Maya Personal Learning Edition
Autodesk must be selling enough of those high-priced programs to feel good about giving away free copies of Maya Personal Learning Edition. It doesn't include all the goodies found in the high end programs. It lacks the speed with which the other programs render their complicated images and the newest innovations, including the latest shaders and skin editors. But you get the rigging and animation technology that let characters move with both soft and rigid body dynamics, Maya paint effects, a complete particle system, toon shading, and four renderers. There is no tech support, but there oodles of documentation, demonstrations, and online discussion groups.
Note: This download takes you to the developer site where you will be required to register to obtain the product.