2018
Top 10 California Animation Schools and Colleges - 2018 Rankings
RankingSchoolCity
1California Institute of the ArtsValencia
2University of Southern CaliforniaLos Angeles
3University of California, Los AngelesLos Angeles
4Otis College of Art and DesignLos Angeles
5Gnomon School of Visual EffectsHollywood
6ArtCenter College of DesignPasadena
7Academy of Art UniversitySan Francisco
8San Jose State UniversitySan Jose
9California College of the ArtsSan Francisco
10California State University, Long BeachLong Beach

Our 2018 rankings of the top 10 animation school programs in California. For an explanation of ranking criteria, click here.

1. California Institute of the Arts, Valencia, California
California Institute of the Arts

In 1961, California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) became the nation's first postsecondary institution to offer graduate and undergraduate degrees in both the visual and performing arts. Established by Walt and Roy Disney, the school is home to more than 1,400 students enrolled in more than 70 programs across six schools including the School of Critical Studies, The Sharon Disney Lund School of Dance, the School of Art, the School of Film/Video, The Herb Alpert School of Music at CalArts, and the School of Theater. The School of Film/Video is the largest school at CalArts, accounting for nearly 30% of the student population. Programs offered include a BFA in Character Animation and BFA and MFA degrees in Experimental Animation.

Crowned the “Harvard Business School of Animation” by the Los Angeles Times, CalArts has produced hundreds of successful alumni who have generated billions at the box office worldwide. The school lists Tim Burton, Mark Andrews (director and screenwriter of Pixar’s Oscar winning animated feature Brave), Eric Darnell (co-director of Antz, Madagascar, Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa and Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted, and Mark Osborne (director of Kung Fu Panda) among its most famous alumni.

2. University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California
University of Southern California

Established in 1880, University of Southern California (USC) is home to 45,500 students enrolled in more than 200 undergraduate programs, 300-plus graduate programs, and more than 150 minors. Undergraduate offerings for aspiring animators include a BA in Animation and Digital Arts offered through The John C. Hench Division of Animation and Digital Arts (Hench DADA) of the School of Cinematic Arts (USC Cinematic Arts), and a BFA in Cinematic Arts, Film & Television Production with Animation and Interactive Media electives offered through the Division of Film and Television Production, USC Cinematic Arts.

Graduate offerings include MFA degrees in Animation and Digital Arts and Interactive Media with heavy Animation electives. Minors in Animation & Digital Arts and Game Animation are also on the menu. Graduates of both the undergraduate and graduate animation programs at USC Cinematic Arts have landed positions at DreamWorks Animation, Sony Pictures, Nickelodeon Animation Studios, Pixar, Rhythm and Hues, Industrial Light & Magic, Digital Idea, Illumination Entertainment, Digital Domain and many others.

3. University of California Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California
University of California Los Angeles

Founded in 1919 as the Southern Branch of the University of California, University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) is home to nearly 45,500 students from all 50 states and more than 100 foreign countries. The school offers 125+ undergraduate majors across 109 academic departments, and more than 40 graduate programs including the Animation Workshop of the School of Theater, Film and Television.

Founded in 1948 by Disney animator William Shull, the UCLA Animation Workshop is a three-year MFA program that accepts just 12 new students each year. Before applying to the program, students typically earn a BA in Film and Television or a BFA with a Concentration in Animation at UCLA. The BA program gives future MFA students the opportunity to study all facets of digital media, film, and television, as well as a full year of animation studies, followed by an internship.

Once in the program, students have access to the exclusive Summer Institute Symposium, which provides the opportunity to meet and listen to some of Hollywood’s most accomplished professionals. Past guests have included Simon Kinberg (writer-producer, X-Men: First Class, Mr. & Mrs. Smith), Meg LeFauve (writer, Inside Out), Zak Penn (writer, The Incredible Hulk), Chris Gorak (director, The Darkest Hour), John Hegeman (chief marketing officer, New Regency Productions), and many others.

Graduates of UCLA’s animation programs have landed positions at Pixar, they have worked with directors such as Tim Burton, and on films such as The Simpsons Movie and Monster House.

4. Otis College of Art and Design, Los Angeles, California
Otis College of Art and Design

Otis College of Art and Design (OTIS) was established in 1918 by founder and publisher of the Los Angeles Times, General Harrison Gray Otis. Home to approximately 1,100 full-time students, OTIS offers 11 BFA degree programs ranging from Digital Media (Animation, Game and Entertainment Design, and Motion Design) to Toy Design. The school also offers MFA degrees in Fine Arts, Graphic Design, Public Practice, and Writing, and a variety of minors and certificate programs.

Specific programs for aspiring animators are offered in the Digital Media Department and include a BFA in Digital Media with an Animation Major, a Digital Media Minor, and a Digital Media Arts Certificate with a Specialization Track in Animation. Sample courses for the programs include Storytelling for Digital Artists, 3D Animation, The Visual Language of Film, Games and Design, Creative Action Studio, and Animation Explorations.

Just a few recent employers of Otis graduates include Pixar, Disney, DreamWorks, Sony Imageworks, Nickelodeon, Electronic Arts, Sony Online Entertainment, and Blizzard Entertainment.

5. Gnomon School of Visual Effects, Hollywood, California
Gnomon School of Visual Effects

Gnomon School of Visual Effects was established in 1997. The school, which has 600 graduates to date, offers a BFA and a Certificate in Digital Production. Individual animation courses are available and may be “mixed and matched” to suit students’ career goals. Options include Acting for Animators, Introduction to 3D with Maya, Character Sculpture, Color Theory and Light, History and Principles of Animation, History of Visual Effects, Animation and Visual Effects, Character Animation, Modeling, Motion Graphics, Storyboarding, Texturing and Shading, Timing for Animation, Animation for Games, Character Design, Character Modeling and Sculpting, Previsualization and Animatics, Stylized Character Creation, and Creature Animation.

Gnomon graduates have landed positions at some of the world’s top studios. A few include Walt Disney Animation Studios, Industrial Light & Magic, DreamWorks, Digital Domain, Blizzard Entertainment, Reel FX, Electronic Arts, Sony Pictures Imageworks, Nickelodeon Animation, Rhythm & Hues, and Marvel Entertainment.

6. ArtCenter College of Design, Pasadena, California
ArtCenter College of Design

Founded in 1930, ArtCenter College of Design is home to approximately 2,100 students enrolled in 11 undergraduate and seven graduate degree programs in a variety of Industrial Design, Visual, and Applied Arts Disciplines. The school, which also offers a joint MS/MBA program with the Drucker-Ito School of Management, has two campuses in Pasadena and satellite studios in Los Angeles (at the Peterson Automotive Museum), and Berlin. Programs for aspiring animators include Entertainment Design with a Track in Animation or Concept.

The Animation Track develops students in the disciplines of character animation, storyboarding, modeling, art direction, and lighting for 3D and 2D animation, while the Concept Track focuses on the skills and creative ability required of entertainment industry concept designers. Both programs lead to a BS in Entertainment Design.

Entertainment Design graduates from both Tracks are prepared for career opportunities as performance and action animators with companies such as Pixar, Disney, DreamWorks, ILM, Sony, Blur, 343 and Riot.

7. Academy of Art University, San Francisco, California
Academy of Art University

Academy of Art University was established in 1929. The school serves more than 7,200 students enrolled in dozens of Art, Design, Fashion, and Architecture programs. Degrees are offered at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, and many programs are available entirely online. The School of Animation and Visual Effects offers AA, BFA, MA and MFA degrees in Animation and Visual Effects. A Certificate in Animation and Visual Effects is also available. These programs are available on campus and online.

Students take classes specializing in one main area of the industry. Emphasis is placed on creating a professional demo reel and/or portfolio in tune with the latest industry trends. Specialization areas include 3D Animation, 3D Modeling, Rigging, Animation Generalist, Animation Producing, Storyboarding, 2D Animation, Puppet Fabrication, Stop Motion Animation, Compositing, Dynamics, Lighting, and Matte Painting.

The MA program provides students an opportunity to work in 2D Animation & Stop Motion, 3D Animation, 3D Modeling, or Visual Effects, while focusing on storytelling with an emphasis on exhibiting technical skills and eliciting emotional responses. The MFA in Animation & Visual Effects program focuses on developing skills in any one of the many areas of expertise within the animation and visual effects industry. The program educates students in all aspects of animation and visual effects, from ideation to post production.

Graduates of the animation programs at Academy of Art University have landed positions at Blizzard Entertainment, CBS Interactive, Disney Interactive, DreamWorks Animation, Electronic Arts, Lucasfilm, NBCUniversal, Pixar, and Sony Computer Entertainment America.

8. San Jose State University, San Jose, California
San Jose State University

San Jose State University (SJSU) was founded in 1857 and it is home to more than 32,000 students enrolled in 145 areas of study, with an additional 108 concentrations, across eight colleges. The College of Humanities and the Arts, Department of Design offers a BFA in Animation/Illustration. Graduates of this program have worked on films from A Bug’s Life and Finding Nemo to Monsters, Inc. and Shrek.

Graduates have also been hired at more than 135 animation studios, game design companies, film studios, and academic institutions. Just a few include 20th Century Fox, Animation Mentor, Blue Sky Studios, Blizzard Entertainment, Cartoon Network, Cogswell Institute, Disney Interactive, Electronic Arts, Lucasfilm Animation, NBCUniversal Studios, Nickelodeon, Pixar, Sony/Columbia, The Art Institute of Las Vegas, Disney Animation, and Zynga.

The Department of Design also offers an MFA in Digital Media Art. The program is offered at the CADRE Institute, which “reflects the innovative atmosphere in Silicon Valley.” Academic programs emphasize artistic experimentation within a context of historical, cultural, and theoretical study. The program is intended for students with interest in contemporary research. CADRE's diverse community of faculty and graduate students produce artworks involving visualization, simulation, hypertextuality, information, mapping, telepresence, networks, and interactive systems.

Technical facilities include a wide range of computing resources. Students work across the boundaries of computer visualization, animation, digital video, multimedia, electronic sculpture, sound and virtual reality. CADRE supports its own networking environment and offers excellent opportunities to produce internet-based artworks.

9. California College of the Arts, San Francisco and Oakland, California
California College of the Arts

Founded in 1907, California College of the Arts (CCA) is home to more than 1,500 undergraduates and 455 graduate students enrolled more than 30 degree programs. The Animation Department is home to the third largest major at CCA—the BFA in Animation. Students in the program receive guidance from “the best animators in the industry” from Pixar, DreamWorks Animation, and Tippett Studio, among others. Students in the program also receive feedback and visual storytelling advice from actual industry animators and directors of such animated films as Toy Story, Star Wars, and Brave.

Graduates of CCA’s Animation program have landed positions at major studios such as Walt Disney Feature Animation, Sony Pictures Animation, Pixar, Nickelodeon Animation Studios, DreamWorks Animation, and Cartoon Network, as well as game studios such as Electronic Arts, Phosphor Games, and Vigil Games.

10. California State University-Long Beach, Long Beach, California
California State University-Long Beach

California State University Long Beach (CSULB) was established in 1949. One of the 23 campuses of the California State University System, CSULB is home to 37,500 students enrolled in more than 300 programs across eight colleges. The College of the Arts, School of Art, offers a BFA with an Option in Illustration/Animation. Students may choose the Animation or Illustration Track, but they may take courses in both tracks and work with students in both tracks in the digital lab.

An MFA/MA degree is also available. This advanced degree is designed with a dual emphasis on tailoring programs of study to individual students while fostering shared experience among a community of students. Also part of the College of the Arts is the Department of Film & Electronic Arts, which offers a BA in Film and Electronic Arts. The program highlights heavy animation coursework including 3D Computer Animation, History of Animation, Digital Arts Production (Visual Effects, Computer Animation, Interactive Media), and others.