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Top 15 Animation Schools in the South - 2014

Written by ACR StaffApril 17, 2014
Did you know... Each student at The Digital Animation & Visual Effects School (DAVE School at Universal Studios Orlando) learns how to work at a studio by spending 12 weeks as a Production Artist on a school-produced film. As a result, they have produced dozens of shorts in class. Their animated Star Wars fan film, The SOLO Adventures, won the Lucasfilm award at Star Wars Celebration V! You can see it and many more at www.DaveSchool.com.
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Our 2014 rankings of the top animation schools in the South.

We define the South as Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina, Kentucky, West Virginia, Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas.


For an explanation of our ranking criteria, click here



1. Savannah College of Art and Design, Savannah, Georgia
Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) offers the largest collection of art and design programs and specializations in the U.S. Options for aspiring animators include a BFA, MA, MFA and Minor in Animation, a BA, BFA, MA, MFA and Minor in Illustration, and BFA, MA, MFA and Minor in Film and Television. Listed among SCAD’s top five majors for fall 2011, the animation program offers access to ultramodern Mac and PC labs with Adobe Creative Suite, Maya, Motion Builder, Dragonframe, Houdini, NUKE, Massive, and more.

Established in 1978, SCAD has campuses in Savannah, Atlanta, and Hong Kong and a student body consisting of more than 11,000 students from all 50 states and 100 countries. Atlanta-based students have access to a real-world studio environment, an in-house theater, and a green screen lab at the SCAD Digital Media Center.

All students across all campuses have the opportunity to earn degree credit while studying abroad in exciting locales such as Australia, China, Dubai, France, Italy, Japan, and London. In addition, opportunities for SCAD students continue well after graduation. Around 91% of alumni respondents reported being employed, pursuing further education or both within nine months of graduation. 

22. Ringling College of Art and Design, Sarasota, Florida
Ringling College of Art and Design (RCAD) is home to North America’s #1 Computer Animation program (by 3D World Magazine). The school offers a wide variety of programs for aspiring animators including a BFA in Computer Animation, a BFA in Digital Filmmaking, a BFA in Illustration, and a BFA in Motion Design. Interested in starting your own business or production studio? Consider RCAD’s Minor in Business of Art & Design.

Established in 1931 by John Ringling—co-founder of the Ringling Bros. Circus, RCAD is home to 1,364 students from across the U.S. and 53 foreign countries. RCAD graduates have worked on some of the highest grossing films of the new millennium including 19 of the 25 top grossing films released in 2011 alone. RCAD has also produced famous alums such as Brandon Oldenburg who went on to become the co-founder of Moonbot Studios and won the 2012 Academy Award for Best Animated Short for The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore.

33. University of Central Florida, Orlando, Florida
The University of Central Florida (UCF) School of Visual Arts and Design (SVAD) offers a number of unique options for aspiring animators. Undergraduate programs include a BFA in Character Animation, a BFA in Experimental Animation, a BFA in Film, and a BA in Film – Cinema Studies. Master’s degree programs include an MFA in Emerging Media with a Digital Media or Studio Art and Computer Track, an MFA in Film – Entrepreneurial Digital Cinema, and an MA in Digital Media – Visual Language and Interactive Media. Minors include Digital Media and Film – Cinema Studies. Students interested in studying multiple areas of art to better prepare for entry into the multi-faceted animation industry have a number of Art BA concentrations to choose from as well. SVAD offers concentrations in Illustration, Drawing and Printmaking, and Type and Design.

Most SVAD classes are held at the Center for Emerging Media (CEM) in Downtown Orlando. The space houses the increasingly famous Florida Interactive Academy (FIEA), the Center for Research and Education in Arts, Technology, and Entertainment (CREATE), the Advanced Design Lab (ADLab), Flying Horse Press, Citylab Orlando, and Vicon Entertainment's House of Moves motion capture studio.

With a student population of 60,000, the University of Central Florida (UCF) is the nation’s second largest university. It is home to 12 colleges offering 212 degree programs to students from all 50 states and 145 countries. UCF sits on a 1,415-acre main campus and it has 9 regional campuses throughout Central Florida.

44. Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida
The College of Motion Picture Arts at Florida State University (FSU) offers several competitive programs for aspiring animators. Offerings include a BFA in Animation and Digital Arts, a BFA in Production, an MFA in Production, and Minor in Film Studies. Students and graduates of FSU’s College of Motion Picture Arts have won over 2,000 honors, awards, and prizes. Their works have been featured at both national and international competitions and festivals. The College also ranks high among the top film schools in the U.S.

Founded in 1851, Florida State University (FSU) is the largest and oldest school in the State University System of Florida. The school, which sits on 463.4-acre campus in downtown Tallahassee, is home to 40,000 students enrolled in 275 degree programs across 16 colleges.

5. Digital Animation & Visual Effects School (DAVE School), Orlando, Florida
The Digital Animation & Visual Effects School (DAVE School) offers a non-traditional Digital Animation and Visual Effects program that is career focused rather than degree focused. Located in a 35,000 square foot facility on the backlot of Universal Studios, the DAVE School program spans four terms or “blocks” that last three months each for a total of 1 year. During each block a single course is taught, which is equal to 300 clock hours and 12 Quarter Credit Hours of study.

According to the DAVE School, students in the Animation Block “will learn the techniques developed by Disney animators to bring characters to life.” However, students “will also learn subjects related to animation such as character rigging, soft body dynamics, and motion capture.” During this intense program, classes meet five hours a day, five days a week. Established in 2000, the DAVE School awards a Diploma in Digital Animation and Visual effects upon completion of the program. And although still young, the DAVE School already boasts a 75% graduate placement rate.

6. Memphis College of Art, Memphis Tennessee
Memphis College of Art (MCA) offers several highly desired programs for aspiring animators and animation students wishing to enhance their education. Offerings include a BFA in Digital Media with Concentrations in Animation and Digital Cinema, a BFA in Design Arts with Concentrations in Digital Media and Illustration, and a BFA in Fine Arts with a Concentration in Drawing. The school also offers as MFA in Studio Art with a Film component and many others that may be useful for aspiring animated filmmakers.

Founded in 1936, Memphis College of Art is a small, private art and design college and an accredited member of the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD).The school, which sits on a modern campus in 342-acre Overton Park, is home to a small student body of 400-450 artists from 25 states and 5 countries. MCA also has a Downtown Memphis campus, which hosts the Graduate studies program in an historic building in the hip South Main Arts District.

7. University of South Florida, Tampa, Florida
Established in 1956, the University of South Florida (USF) offers a BFA in Studio Art with a focus in Video, Animation and Digital Arts, and Drawing. USF also offers a Master of Fine Arts Degree (MFA) that allows students to study in multiple areas of art. Study experiences are on the menu as well through USF’s Paris Summer Art Program. Students may study in London, Venice Italy (The Venice Biennale), New York, and more.

USF is a major metropolitan university that sits on a 1,700+ acre main campus in Tampa. With additional campuses in St. Petersburg and Sarasota-Manatee, USF is home to more than 47,000 enrolled in over 230 degree programs across its three campuses.

8. North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina
North Carolina State University (NC State University) is home to one of the most popular art and design programs in the U.S. The school’s College of Design offers several programs for aspiring animators. Offerings include a BFA in Art + Design with a focus in Computer Imaging, Animation or Interactive Design, Digital Illustration, and Motion Graphics. The College also offers a Master of Art + Design (Animation) and an outstanding study abroad program that takes students places such as Prague and Ghana.

NC State University was established in 1887. The school has a population of more than 34,000 students from all 50 states and 119 foreign countries. The 21,075-acre main campus is located just minutes from Downtown Raleigh. The school, which is the largest four-year university in North Carolina, offers more than 300 undergraduate and graduate degree programs through 12 colleges and 65 departments.

9. Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Louisiana State University’s College of Art + Design-School of Art is home to several programs for aspiring animators. The School offers a BFA & MFA Studio Art with a Digital Art Concentration (MFA is new!), BFA in Studio Art with a Painting & Drawing Concentration, and a Minor in Painting & Drawing. Students interested in extending their studies beyond digital art and animation might consider LSU’s BA in Theater with a Film & TV Concentration.

Offered through the College of Music & Dramatic Arts-Department of Theater, this concentration is “one of the only programs in the country to include hands on courses in both production technology as well as acting for the camera and content creation,” according to LSU.

Established in 1853, Louisiana State University (LSU) is ranked in the first tier for “Best National Universities” by U.S. News & World Report and it is the “flagship university” of the State of Louisiana. The school, which sits on a 2,000+ acre campus just a few miles from Downtown Baton Rouge and 80 miles from New Orleans, is home to more than 29,000 students. LSU offers more than 200 major fields of study throughout 10 undergraduate colleges and schools, and the graduate school.

1010. East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina
East Carolina State University (ECU) is home to the College of Fine Arts and Design-School of Art and Design. The School houses ECU’s top-rated animation program and several other programs that may be beneficial to animators wishing to enhance their education. Offerings include a BFA in Art with a Concentration in Animation/Interactive Design, Illustration, or Painting & Drawing. The School also offers a BFA-Studio in Cinematic Arts and Media Production (CAMP) and an MFA in Art with Concentrations in Illustration and Painting & Drawing.

All ECU art students have the opportunity to attend workshops, present their work at conferences, visit galleries and museums around the country, and exhibit and publish their work.

Established in 1907, East Carolina University (ECU) is one of 17 universities in the North Carolina State University System. The school sits on a 1,400-acre campus and it is home to 26,887 students enrolled in more than 150 programs across more than a dozen colleges and schools.

11. University of Louisiana at Lafayette, Lafayette, Louisiana
The University of Louisiana at Lafayette, Department of Visual Arts offers a BFA in Computer Animation and Art and the College of Liberal Arts, Humanities Department offers a degree in Moving Image Arts. The Computer Animation and Art Program is housed in the school’s Visual Resource Center, where the Animation Production Studio occupies 1,200 square feet of space. Students have access to the studio 7 days a week. The Moving Image Arts program focuses on Animation, Film & Television, Interactive Media, and Video Games.

A BFA in Media Arts is also on the menu for students wishing to enhance their education. The BFA in Media Arts includes 7 day-a-week access to the Media Art Studio which occupies 1,900 square feet space. Other offerings include Minors in Cinema Studies, Visual Arts, and Mass Communication/Broadcasting. The Minor in Communication/Broadcasting includes coursework in filmmaking, producing, directing, editing, audio production, and digital media.

Established around 1898, the University of Louisiana at Lafayette sits on a large 1,500-acre campus. It is home to nearly 17,000 students enrolled in more than 120 undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral programs across dozens of colleges and departments.

12. Full Sail University, Winter Park, Florida
Full Sail University offers a variety of on-campus and online programs for aspiring animators. Options include a BS in Computer Animation, a BS in Digital Arts & Design, a BS Film, and a BS in Digital Cinematography. The school also offers an MFA Degree in Film Production with a Focus in Story Development & Preproduction, Film Production Techniques & Technology, and Marketing, Pitching, & Distribution.

Established in 1979, Full Sail University is a for-profit university that offers a total of 44 campus-based and online degree programs. The school sits on a 212-acre campus and it is home to 15,700 entertainment, art, and design students. The school has more than 110 elaborate studios & production environments including backlots, game & film facilities, production studios, dubbing stages, soundstages, art labs, a digital arts center, and more.

13. Southeastern Louisiana University, Hammond, Louisiana
Southeastern Louisiana University’s College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences houses one of the region’s top animation programs. The Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Art Program offers Concentrations in Digital Art – Animation, Film, and Digital Design and Studio Art--Drawing and Drawing & Painting. The Department of Fine and Performing Arts has an Art + Design Program as well that offers a BA in Art with Concentrations in New Media & Animation and Drawing. Minors in Graphic Design or Visual Arts are also on the menu.

Established in 1925 as Hammond Junior College, Southeastern Louisiana University sits on a 365-acre campus and it houses more than 15,000 students from across the U.S. and 42 nations. The school consists of 5 academic colleges and 18 departments offering 65 degree programs, 6 online programs (4 lead to a Certificate) and 260+ distance education courses. Southeastern Louisiana is a Member of the University of Louisiana System.

14. Digital Media Arts College, Boca Raton, Florida
Established in 2001, Digital Media Arts College (DMAC) is a private arts college located in South Florida that offers specialized Bachelor of Fine Arts Degrees and Bachelor of Science (BS), Associate of Science (AS), Master of Science (MS), and Master of Fine Arts (MFA) Degrees. DMAC also offers Professional Certificates.

Home to more than 350 students, DMAC sits on a 33,000+ square foot facility, which includes a 2,500 square-foot motion capture studio and illustration center with green screen studio and HD video cameras. Offerings for aspiring animators include a BFA in Computer Animation, a BFA in Computer Animation-Game Art Concentration, and an AS in Multimedia Design. The Multimedia Design AS is offered on-campus and online.

DMAC also has an outstanding Visual Effects Animation MFA. This advanced program specializes in Advanced 3-D Modeling, Motion Capture, Advanced 3-D Animation, Video and Audio Editing, Character Animation, and CG programming (MEL scripting). Professional Certificate options that might be interesting as well include a Certificate in Computer Generated (CG) Modeling, Drawing, and Motion Graphics.

DMACs degree programs are accredited by the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) and the school is licensed by the Commission for Independent Education.

15. The Art Institute of Tennessee, Nashville, Tennessee
The Art Institute of Tennessee-Nashville was established in 2006. It is a branch of the Art Institute of Atlanta and part of the larger Art Institute family of 40 educational institutions. The school, which offers 17 programs for aspiring animators, filmmakers, web designers, and more, consists of around 60,000 square feet of shared classroom, computer lab, library, and office space with Argosy University.

With a student population of less than 1,000, the Art Institute of Tennessee-Nashville offers small class sizes and easy access to production studios, labs, and faculty. Offerings for aspiring animators include a BFA in Media Arts & Animation, a BFA in Digital Filmmaking & Video Production, and an AA in Video Production.

Although Nashville is known as “Music City USA,” advertising, publishing, the performing arts, design, and other industries for artists are growing. Inspiring points of interest for artists include Frist Center for the Visual Arts, Tennessee Performing Arts Center, Schermerhorn Symphony Center, and Centennial Park.