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



Due to the impact of COVID-19 the 2020 Princess Grace Awards program has been suspended for this year. We look forward to resuming our Awards program and celebrating excellence in emerging artists in theater, dance, and film in 2021. Should you have questions please contact Program Director, Diana Kemppainen.

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.


The Princess Grace Awards’ Stephen Hillenburg Animation Scholarship seeks to discover emerging animators and nurture their artistic pursuits throughout their careers. The Stephen Hillenburg Animation Scholarship is available to emerging animators; animators at the outset of their careers or early stages of professional development. Funding provides project specific support and filmmakers must be nominated by a non-profit school .

  • 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.
  • Nominating schools/universities must meet the following criteria:
    • Schools must be 501(c)(3) non-profit schools/universities.
    • Film programs should have a robust production component with the focus of class requirements on production vs. film theory.

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.


Stephen Hillenburg Animation Scholarship grants average between $15,000-$30,000. The grant is made in accordance with the student’s final animation project budget.

Should funding be awarded, acknowledgement of winning a Princess Grace Award, including the Princess Grace Awards logo, must appear in film credits/any related materials, and a copy of the completed film must be sent to the PGF-USA.


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.


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 film as well as the style or treatment in visual terms. Be sure to include a timeline for the project, including expected date of completion and 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 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 or story summary 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, 2020 which is the start of the grant period.
      • Your budget may include an artist stipend for yourself as the primary artist. PGF-USA allows up to 15% of your budget with a maximum of $3,000 for your artist fee. Should you have multiple roles on your project (editor, animator, etc) you can request more than $3,000 and you should provide a brief explanation.
      • 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 Princess Grace Foundation-USA.

Required from Nominator:

    • Nominator’s letter of recommendation : Please tell us why you consider this candidate to be 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.
    • Description of program offerings and course requirements
    • List of nominating department faculty
    • Copy of IRS determination letter certifying 501(c) (3) tax-exempt status


    • Submit 2-3 samples of completed animation. The total duration of all work samples may 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 also encouraged to submit a complete short animation as supplemental viewing material. Supplemental material can be a complete version of, or a different animation than your excerpted samples. Supplemental material does not count toward your 10 minute sample limit.
    • Submit only samples of work directed/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 via film their concept for the proposed project.
    • Please make sure the link submitted is live and accessible June 1, 2020 through July 31, 2020 to give the panel ample time to view the sample. We strongly recommended that live streaming links be secure and you must provide the Princess Grace Foundation-USA with passwords that are good through July 31, 2020. 


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, applicants may consider submitting works which are stylistically relevant to the proposed 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 work samples, and you may provide specific cue points in your description for the panel to use as 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, 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.

Have a question? Visit our FAQ

The nomination should be on behalf of the Film School's Dean/Dept. Chair or Media Art Center's Executive Director. However if there is someone on faculty or staff that can better speak to the filmmaker's work and artistic excellence, they may write the letter of recommendation.