John C. Hench with his drawings

Animation instruction at USC goes back to the Spring of 1933, when Cinema Chair Dr. Boris Morkovin lectured on Walt Disney cartoons and had Walt Disney himself to the campus to meet with students. In 1942 Disney animator and UPA co-founder Les Novros began teaching animation as part of a course entitled Filmic Expressions. Animation then was taught as elective classes of the larger cinema school. Over the years, adjunct instructors at USC included such legends as James Stuart Blackton, Ray Harryhausen, Art Clokey and Art Babbitt.

By the mid 1980s it was time for Animation to have it’s own major.The John C. Hench Division of Animation and Digital Arts was born with several film graphics courses taught by Professor Gene Coe. In 1985, Dr. Richard Weinberg, an accomplished software developer, was brought on board as a joint appointment with the School of Engineering to create the USC computer animation laboratory.

Together, Weinberg and Coe designed the original MFA in Film, Video, and Computer Animation Program. Vibeke Sorensen, the founding director of the CalArts Computer Animation Lab, joined the Division in 1994, and became the first Chair of the newly established Division from 1995-1999 before departing the division in 2004.

In the fall of 1997 and with help from Mr. John C. Hench, the school opened its newly remodeled Animation Studio and welcomed its newest faculty member and artist, Professor Christine Panushka, formerly of CalArts who chaired the division from 1999-2003. In the fall of 1998, two time Academy Award nominee and animator Ishu Patel joined the faculty, as did then visiting artist and Associate Professor and former Chair Kathy Smith.

Today the John C. Hench Division offers a BA and MFA in Animation and Digital Arts, as well as undergraduate Minors and is part of the inter-divisional Media Arts & Practice PhD iMAP.

Click Here for information regarding our Visiting Scholars program.

Historical Points

  • Professor Tom Sito is officially installed as the fifth Chair of the John C. Hench Division of Animation & Digital Arts! Welcome Tom!
  • Former Chair Professor Kathy Smith will be on sabbatical for 2015
  • Award winning Animation Artist/Director Peter Chung joins Hench-DADA to teach a Master class in Animation for Concept and Layout Design.
  • Spectacle: The Music Video‘ museum exhibition opens at the Museum of the Moving Image in New York featuring work by faculty Mike Patterson and Candace Reckinger.
  • The second ‘Rhythms + Visions / Expanded + Live‘ event featured performances by Quayola + Sinigaglia, Miwa Matreyek and Charles Lindsay and work by DADA students and faculty. The immersive event included live visual music performances, projection mapping, interactive installations and a gallery exhibit. Produced and directed by Mike Patterson and Candace Reckinger.
  • MFA Student Simón Wilches Castro’s film Semáforo was accepted into the 2013 Annecy International Animation Festival Graduate competition.
  • Performance artist and animator Kathy Rose performs at USC hosted and produced by Hench-DADA faculty Professor Sheila Sofian and Instructor of Cinema Practice faculty Lisa Mann.
  • Hench-DADA launches a new Minor in Science Visualization.
  • The 25th Annual Society for Animation Studies Redefining Animation is launched at School of Cinematic Arts and will be hosted by Hench-DADA at SCA June 23-27th 2013.
  • Hench-DADA Graduate student Amanda Tasse wins the Gold Student Academy Award in the Alternative Category for her thesis animation ‘The Reality Clock’.
  • Fellow graduates Juan Camilo Gonzalez (‘SiSiSISiSiSiSiSiSiSiSiSiSiSi’) and Tianran Duan (In Between the Shadows) are also nominated for their thesis animations in the same category assuring that three Hench-DADA animations are finalists in this one category alone.
  • Li Gang Visiting Artist and Professor from China takes up residency at Hench-DADA for 2012.
  • Mike Patterson and Candace Reckinger release the ‘Mr. Blue Sky’ music video for Jeff Lynne of ELO. Animation by DADA students and alums.
  • MFA Student Einar Baldvin’s film “Baboon” was accepted into the 2012 Annecy International Animation Festival Graduate competition.
  • Jeffrey Katzenberg, George Lucas and Stephen Spielberg dedicate the Marilyn and Jeffrey Katzenberg Center for Animation.
  • Visual Effects Supervisor Mike Fink joins the faculty as a Visiting Professor at SCA.
  • Iranian Animator Noureddin ZarrinKelk presents his animations to the USC and Los Angeles community hosted by Hench-DADA, SCA and the Farhang Foundation. Coordinated by IMD faculty Kurosh Valanejad and Instructor of Cinema Practice faculty Lisa Mann, introduced by Professor Christine Panushka.
  • PIKA PIKA Light animation workshop and exhibition is directed and created by Japanese artist/group TOCHKA at USC campus. The screening takes place at SCA curated and produced by Instructors of Cinema Practice faculty Lisa Mann, Shelly Wattenbarger (AKA Trixy Sweetvittles) and Research Associate Professor Richard Weinberg.
  • Colombian Avant-Garde Animation featuring artists and scholars Cecilia Traslaviña and Carlos Santa is hosted and exhibited during a screening and panel coordinated by Professor Sheila Sofian and Instructor of Cinema Practice faculty Lisa Mann. The exhibition also highlights the work of Hench-DADA graduate student Juan Camilo Gonzalez and panelist Dr. Christina Venegas, moderated by Dr. Janeann Dill.
  • Rhythms + Visions| Expanded + Live – a live visual music event with performances by DFuse and Scott Pagano. Installations, stereo projections and gallery exhibition of visual music work by faculty and students. Produced and directed by Professor Mike Patterson and Adjunct Faculty Candace Reckinger.
  • The first cohort of students from the fully fledged four year BA graduate from the John C. Hench Division of Animation & Digital Arts.
  • Mike Patterson is awarded Associate Professor position.
  • Tom Sito was elevated to full time Professor of Cinema Practice.
  • Visiting Scholar and Artist Birgitta Hosea takes up residency at Hench-DADA and exhibits her animation installation ‘Chatter’. Alberto Hermida Visiting Scholar from Spain also joins Hench-DADA for a research residency during Fall 2009- Spring 2010.
  • Mike Patterson and Candace Reckinger direct and produce an animated visualization for Pictures at an Exhibition in collaboration with Hench-DADA students and alumni for the Miami based New World Symphony Orchestra directed and conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas.
  • Maks Naporowski joins the faculty as Instructor of Cinema Practice.
  • Kathy Smith holds a solo exhibition of Slippages at Tamarind Art Gallery New York City New York Dec 14th 2010 – March 9th 2011.
  • Professor Sheila Sofian becomes Chair, Professor Kathy Smith takes her sabbatical.
  • Eric Hanson is awarded Associate Professor of Cinema Practice in Visual Effects at the Division of Animation & Digital Arts. Mike Patterson is awarded Visiting Associate Professor for 2009-2010 academic year at the Division.
  • Kathy Smith exhibits at Tamarind Art Gallery New York City with Ingots of Liquid Light group exhibition, curated by Hench-DADA alumna by Rupa Shah.
  • The new Cinematic Arts Complex housing five divisions in the school is completed and opens in January 2009, work continues on new Animation & Digital Arts Building.
  • The annual student show at the DGA Theatre sponsored by Adobe Systems Inc. is renamed “First Frame” and project managed by Instructor of Cinema Practice Lisa Mann.
  • The Division hosts “Animated Spaces | Animated Bodies” at the new School of Cinematic Arts Complex awarded by the USC Visions & Voices Fund and curated and directed by Instructor of Cinema Practice Lisa Mann.
  • Everett Lewis is tenured as Associate Professor in Animation and Digital Arts & Cinematic Arts Production and Lisa Mann becomes a full-time Instructor of Cinema Practice at Hench-DADA.
  • The Division graduates it’s first BA students in Animation & Digital Arts and establishes the international study abroad program with Studio Art Centers International, Italy.
  • The Division joins the Downtown Art Walk in Los Angeles and hosts a series of monthly screenings of student and faculty work at the USC Windows Gallery at the historic Chapman Building on Broadway.
  • Award winning artist and filmmaker Candace Reckinger joins the Adjunct Faculty and designs the new CTAN 555 Animation Design and Production class in collaboration with Mike Patterson.
  • The division is awarded a rolling Zumberge research grant for the Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies collaboration and hosts a weekend research symposium at the Catalina Island Institute funded by the research grant.
  • A new class in Stop Motion Animation and Puppet Design is taught by Adjunct Faculty Rachel Johnson.
  • Construction begins on the new Animation & Digital Arts Building.
  • Sheila Sofian is tenured as Associate Professor in Animation & Digital Arts and Trixy Sweetvittles becomes a full-time Instructor of Cinema Practice at Hench-DADA.
  • iMAP Interdivisional Media Arts and Practice PhD is established between Critical Studies, Interactive Media and Hench-DADA at the School of Cinematic Arts.
  • Adobe Systems Inc. endow First look Animation, renamed First Frame in 2009 for five years and the division hosts the Redefining Animation Symposium in collaboration with San Diego Museum of Art and UC San Diego Department of Fine Arts featuring international scholars Giannalberto Bendazzi and Jayne Pilling.
  • The first class in Motion Capture Performance CTAN 565L is created and taught in the division by Eric Furie with guest lecturer Robert Zemeckis. Another class CTAN 564L Motion Capture Fundamentals is added to the curriculum in 2008.
  • Award winning visual music artist and commercial film director Mike Patterson joins the adjunct faculty.
  • Hench Foundation endows the program in honor of John C. Hench. The Division is renamed “John C. Hench Division of Animation and Digital Arts”.
  • Several Hench-DADA students continue to have works exhibited in Hiroshima, Anima Mundi, Zahgreb, Annecy, and SIGGRAPH Electronic Theater.
  • New faculty member Sheila Sofian is recruited as Visiting Associate Professor.
  • Everett Lewis is also awarded Visiting Associate Professor and becomes a joint hire with Hench-DADA and Cinematic Arts Production.
  • An exchange scholarship with the Yunlin University of Taiwan is established and a series of workshops are taught by Production Supervisor Mar Elepano in Taiwan and the first ever animation workshop in Amman Jordan by Professor Kathy Smith and Adjunct Faculty Kristy Kang.
  • Hench-DADA faculty and students teach for Adobe Systems Inc. at the Reel Ideas Studio at the Cannes Film Festival, France in May 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009.
  • George Lucas endows the school for 175 million including an entirely new state of the art building. The school is renamed to “School of Cinematic Arts.”
  • Division celebrates ten years of animation and digital art with anniversary DVD and screening at DADA-First Look screening DGA cinema complex.
  • MFA and minor curriculum is updated and and a new BA in animation and digital arts is designed, created and approved.
  • The Division receives a 125th grant to host a science -art weekend at the Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies organized through Smith’s CTAN 524 Contemporary Topics in Animation & Digital Arts class.
  • “Bike-In Movies” is curated and produced by Lisa Mann and Newtown Arts celebrating the work of DADA students and faculty also supported through the 125th grants.
  • New adjunct faculty join the Division including Marcel ValcarceDariush DerakshaniLarissa Bank, RT Taylor,Will Weston and Daniel Robichaud.
  • Professor Vibeke Sorensen departs the Division and takes a position with Arizona State University, Professor Kathy Smith becomes Chair.
  • DADA and CNTV become part of the Partners by Design group with Adobe Systems, Inc., and Dr. Richard Weinberg is invited to be on the board.
  • Professor Christine Panushka takes her sabbatical, and Professor Vibeke Sorensen returns for one semester as Chair.
  • The Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies and Hench-DADA form a research collaboration through Professor Smith’s CTAN 524 class and do a weekend visit to the Catalina Institute funded in collaboration with Professor Tony Michaels Wrigley Institute Director.
  • DADA exhibits for the first time as part of First Look Annual Screening at the DGA Cinema Complex.
  • Kathy Smith is tenured as Associate Professor in Animation & Digital Arts.
  • “Horses on Mar” by Eric Anderson and “Indefinable Moods” are selected for the Sundance Film Festival.
  • A substantial number of DADA students begin to exhibit at major international animation festivals and win numerous awards.
  • Production Supervisor and adjunct faculty Mar Elepano wins a Fulbright Fellowship to Malaysia.
  • Kathy Smith is awarded a new position as Visiting Associate Professor.
  • “Values” by Van Phan (MFA “00) is selected as “Best Animation” at the Electronic Theater, for LA SIGGRAPH 2001.
  • “Indefinable Moods”, by animation faculty member Kathy Smith, is also exhibited as part of the SIGGRAPH 2001 N-Space art gallery.
  • Professor Ishu Patel resigns as tenured faculty to work on his independent feature in Canada.
  • Works from the Division of Animation & Digital Arts and the School of Cinema-Television are exhibited simultaneously at the Sydney International Film Festival and at the 8th International Animation Festival in Hiroshima.
  • DADA publication is produced to coincide with the exhibition and funded by the USC Bookstore.
  • Professor Christine Panushka becomes Chair.
  • Division publishes first set of postcards and digital sound postcards funded by the USC Bookstore.
  • Internationally acclaimed independent animator, animation historian and educator, Christine Panushka is tenured as Professor of Animation & Digital Arts.
  • National Film Board of Canada pioneer animator Ishu Patel, and Australian experimental film/installation artist Kathy Smith both join the faculty. 
  • Brad Abelson graduated with a student Emmy Award for his film “My Ding-A-Ling” and became a senior story artist for The Simpsons.
  • Christine Panushka is awarded a new position as Visiting Professor.
  • Leading Disney designer John C. Hench donates an entire animation drawing studio to the program.
  • The MFA program is expanded to 3 years and the curriculum re-designed.
  • Vibeke Sorensen becomes Program Director, establishes the Division of Animation and Digital Arts, and becomes its Chair person.
  • Dr. Weinberg together with Ms. Norico Mukai establishes the USC-TBS internship which is a cultural, academic and professional exchange program between the United States and Japan.
  • Walt Disney animator Tom Sito began teaching classical animation as an adjunct lecturer.
  • Digital artist, animator, and stereoscopic interactive moving image expert, Vibeke Sorensen, joins the MFA program.
  • Elizabeth Daley, Dean of the School of CNTV, establishes the Master of Fine Arts Program in Film, Video, and Computer Animation together with Gene Coe, Dr. Richard Weinberg (one of the SIGGRAPH pioneers), and Mark Harris (academy award winning documentary film director). It was a two year graduate degree program.
  • Gene Coe establishes the Film Graphics and Animation Program with the Film Department Chair, Bernie Cantor. He was to lead the program till 1993.
  • There were numerous bright young filmmakers to study under him, including Gary Rydstrom (now head of Skywalker Sound), John Knoll (one of the Photoshop authors), Everett Lewis (one of LA’s current leading independent filmmakers), Stephanie Barish (creative director and designer of the Shoah Foundation Interactive Project).
  • Student George Lucas completed his first film “Look at Life,” an animated film under the supervision of instructor Bill Melendez (A Charlie Brown Xmas). 
  • Herb Kosower teaches animation and film graphics at the film program, George Lucas, John Milius and Hal Barwood were among the few who were to study under him and create remarkable work.
  • Walt Disney animator Art Babbitt guest lectured on animation.
  • Slavko Vorkapitch (who created “The Life & Death of a Hollywood Extra” together with Robert Florey and Greg Toland in 1928) becomes the head of the film school, and he encourages students that would become the leaders of the avante garde film movement in Hollywood in the 50s (Gregory Markopolous & Curtis Harrington).
  • Disney animator and large format cinema (Imax) pioneer Lester Novros teaches the first animation class “Principles & Mechanics of Animation”.
  • Disney animator and large format filmmaker Les Novros began teaching his seminal course Filmic Expressions, about different ways to approach filmmaking, including animation.  George Lucas later credited this class with “opening my eyes to the potential of filmmaking”.
  • Nov 16, 1935, Dr. Boris Morkovin curates an exhibit at the Doheny Library of Walt Disney artwork. Walt Disney himself appears and interacts with students.
  • Dr. Boris Morkovin included into his film course lectures on the influence of Walt Disney cartoons in American theater. The earliest animation instruction in an academic setting.
  • USC President Rufus Von KleinSmid and Douglas Fairbanks Sr. discuss the possibilities of teaching film at the University of Southern California; “Introduction to the Photoplay,” the first film course was created. Later, USC was to become the first University to have a degree granting program in film. Irving Thalberg, Ernst Lubitsch, John Huston, DW Griffith, Walt Disney became guest lecturers and presenters.