Animation Education

The international market for animated films is in rapid growth, and Danish animation is making a strong showing. Films in every format are produced, they are distributed internationally, and many are screened at international festivals.

The positive trend comes largely thanks to a talent-mass of skilled directors, animators and layout artists. FILM introduces Denmark’s two programmes in animation education – one for directors and one for animators.

"The National Film School trains artists with a strong sense of craft, while the Animation Workshop trains craftsmen with a strong sense of art". Morten Thorning, the Animation Workshop

"The National Film School trains artists with a strong sense of craft, while the Animation Workshop trains craftsmen with a strong sense of art". Morten Thorning, the Animation Workshop


Gunnar Wille devised the structure and content of the National Film School’s animation-directing programme, recognising that directing and animating are two distinct practices. He has headed the animation programme since its inception in 1992.


For further information about the animation programmes at the National Film School of Denmark, see, and for the Animation Workshop, see

The four-and-a-half-year programme trains students to be animation directors in film, TV and computer productions at the highest level. Getting to know every production link in the animation process, students learn the elements of animated filmmaking, including script development, dramaturgy, character design, drawing and computer animation. It all comes together, Wille says, to make them The director has artistic oversight and has to be able to merge a team embracing the efforts of many different specialised people–animators, graphic designers, sound engineers, etc. – into an artistic whole,” he says.

The animation world has undergone momentous changes since 1992, and the programme has continually adapted by implementing new technologies and work processes. As early as 1997, computers became the basic tool at the school. Consequently, computer skills became a requirement for admission.

“It completely changed the field of applicants and, in turn, the programme itself. The new applicants brought in a whole new set of qualifications. They were less traditional and more revolutionary and later gained a big foothold in the business,” Wille says, mentioning Anders Morgenthaler and Martin de Thurah who were among the first students admitted under the new requirements.

Around 2003, digital and interactive media were folded into the National Film School’s animation programme in a partnership with the newly founded DADIU (the Danish Academy of Digital Interactive Entertainment). Students now train to be both animation directors and video-game directors.

“Our directing graduates are well equipped to work in the new media world where films, video games and interactive media routinely fuse into new configurations,” Wille says.


Headed by Morten Thorning since 1998, the Animation Workshop in Viborg has grown from a job-training programme for young people intoan internationally respected school for animators and an artistic melting pot for international animation professionals.

As general director, Thorning has built up a national and global network of film studios, industry organisations, EU offices and government and municipal entities. In 2003, the Animation Workshop’s teaching activities were nationalised, and the school was accredited to offer a Bachelor of Arts in Character Animation (BAC).

“The strength of character animation lies in its amazing ability to create empathy and sympathy,” Thorning says. “You can craft a very pure statement, leaving out everything else other than the exact thing you want to say.” His ambition is to continually keep the Animation Workshop slightly ahead of the beat when it comes to designing animated characters and developing animation concepts.The baccalaureate programme, which takes three and a half years to complete, admits 25 students every year in two subprogrammes, Character Animators and Computer Graphics Arts. Thorning defines the character animator as the animation director’s digital actor and the computer graphics artist as the digital set designer who develops everything you see, including atmospheres. “Though the two subprogrammes have several areas of work in common, we have to specialise our programme’s different disciplines to attain a sufficiently high level,” he says.

The Animation Workshopearly on adopted an international development perspective, and the bachelor programme today counts some of the world’s top animators among its faculty. “The programme is based on bringing in guest instructors from the industry, who are in touch with what’s going on, to teach shorter courses,” Thorning says. “That way, we develop talents to function in an international animation market. Moreover, students view the guest instructors as potential future coworkers, which helps keep them on their toes.”

The Bachelor of Arts in Character Animation is the biggest of the Animation Workshop’s seven departments. Its many other activities includes open workshops for professionals and recent alumni looking to meet and develop new projects, as well as a wide selection of classes and master classes for professionals featuring international instructors in the latest knowledge and technology.


“The National Film School trains artists with a strong sense of craft, while the Animation Workshop trains craftsmen with a strong sense of art,” Thorning says, nailing the basic difference between the two schools.

Animation directors and animators collaborate over the course of their training, particularly on film school students’ graduation films. Cooperation is intrinsic to bothprogrammes and a main reason why the programmes have been able to focus so strongly on their respective specialties, animation direction and character animation. The constructive competitive spirit between the two institutions ensures that each is able to match the other’s high artistic standards.