With a booming film and entertainment industry and hundreds of animation, game and VFX studios, Canada has become one of the world’s top places to earn an animation degree. Head to Toronto (Canada’s largest city), where you’ll find “The Harvard of Animation Colleges,” Canada’s largest art school, and North America’s premiere “career” animation school. You will also find numerous art and film schools that offer some of the world’s most competitive degree programs for animators.
In Montreal, Canada’s second largest city and the second-largest primarily French-speaking city in the world (after Paris), there are so many prestigious art and design schools, you’ll lose count. Among them are the country’s largest university-based center for the study of film animation, film production and film studies, and an international school of Video Game and Animation with additional campuses in Paris and Tokyo.
And then there’s Vancouver.
This trendy seaport city is home to a variety of prominent film and animation schools that provide students with unique opportunities to earn a recognized Diploma in just one year. Other major cities such as Ottawa, Edmonton, and Mississauga also have their fair share of first-rate animation school options that can prepare students to succeed in Canada’s competitive film and animation industries, and around the world.
Because Canada has so many animation school options, we don’t have room to list them all here. What we can do is tell you about some of the country’s most talked about animation programs, beginning with Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. Here you go.
Sheridan College, Brampton, ON, Canada
Known as “The Harvard of Animation Colleges,” Sheridan College is located in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), with campuses in Brampton, Mississauga, and Oakville, ON, Canada. Founded in 1967, the school has grown from 400 students to more than 23,000 full-time and 18,500 continuing and part-time students enrolled in 120 programs across five faculties. Canada’s largest art school, Sheridan College trains performers, animators, filmmakers, designers and artists of all kinds.
Programs for aspiring animators include a four-year Bachelor of Animation, as well as three post-graduate programs in Computer Animation, Visual Effects, and Character Animation. The school also offers a Bachelor of Illustration and a Bachelor of Interaction Design. Animation students will have opportunities to work in the Sheridan Centre for Animation and Emerging Technologies (SCAET), where they will “advance in their ability to create memorable characters/creatures, from script to storyboard to modelling and advanced rigging, all the way through to post-production.”
Besides animation, graduates are prepared to enter a range of fields including Medical Illustration, Illustration, Marketing/Product Illustration, and Web Design.
Sheridan College has been teaching animation since 1971. It was the first school in Ontario to earn NASAD (National Association of Schools of Art and Design) accreditation. The school has produced Oscar nominees and winners who have worked on popular animated films for major studios such as Pixar, DreamWorks, and Disney.
Maxx the Mutt College of Animation, Art & Design, Toronto, ON, Canada
Established in 1996, Maxx the Mutt College of Animation, Art & Design is Canada’s premiere career animation school. Per the school, “we believe in giving our students a solid, well rounded education, and the encouragement to help them develop as artists.” However, “the development of good work habits is (also) important in preparing for a successful career in animation, concept design, advertising, graphic design, art direction, comic books, or graphic novels.”
Maxx the Mutt offers an Animation Diploma, a Concept Art Diploma, an Illustration & Storytelling for Sequential Arts Diploma, and Arts and Computer Workshops. The four-year Animation Diploma highlights both classical and digital animation courses, in-depth drawing classes, cartooning, acting for animation, character design, background painting/design, and a sequence of visual language, storytelling and storyboarding courses. The Concept Art Diploma is also a four-year program that includes “a mix of fine art, illustration, animation, and cartooning courses, as well as concept courses and instruction in all necessary computer software from Photoshop to Maya.”
The enhanced four-year Illustration & Storytelling for Sequential Arts Diploma “gives students a broader, updated skill base that includes 21st century skills using digital media, creating mobile comics, knowledge of the entire Adobe Suite, essential graphic design and illustration for advertising skills, storyboarding for film and advertising.” A fourth-year two-semester graphic novel development course “will leave each graduate with a package that can be pitched to publishers.”
Maxx the Mutt College of Animation, Art & Design is a Registered Career College that “assists employers on a regular basis by connecting them with qualified students.” As such, “Max the Mutt graduates are employed and in-demand.”
Toronto Film School, Toronto, ON, Canada
Established in 2001, Toronto Film School (TFS) at RCC Institute of Technology (RCCIT) is one of Canada’s top film schools. The school offers degrees in Film Production, Video Game Design & Development, Graphic Design & Interactive Media, and Video Game Design & Animation, among others. The Video Game Design & Animation program is just 18 months and explores the entire 2D and 3D game design process. Students will also learn how to create artwork and animations, compose audio effects and music, and develop production and business plans. Sample courses include Digital Drawing, Game Animation, Texturing, Character Modeling, Concept Design, Lighting & Rendering, and Interface Design. The final term includes a Team Production Project and the finalization of student portfolios.
Toronto Film School is a private entertainment arts school whose programs are approved under the Private Career Colleges Act, 2005.
Seneca College – School of Creative Arts & Animation, Toronto, ON, Canada
Established in 1967, Seneca College serves 20,855 students across 10 campuses in the City of Toronto and York Region, including locations in North Toronto, Markham, King City, and at York University. The school provides more than 146 full-time programs and 135 part-time programs, including 19 Ontario College Certificates, 59 Ontario College Diplomas, 29 Ontario College Advanced Diplomas, 27 Ontario College Graduate Certificates, and 11 Bachelor’s Degrees. Programs for animators include an eight-month 3D Animation Graduate Certificate, a three-year Advanced Diploma in Animation, and an eight-month Game Art and Animation Graduate Certificate.
The 3D Animation Graduate Certificate allows students to specialize in 3D Computer-Based Modeling and Animation. Students will learn to create animations using Maya, Nuke, Mental Ray and the Arnold Renderer. Graduates of the program are “in high demand,” says the school, and are routinely hired in the areas of film, entertainment, television, gaming, forensics, interior design and industrial design. Just a few career opportunities include Digital Animator, Modeler, Character Rigger, and 3D Painting/Texturing and Lighting Specialist.
The Advanced Diploma in Animation highlights core drawing development, character and location design, storyboarding, acting, timing, animation, lighting, compositing, editing and rendering. Upon graduation, students will have the skills needed to produce animation for the web, television, games or film.
Students in the Game Art and Animation Graduate Certificate program will “learn the skills to develop game art including techniques such as modeling, animation, texturing and game engine integration using the latest high-end computer hardware and software.” The program focuses on learning the tools to develop “amazing game art and to incorporate that art into real-time environments using 3D Studio Max, Zbrush, Unreal Engine and other game development tools.”
Graduates go on to become Animators, Modelers, Texture Artists, Level Builders and Level Designers in game studios developing console, computer, web and interactive games.
Seneca College is affiliated with the Canadian Bureau of International Education, Colleges of Ontario, Polytechnics Canada, the Association of Community Colleges of Canada, Toronto Animation Arts Festival International (TAAFI), ACM SIGGRAPH, Computer Animation Studios Ontario (CASO), and Toon Boom Centre of Excellence.
OCAD University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Founded 1876, OCAD University was established by the Ontario Society of Arts. Formerly known as the Ontario College of Art and Design, OCAD U serves around 4,600 students from over 50 countries. The school has 17 undergraduate and seven graduate programs ranging from Advertising and Graphic Design to Illustration and Sculpture/Installation.
OCAD U offers several unique programs for animators. Options include bachelor’s degrees in Drawing & Painting: Digital Painting and Expanded Animation (Drawing & Painting: DPXA) and Integrated Media: Digital Painting and Expanded Animation (Integrated Media: DPXA). Students in both programs will develop visual language and conceptual skills as independent artists or professional animators. They will explore experimental and expanded practices in animation and digital media: 2D/3D animation, stop-motion, digital painting and installation.
Per the school, both majors require many of the same courses, but different degree requirements mean that Drawing & Painting students focus more on digital painting while Integrated Media majors take more time-based media. All DPXA students will graduate with a background in traditional and digital animation such as 3D modeling, texturing and rendering and digital painting and compositing.
OCAD U is officially accredited and/or recognized by the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development, Ontario.
Concordia University, Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema, Montreal, QC, Canada
Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema at Concordia University is “where future filmmakers, animators and scholars discover the history, tradition, artistic and cultural potential of film and moving image media.” Renamed Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema (MHSoC) in 1997, the school was established as the Department of Cinema within Concordia University’s Faculty of Fine Arts in 1976. It is the largest university-based center for the study of film animation, film production and film studies in Canada, admitting 250 students to undergraduate and graduate programs each year. Concordia currently serves more than 45,000 students across two campuses—Sir George Williams and Loyola in Montreal.
Animation program options include a BFA and a Minor in Film Animation. The BFA is a 90-120 credit program that takes a minimum of four years to complete. The Minor is a 60 credit hour program. Courses for both programs are taught by Oscar-winning/Oscar-nominated faculty, and instructors who have won hundreds of prestigious awards. The programs, which emphasize experimentation with a variety of techniques and materials, highlight “intensive training in a diverse range of traditional and digital animation techniques, including,” Classical Animation, Puppet Animation, 3D Digital Animation, Direct Animation, Experimental Animation, Animated Documentary, Animated Installation, and Sound Design & Music Composition.
Sample courses for the program include Analytical Drawing and Design for Animated Filmmaking, From Idea to Storyboard, 3D Digital Animated Filmmaking, Sound for Animated Film, and Traditional Stop-motion Animation.
According to MHSoC, “this rigorous approach to classical and digital animation processes emphasizes cross-pollination experimentation, and an independent spirit, making the Film Animation program one of the most versatile training programs in its field.” Students will “graduate with the knowledge and discipline to think critically about your work, and your experience working independently on all aspects of film animation production will set you up for successful collaboration with others in the industry.”
Graduates have gone on to “become some of the world’s leading independent animation filmmakers. Many work with the National Film Board of Canada or with animation studios and visual effects companies around the world.”
Dawson College, Montreal, QC, Canada
Founded in 1968, Dawson College received its charter to become the first English-language CEGEP (Collège d'enseignement général et professionnel - General and Vocational College) in the Quebec network. In September 1969, the College and its 111 teachers welcomed the first incoming class of 1,655 students. Today, Dawson College has a student population of 10,000 with 600 teachers and 400 non-teaching staff.
The school offers a new three-year 3D Animation and Computer Generated Imagery Diploma of College Studies (DEC) that is the first program of its kind to be offered in English in Quebec. According to the school, this “innovative” program will teach students to “apply the academic, technical and general education skills necessary to enter the workforce as a 3D computer graphic artist as part of a production team in the animation industry.”
Throughout the program, students will learn how to analyze the characteristics and requirements of a project, produce a prototype or layout of the animation, model characters, props and the environment, apply textures and colors to the models, and add lighting to scenes. They will also animate the characters and incorporate other graphic elements to render the final versions of scenes and characters, produce digital visual effects and compositing, and work with motion capture data.
Graduates of the program have landed positions at major studios and companies around the world as Animators, Modelers, Texture Artists, Lighting and Visual Effects Specialists, and more. Just a few companies that have hired Dawson graduates include WB Games, Ubisoft, L’Atelier Animation, MPC, Mikros Animation, Game On, Mokko, and Image Engine.
Ecole Pivaut, Montreal, QC, Canada
Founded in 1985, Ecole Pivaut is an art and design school with two campuses—Montreal and Nantes, QC, Canada. When the school opened its doors, it offered three degrees: Advertising, Industrial Design, and Decorative Painting. Today, the school also offers Applied Arts, Narrative Drawing, Illustration, Comics, Concept Art, Graphic Motion Design, and 2D and 3D Animation.
2D Animation students study traditional animation, paper cut, 2D, Digital, Puppets, and other styles. 3D students will master the main 3D software and many areas of 2D Animation by taking classes such as Modeling, Rendering, Texturing, and Rigging using Maya, Pixar Renderman, Arnold Render, Nuke, and Photoshop to create screen-ready animations. Both lead to a Bachelor’s degree.
Students in both programs have the opportunity to create projects on campus, 24 hours a day seven days a week. Per the school, the “ultra-modern” round-the-clock 2D facilities include two computer rooms. Second year students have access to one room, which includes 20 traditional animation tables, six digital line-tests, and one digital classroom equipped with 20 workstations with Cintiq Wacom, last generation professional software, Beamer and optical fiber. The second room for third year students is equipped with 30 workstations and 30 Cintiq Wacom, Adobe, ToonBoom, a beamer and a 150 cm TV, and optical fiber.
3D animation facilities include two computer rooms, with 16 workstations with double screen and Wacom Pro M tablets each. Workstations are equipped with last generation professional software and optical fiber.
Both three-year programs highlight small classes (just 15 students per class), qualified teachers who are working animators, artistic directors, rendering specialists, and scriptwriters, among others, and a final project that will be “viewed by a professionals’ jury external to the school, composed of games publishers, 3D animation studios, FX studios, etc.” Graduates of the 2D and 3D Animation programs will receive a Bachelor’s degree. Many will go on to become Traditional 2D Animators, Digital 2D Animators, Art Directors, Directors, Storyboarders, Layout Artists and Background Designers, Character Designers, and Colorists.
ISART Digital, Montreal, QC, Canada
ISART Digital is an international school of Video Game and Animation 3D-FX. Based in Montreal and Paris, with a partnership in Tokyo, ISART is known for its “innovative pedagogy that combines theoretical classes and professional immersions” in a studio environment. Options for aspiring animators include three-year Bachelor’s degrees in Cinema 3D Animation and Cinema FX-3D, as well as a 3D Animation Master’s degree.
Sample courses include Interactive Storytelling, Animation, 3D Modeling, Compositing, Visual Development, Acting, Character Design, 2D Design, and 3D Animation. Students will have the opportunity to complete three projects and an internship with one of more than 500 partner companies. Just a few include Ubisoft, EPIC Games, Cube, Digital District, GameLoft, Studio 100 and Illumination.
Emily Carr University of Art and Design, Vancouver, BC, Canada
Established in 1925, Emily Carr University of Art and Design is one of the oldest post-secondary institutions in British Columbia (BC) and the only one dedicated solely to professional education and learning in arts, media and design. The school offers 12 degrees, and year-round certificates, programs, and classes to more than 3,700 students. Undergraduate degree options include Bachelor of Design, Bachelor of Fine Arts and Bachelor of Media Arts. Graduate options include Master of Fine Arts, Master of Design, and Master of Digital Media.
The Bachelor of Media Arts (BMA) has two options for animators—2D & Experimental Animation and 3D Computer Animation. 2D & Experimental Animation students study animation principles, design, character development, story and production techniques, while 3D Computer Animation students will gain a comprehensive understanding and in-depth expertise in 3D animation and digital media through a 3D animation curriculum that offers “experiences beyond learning about animation techniques and methodology.”
Students in this 120 credit hour program will have the opportunity to “experiment with novel mediums in digital media through faculty research projects, international collaboration projects with partner institutes, video game development projects, and experimentation with emerging technologies such as virtual reality and augmented reality.” This hands-on animation production experience prepares students “for life after school, whether as commercial artists or independent filmmakers.”
Students in the 129 credit BMA 2D & Experimental Animation program will create two major film projects in the 3rd and 4th years of the program,” both of which come from their own directorial vision and efforts.” Per the school, “this model of education experience is unique in Canada, and prepares individuals for employment in various animation, visual effects, and cultural industries.”
Emily Carr graduates have been recruited by Walt Disney Animation Studios, Industrial Light & Magic, Rainmaker Studios, Stargate Studios, Moving Picture Company, Imagine Engine Atomic Cartoons, Bardel Entertainment, and many others. Job titles include 3D Character Animator, Stop-motion Animator, 3D Layout Artist, Concept Artist, Compositor, Rigger, Flash Animator, Lighting Artist, Texture Artist, and 3D Modeler, to name a few.
Emily Carr University of Art and Design is accredited and/or recognized by the Ministry of Advanced Education, British Columbia.
Vancouver Film School, Vancouver, BC, Canada
Established in 1987 with just 12 Film Production students, Vancouver Film School (VFS) offers 13 post-secondary diploma programs in Acting, Animation, Film and TV Production, Screenwriting, Programming, Makeup, Sound, and Interactive or Game Design to more than 1,000 across eight campuses. Options for aspiring animators include 3D Animation + Visual Effects, Animation Concept Art, and Classical Animation.
The 3D Animation + Visual Effects program offers three specializations: 3D Animation, Modeling, and Visual Effects. Sample courses for all specializations include Design, Lighting, Modeling, Surfacing, Animation Visual Effects, Previsualization, Rigging, Compositing, Life Drawing, Sculpture, and Acting for Animators. All students will complete a final film project.
Animation Concept Art students develop the skills needed to create worlds, characters, vehicles, props, and environments for film, TV, and games. Sample courses include Vehicles and Props, Perspective, Still Life, Life Drawing, Environments, Storyboarding, Architecture, Character Design, Visual Story, Digital Painting, Animation, and Digital Sculpting.
Classical Animation students will take many of the same courses as Concept Art and 3D Animation + Visual Effects students. They will also take Animation 1, 2 3, and 4, History of Animation, Effects Animation 1, 2 and 3, Assisting Animation, Storyboarding 1, 2 and 3, Art Direction, Digital Ink and Paint, and Background Design.
In addition to a Diploma, students in all programs will graduate in just 12 months with a mastered demo reel of their final project, a portfolio, and access to the VFS Alumni Directory and Job Board. Graduates often “go on to work on the biggest blockbusters and hottest brands, help found innovative studios, and have received nominations and wins at the Oscars and Emmys.” In fact, alumni have worked on the top entertainment properties of 2016, totaling more than $19 billion in worldwide revenue.
Vancouver Film School is accredited by the B.C. Private Training Institutions Branch (PTIB) and British Columbia Education Quality Assurance. Industry partnerships include Adobe, Autodesk, Final Draft, HP, Pixologic, and many others.
Vancouver Animation School, Vancouver, BC, Canada
Established in 2010, Vancouver Animation School (VANAS) prepares students to work in the Animation, Visual Effects and Video Game industries. The school, which serves hundreds of students, says it believes in “Education for Employment” and “teaching innovative skills that lead to creative careers resulting in personal and professional fulfillment.” Options for aspiring animators include one-month and 12-month 3D Character Animation and 2D Computer Animation programs, as well as a 12-month Animated Short Films program and a three-month Writing for Animation program.
All 12-month programs prepares students for entry-level positions in the Animation, Visual Effects and Video Game industries. One-month programs introduce students to the basics of each discipline. The Animated Short Film program “is designed to enable aspiring animation filmmakers to learn the production process of creating an animated short film using 3D computer software,” and the Writing for Animation program “will provide practical instruction in the entire writing process unique to the animation industry.” Both programs lead to an Online Certificate. Twelve-month programs lead to an Online Diploma.
All VANAS programs are accredited by the B.C. Private Training Institutions Branch (PTIB), designated under the British Columbia Education Quality Assurance (BCEQA), the Ministry of Advanced Education and listed under the Canadian Information Center for International Credentials (CICIC).
Capilano University, Vancouver, BC, Canada
Capilano University was established in 1968 with an initial enrollment of 784 students. Today, the school serves 7,000 students in for-credit programs and 4,000 in non-credit courses annually. The school offers dozens of certificate and diploma programs as well as more than 20 degree programs in a variety of areas such as Jazz Studies, International Management, Music Therapy, Performing Arts, Business Administration, Motion Picture Arts, Visual Communications, and Tourism Management.
The School of Motion Picture Arts offers several programs for aspiring animators. Options include a 2D Animation & Visual Development Diploma, a 3D Animation for Film and Games Diploma, and an Animation Fundamentals Citation. The two-year 2D Animation option is a career program that “focuses on drawing, design and classical animation techniques. Students learn all about animation and animation design for a career in the animation industry.” Students in the program will also study live action directing and scriptwriting.
The 3D Animation for Film and Games option is also a two-year program that “offers students the training necessary to bring 3D computer generated characters and environments to life. Utilizing advanced animation software, students will develop the artistic skills necessary for a rewarding career in the computer graphics and animation industries.” This program accepts just 25 students each year to study in Western Canada’s “most successful and powerfully-equipped computer animation facilities.”
The Animation Fundamentals Citation is a four-course program that “introduces the process for creating traditional and computer animation.” Students will have an opportunity to “learn and practice animation techniques through hands-on exercises.” Courses include Drawing for Animation, Design, Animation Principles and Timing, and Digital Animation.
Capilano School of Motion Picture Arts graduates have been hired by 20th Century Fox, Aardman Animation (UK), Bardel Animation, Electronic Arts, Rainmaker, Topix Animation, EA BlackBox Games, Vanguard Animation, Big Sandwich Games, Frantic Films, and many others.
Capilano University is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU).
Vancouver Institute of Media Arts, Vancouver, BC, Canada
Established in 1995, Vancouver Institute of Media Arts (VanArts) is the creation of Academy-Award winning animator/director Lee Mishkin. The school offers a variety of “highly-focused” diploma programs “designed to prepare students for work in specific areas of the media arts” including Character Animation, Game Art & Design, Visual Effects Production, Acting for Film & Television, Web Development and Broadcasting, and Professional Photography. Programs for aspiring animators include a Character Animation Diploma.
The 12-month program focuses on character animation “through body mechanics and performance, and strong foundation training in modeling, lighting, character building and art direction.” Sample courses include Animation, Life Drawing, Maya, History of Animation, Photoshop, Storyboarding, Visual Language, and Acting. Courses are taught by “award-winning faculty with experience working at studios such as Disney, DreamWorks and Industrial Light & Magic.”
VanArts is designated by the Private Training Institutions Branch (PTIB) and has partnerships with several well-established universities/colleges in Canada, the US, Australia, New Zealand and the UK. These degree pathways allow students to complete a bachelor’s degree in as little as one year after completing their studies at VanArts.
Interested in other Canada Animation School Options? Use our School Finder here.
Note: Program information has been obtained from each school’s official website. At the time of publication, all information was accurate.
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