are on Youtube @bhsanimation.

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