Stephen Hillenburg Animation Scholarship


Animation OpportunityApplication ComponentsWork Sample Guidelines

Deadline: May 31, 2020 (11:59 pm PST) - DEADLINE PASSED

The next available grant period is September 1, 2020 - August 31, 2021. Applications will be available January 2020.


Images: renderings from Stephen Hillenburg's Princess Grace Award application circa 1991. © Stephen Hillenburg      

The Stephen Hillenburg Animation Scholarship is made possible through the generous endowment of Princess Grace Award winner Stephen Hillenburg and his wife Karen. Known for creating and producing “SpongeBob SquarePants,” Stephen Hillenburg received a Princess Grace Film Scholarship while a graduate film student in animation.

Stephen Hillenburg Animation Scholarship Opportunity

The Stephen Hillenburg Animation Scholarship will be awarded to support the final project of one student at the undergraduate or graduate level in the field of animation.  The grant is made in accordance with the student’s final animation project budget; no administrative charges, overhead or indirect costs incurred by the school may be charged against the grant. Should funding be awarded, acknowledgement of receiving a Princess Grace Award, including the Princess Grace Awards logo, and recognition as a Stephen Hillenburg Animation Scholarship recipient must appear in film credits/any related materials, and a copy of the completed film must be sent to the Foundation.

Review Criteria: The Stephen Hillenburg Animation Scholarship seeks to identify and support innovative, emerging animators who show outstanding artistic promise and a potential to have a lasting impact on the field of animation. PGF-USA is interested in identifying artists pushing at boundaries of animation, as well as expanding the potential of classic technologies, narrative structures and methods.  In evaluating applications, PGF-USA will consider the quality, originality and mastery of the subject and approach of the proposed animation project . Primary consideration will be given to the unique vision and talent of the artist.  

Am I Eligible to Apply?

  • Applicants must be U.S. citizens or have obtained permanent residency status.
  • Applicants must be nominated by the dean or department chair of the animation program.
  • Applicants must be a full-time student or matriculated but not yet have completed their final project.
  • Applicants must have completed at least one piece of animation as the primary creator.  
  • Applicants must be the creator of the director of the proposed project.
  • Open to select schools by invitation only. The nominating school must be a registered 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization for at least three years.

Schools invited to apply may nominate one undergraduate and one graduate student for a Stephen Hillenburg Animation Scholarship separately from (and in addition to) the Princess Grace Film Scholarship.

Application Components

Required from Nominee:

  • Complete online application
  • Resumé, including filmography or animation history. Please submit a standard resume. Not to exceed two pages; minimum font: 12pt; 1” margins.
  • Animation project description: Please provide a short synopsis/brief description of your animation project. The statement should include the format and duration (running time) of the project as well as the animation style, technique, or medium in visual terms. Be sure to include a timeline for the project, including expected date of completion and at what stage in the timeline the project currently stands. Not to exceed one page; minimum font: 12pt; 1” margins.
  • Brief artist statement: Please describe how this project fits into your short and long term artistic, personal, and career goals. Describe the individual approach that you bring to your art work. Not to exceed one page; minimum font: 12pt; 1” margins.
  • Script, story summary and/or structural intention of the proposed animation project. Be as specific as possible about the narrative, structure and visual treatment you are planning. Not to exceed one page; minimum font: 12pt; 1” margins. You have the option to also provide a scene by scene description and/or storyboard in your supplemental materials.
  • Budget of proposed animation project: All nominees must complete the online budget worksheet provided within the application. The budget is a key component of your application and represents your project in quantitative terms. It is important to the panel’s understanding of your project and you are best served by presenting a realistic and accurate budget. Incomplete or inaccurate budgets will be deemed ineligible.
    • PGF-USA funding may not be applied to expenses incurred prior to September 1, 2019 which is the start of the grant period.
    • PGF-USA funds may not be applied to creator’s or any other fees for the nominee.
    • PGF-USA may, at its discretion, choose not to fund any specific line item(s) in the budget. 
  • Work samples: Submit 2-3 samples of your work. Submitted materials become the property of the PGF-USA.

Required from Nominator:

  • Nominator’s letter of recommendation (Department Chair/Dean): Please tell us why you consider this candidate to be currently outstanding in their field and deserving of a Princess Grace Award, and how they have demonstrated their excellence and future potential as an outstanding artist. At the top of the letter, please include a brief description of the nomination process and a list of the participants in that process. Not to exceed two pages; minimum font 12pt; 1" margins.
  • Biography of nominator. Not to exceed one page, minimum font: 12pt, 1” margins.
  • List of nominating department faculty
  • Description of program offerings
  • Copy of IRS determination letter certifying 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status

Work Sample Guidelines

  • Submit 2-3 samples of completed animation. The total duration of all work samples amy not exceed 10 minutes. The panel will not view more than 10 minutes of required work samples and it is up to the applicant to edit their samples to fit within the 10 minute timeframe. 
  • In addition to the required work samples, nominees are encouraged to submit a complete short animation as supplemental viewing material. Supplemental material can be a complete version of or a different film than your excerpted samples. Supplemental material does not count toward your 10 minute sample limit. 
  • Submit only samples of work created by the nominated animation creator/director.
  • Panel will not view promotional videos, trailers, commercials or PSA’s. The panel also will not view conceptual videos wherein applicants explain their concept for the proposed project. 
  • Please make sure the links submitted are live and accessible June 1, 2019 through July 31, 2019 to give the panel ample time to view the samples. We strongly recommended that live streaming links be secure and you must provide the Princess Grace Foundation-USA with passwords that are valid through July 31, 2019. 

Tips for successful work samples:

Work samples are a significant component of your application and we urge you to use care in selecting the samples you submit.

  • Competitive applicants, in general, submit at least one continuous scene from their previous animated work(s).
  • Applicants should submit work samples that best represent their artistic/directorial style. If possible, applicantions may consider submitting works which are stylistically relevant to the proposed thesis project. 
  • If there are rough scenes of the proposed animation project available, include these clips in the application. Only include this material if the scenes are far enough along to accurately represent the project. Concisely and carefully describe their relevance.
  • The panel has limited time in which to view your work samples and may not be able to view the work in its entirety. It is helpful to keep that in mind when selecting samples and you may provide specific cue points in your description for the panel to use as a viewing reference. 
  • The panel views all work samples on a single channel screen with 16:9 aspect ratio. If your sample work was originally created to be viewed in a different format (i.e., multi-channel installation, VR, etc.) please use the field below to describe how the work was originally viewed and is intended to be shown. This will allow the panel to envision the work as it is intended to be seen. 
    • Note for VR applicants: we use VR Box as our playing device. We accept MP4, MKV or other commonly compatible container formats. You can include a short paragraph of specific technology you used (such as sound etc.) if applied.


2020 Applications will be available in January 2020


Visit our FAQ page

** NOTE FOR UNIVERSITY STAFF: Princess Grace Foundation-USA understands that university staff will often fill out forms for their nominee. Please start your nominee’s application using their email address and full name to create an account. DO NOT USE the login credentials used last year for this year’s applicant’s form or create a new nominee application using your email address. If you are nominating more than one person for different categories, please be sure to create a new user login for each applicant with their respective email addresses. You should login with your email address only for the nominator form.