I agree with Mike. I have used Max, Maya and Softimage XSI. I found XSI the easiest to use out of all 3 and was quick to pick up. Maya has (as Mike stated) one of the best workflows and UIs. Max however I found very hard to learn and I have a real anti to its UI. Its a great app, but its harder to learn than Maya.
Each apps Pros and Cons are endless. max has far more free support and tutorials available online. Maya is nearly there, but is still lacking in free bits and pieces. Maya has currently one of the best "out of the box" dynamics systems and with the new nucleus system and its latest and first addition nCloth.
For me Maya wins hands down, but I am bi-est
Autodesk did not originally create Maya or Max. Max used to belong to a company called Discreet and Maya belonged to a company called Alias (previously Alias|Wavefront). Discreet was taken over first (about 3 or 4 yrs if memory serves) and Maya has only been part of Autodesk for the last year, about 8 months or so.
Whatever app you choose good luck. Why not grab the trials and have a go at each
Chris (formerly R@nSiD)
When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will truely know peace - Jimmy Hendrix
Winner SM VFX Challenge 1
3rd Place SM SteamPunk Challenge (May 2007)