Our 2017 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 ranking criteria, click here.
1. Ringling College of Art and Design, Sarasota, Florida (top 5% of schools considered)
Ringling College of Art and Design (RCAD) was established in 1931 by circus baron John Ringling. The school opened with just 75 students and 111 course offerings. Today, the school is home to 1,300 students and it offers BFA degrees in eleven disciplines and BA degrees in two. Just a few majors include Computer Animation, Film, Game Art, Motion Design, and Visual Studies.
The Computer Animation program is one of the most popular programs at RCAD, accounting for around 20% of the student population. The program was established in 1990 and it leads to a BFA. Graduates of the program have gone on to work at Blue Sky Studios, Cartoon Network, DreamWorks Animation, Electronic Arts, Lucasfilm, Nickelodeon, Pixar, Sony Pictures Imageworks, Walt Disney Animation Studios, and many others.
2. Savannah College of Art and Design, Savannah, Georgia (top 10% of schools considered)
Founded in 1978, Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) is home to nearly 13,000 students from nearly 50 states and 115 countries. The school, which has campuses in Savannah, Atlanta, Hong Kong, and Lacoste, France, offers more than 40 majors and over 60 minors, including animation. The SCAD Animation Program was one of the top five majors in Fall 2014. Offered through the School of Digital Media, four options are available for aspiring animators including a BFA in Animation (Atlanta, Hong Kong, Savannah), an MA in Animation (Savannah, eLearning), an MFA in Animation (Atlanta, Savannah, eLearning) Animation, and a Minor in Animation.
Graduates of SCAD’s animation programs have landed positions at major studios such as Walt Disney Animation Studios, Digital Domain, and Bento Box Entertainment.
3. University of Central Florida, Orlando, Florida (top 10% of schools considered)
Established in 1963 and home to more than 64,000 students, the University of Central Florida (UCF) is the nation’s second-largest university and among the nation’s youngest institutions. The school, which has four campuses across Orlando and in Daytona Beach, offers around 230 degree programs across 13 colleges. The College of Arts and Humanities is home to the School of Visual Arts & Design (SVAD), which offers a number of degree programs for aspiring animators including a BFA in Art with an Emerging Media Track/Character Animation Specialization and an Emerging Media Track/Experimental Animation Specialization. Programs for graduate students include an MA in Visual Language and Interactive Media, and an MFA in Emerging Media with a Digital Media, Entrepreneurial Digital Cinema, or “Studio Art and the Computer” Track.
4. Full Sail University, Winter Park, Florida (top 15% of schools considered)
Established in 1979, Full Sail University is home to approximately 15,000 students enrolled in dozens of programs in the areas of Entertainment, Media and the Arts. Options for aspiring animators include a BS in Computer Animation that takes 20 months to complete on-campus, and 32 months to complete online. Students can expect to take courses such as 2D and 3D Animation, Character Animation, Animation Production, Shading and Lighting, Character Rigging, and Visual Development. A total of seven Project and Portfolio courses must be completed as well. These courses “combine hands-on learning experiences with summative and formative portfolio assessments.” Courses cover 3D Arts and Computer Animation.
5. The Digital Animation & Visual Effects School (DAVE School), Orlando, Florida (top 20% of schools considered)
The Digital Animation & Visual Effects School (Dave School) was founded in 2000. The school consists of a 35,000 square foot facility located on the backlot of Universal Studios Florida, Soundstage 25 and it offers intensive and “comprehensive training” in 3D Modeling, 3D Animation, 3D Visual Effects, and Game Production. Programs for aspiring animators include a Bachelor’s in Motion Graphics, and Certificates in Visual Effects Production and Game Production.
The Bachelor’s in Motion Graphics introduces students to 3D Modeling and Animation for Motion Graphics. Students in the program will learn and practice the principles of Animation, Compositing, Composition, and Design. The 15-month Game Production Program covers Animation Fundamentals and Digital Modeling and Sculpting, while the 12-month 3D Visual Effects Program covers Modeling & Sculpting, Visual Effects, Studio Production, and Animation Fundamentals as well.
DAVE school graduates have worked on major productions such as Terminator Genisys, Jurassic World, Captain America, The Hobbit, and Godzilla.
6. Clemson University, Clemson, South Carolina (top 20% of schools considered)
Clemson University was established in 1889 as Clemson Agricultural College. The school is home to nearly 22,000 students enrolled in more than 80 majors, more than 75 minors, and over 110 graduate degree programs across seven colleges. The College of Engineering and Science offers several programs for aspiring animators including an MFA in Digital Production Arts (MFA DPA) and a Minor in DPA. The DPA MFA Program has 31 students and highlights Computer Animation, 3D Modeling, Compositing, Computer Games, FX, Lighting, Rigging, Simulation, and Visual Effects, to name a few.
Graduates of the program have worked on films such as Frozen, Hobbit, Rio, How to Train Your Dragon, and The Croods. Many have been hired by major studios such as Pixar, Walt Disney Animation Studios, Blue Sky Studios, DreamWorks, EA, ReelFX, and Sony Pictures Imageworks.
7. Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida (top 25% of schools considered)
Founded in 1851 and home to more than 41,000 students, Florida State University (FSU) is one of the largest and oldest of the 11 institutions of higher learning in the State University System of Florida. The school offers more than 275 degree programs across 16 colleges. The College of Motion Picture Arts offers several programs for aspiring animators including a BFA in Motion Picture Arts – Animation and Digital Arts, and The Torchlight Program.
BFA students will begin with Film History, Screenwriting, Directing, Cinematography, CG and Live Action Production, Editing and Sound. Students will then learn the craft of digital filmmaking through 3D Animation, Character Development, Compositing, Modeling, Stop Motion, Texturing, Rendering, and Visual Effects Cinematography. The Torchlight Program gives FSU animation students who would like to freelance or start their own studios the opportunity to learn about “current and emerging business practices of the motion picture industry.” The program offers coursework in key areas such as Distribution, Marketing, and Motion Picture Financing.
8. University of South Florida, Tampa, Florida (top 25% of schools considered)
The University of South Florida (USF) was established in 1956 and it is part of three-school USF System (USF, USF St. Petersburg, and USF Sarasota-Manatee) serving more than 49,000 students. The school is comprised of 14 colleges offering more than 180 undergraduate majors and concentrations, and dozens of graduate programs. The College of the Arts, School of Art & Art History offers several programs for aspiring animators. Options include BA and BFA degrees in Studio Art with a Focus in Video, Animation, and Digital Arts.
According to the school, the program “offers a unique opportunity for artists to pursue a cutting edge approach to Video, 2D and 3D Animation, 3D Modeling, Sound, and Digital Media. This comprehensive digital arts program offers students the ability to both develop an expertise in specific digital tools and allows students the flexibility to combine classes to hone a student’s individual artistic voice.”
9. North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina (top 30% of schools considered)
Established in 1887, North Carolina State University (NC State) is home to 35,755 students enrolled in more than 300 degree programs across 12 colleges and 65 academic departments. The College of Design, Department of Art + Design, offer several programs for aspiring animators. Programs include a Bachelor of Art + Design: Animation + Interactive Media, a Master of Art + Design: Animation and Interactive Media, and a Minor in Art + Design.
According to the school, Animation students will “take studios that introduce them to Principles of Storytelling, Animation, and Character Design through Sequential Imaging, Introduction to Animation, and Digital Modeling.” Graduates of the program are prepared to work in Character Development for Animated Films, Games, and Digital Storybooks, and on short and full-length animated films, and interactive and experimental projects.
10. Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana (top 30% of schools considered)
Louisiana State University (LSU) welcomed its first class on January 2, 1860. Today, the school is home approximately 45,202 students across all campuses and it offers 200 programs across 11 colleges and schools. The College of Art + Design offers several multidisciplinary programs for aspiring animators including BFA and MFA degrees in Digital Art. According to LSU, students in the programs “refine their skills in classes that provide a broad, integrated understanding of creative practice across 3D modeling, animation, video, web, interactive systems, photo-based media, and digital printmaking.”
The Digital Art Program, which is home to around 500 students, offers access to the Design Shop and a state-of-the-art 4K or Ultra HD theater via the new Digital Media Center—a 100,000-square-foot building that is home to Electronic Arts and the Center for Computation and Technology. Students also have access to the Arts, Visualization, Advanced Technologies and Research (AVATAR) Initiative and The Digital Art and Design Association (DADA). Both provide support to Digital Art students as they pursue “opportunities throughout the university and the broader community.”