Fourth CU Denver Animation Student Lands Coveted Pixar Internship
Junior Bianca Rawlings chose CU Denver for its top-ranked 3D Graphics & Animation program and has had her sites on Pixar’s Internship from day one of her studies.Megan Briggs | College of Arts & Media Jun 12, 2023
This year, College of Arts & Media (CAM) 3D Graphics & Animation student Bianca Rawlings will spend her summer completing the Pixar internship at the company’s San Francisco Bay area location. Rawlings represents the fourth CU Denver student since 2017 to be accepted into Pixar’s incredibly competitive Pixar Undergraduate Program (PUP), an accomplishment which speaks to the quality of CU Denver’s nationally ranked animation program.
“We are exceptionally proud of Bianca and her accomplishments and are confident she will represent CU Denver well!” says Senior Instructor and 3D Graphics & Animation Program Director Jeremy Brown.
CU Denver Is a Top-Ranked Animation School
Students often say they choose CU Denver specifically for its animation program, and Rawlings is no exception. CU Denver’s program was recently ranked number 11 in a list of the top 40 public schools for animation and the number one animation school in Colorado by Animation Career Review. Taking into consideration academic reputation, admission selectivity, employment data, the depth and breadth of the program faculty, the value as it relates to tuition and indebtedness, and graduation rate, the ranking represents a reputable valuation of the animation degree CU Denver offers. The animation ranking is among a few impressive accolades other Visual Arts programs offered in CAM have received.
Since 2017, three other CAM alumni have managed to break into Pixar’s orbit during their studies at CU Denver, such as alum Jasmine Cisneros ’21, who secured a position at Pixar after graduating. But Pixar is just one of many companies hiring animators. Two alumni, Sabrina de La Garza ‘21 and Mason Marshall ’21, landed positions at Moving Picture Company (MPC) in Canada shortly after graduating. Alum Hogan Metzler (‘21) interned at Pixar and then took a position at Industrial Light & Magic after graduation.
Other alumni apply the skills they learned in the Digital Animation Center (DAC) to animation roles in other industries, such as aerospace and gaming. The need for animators is only growing these days. The nature of the curriculum in the DAC lends itself to a lot of opportunities for student to add work to their demo reels, and faculty members expend a lot of effort to help graduating seniors identify the exceptional work they’ve done and compose a stand-out reel.
Rawlings has been interested in animation since before she started college. A junior, she is planning to graduate from CU Denver in spring 2024. But before she even started in the 3D Graphics & Animation program, Rawlings had her eye on PUP. She’s used her time wisely inside and outside her classes in the DAC. “Because of [the goal of being accepted to PUP], I spent all my time working to make sure my skills were growing up to par. This means that with every assignment I started, I started it with the mindset that it would end up on my demo reel,” Rawlings explains.
“Pixar's commitment to storytelling and its ability to evoke emotions through their films is inspiring, and being given an opportunity to experience invaluable mentorship and exposure in one of the most renowned animation studios is a dream come true,” says Rawlings.
Rawlings traveled to California to participate in the 12-week internship, which is focused on giving students training and hands-on experience in technical direction. The internship is classroom-based and engages interns in various tasks, including animation, lighting, modeling, rigging, and programming. PUP interns also attend weekly lectures and presentations by Pixar employees, participate in workshops and seminars, and network with other interns and professionals in the industry. As Brown explains, the program pays a stipend, provides housing assistance, and provides access to all Pixar employee events and amenities. Interns are paired up with and work alongside Pixar employees who serve as mentors during the program. Due to Pixar’s reputation as an industry-leading studio, PUP is highly competitive, and applicants are selected based on their academic performance, portfolio, and interview.
After coming home from California this summer, Rawlings will surely have some impressive things to add to her own demo reel. As far as the future goes, Rawlings says she will consider herself very fortunate if she can work up to the role of Technical Director in animation