Our 2014 rankings of the Top 10 Animation Schools in the Southwest. We define the Southwest as Texas, Oklahoma, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, and Nevada.
For an explanation of ranking criteria, click here.
1. Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah
The Brigham Young University (BYU) Center for Animation is staffed by instructors from major studios such as Disney, Pixar, Warner Bros., DreamWorks, and many others. These successful working artists use their expertise and experience to help train tomorrow’s animators. Program offerings include a BS in Computer Science (BS CS) with an Animation Emphasis, a BFA in Animation, and a BA/BFA in Illustration. Besides an excellent program line-up and talented instructors, BYU offers easy access to the state’s capital and largest city—Salt Lake City (45 miles away).
The school offers quick access to the annual Sundance Film Festival in Park City, also just 45 miles away, as well as the opportunity to spend a spring term in New York City or Study Abroad in places like Rome, London, Greece, Berlin, or Paris.
Founded in 1875 by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), Brigham Young University (BYU) is a private university with a student population of more than 30,000 graduate and undergraduate students from 110 countries. The school, which sits on a 560-acre campus in the state’s 3rd largest city, houses the Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering and Technology, the College of Fine Arts and Communications, and the College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences, which all have a hand in operating the BYU Center for Animation.
2. University of Texas at Dallas, Dallas, Texas
The University of Texas at Dallas has dozens of noteworthy majors to choose from, but some of the top majors here include Arts and Technology and Computer Science. In fact, the Arts and Technology Department is 1,100 students strong and it is home to the school’s top-rated animation program. Offerings for aspiring animators include a BA, MA, MFA and PhD in Arts and Technology (ATEC) with a strong emphasis on Animation and Gaming. The school also offers a BA and MA in Emerging Media and Communication (EMAC).
The University of Texas-Dallas (UT Dallas) was founded in 1969 as a member of the University of Texas System. The school offers 134 academic programs across 7 schools. Home to 19,727 students from all 50 states and dozens of countries, UT Dallas University has been ranked 15th out of 100 schools named to a new Times Higher Education magazine list of the world's most outstanding young universities, of institutions younger than a half century.
3. Eastern New Mexico University, Portales, New Mexico
With a history that dates back to as early as 1934, Eastern New Mexico University (ENMU) is one of the few schools in New Mexico to offer a degree in animation. It is also New Mexico’s largest regional comprehensive university and it has 2 additional campuses in Roswell and Ruidoso, NM. The school, which has more than 60 other degree programs on the menu, offers a BFA and a Minor in Animation, Media Arts, and Design. ENMU also offers a BFA and a Minor in Visual Arts.
Housed on a sprawling 400-acre main campus and home to around 5,855 students, Eastern New Mexico University offers a very unique 2-year Art Foundation Program as well, which features coursework in creative disciplines such as Digital Media, Drawing, and Design.
4. University of Colorado-Denver, Denver, Colorado
The University of Colorado-Denver (CU Denver) awards Bachelor’s, Master’s, Doctoral, and First Professional Degrees in 130 areas of study throughout 13 colleges and schools. Programs for animators are housed within the College of Arts & Media-Department of Visual Arts (VA). Offerings include a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in Fine Arts with an Emphasis in 3D Graphics and Digital Animation, Digital Design, Illustration, Transmedia, Scientific Media, and Painting & Drawing. A BA with a Studio Arts Emphasis and a Digital Design Minor are also on the menu.
The Department of Theater, Film, and Video Production is also housed within the Department of Visual Arts and it offers a BFA in Film & Television for animators wishing to enhance their education and skill set.
Established in 1912 as an extension of the University of Colorado Boulder, the University of Colorado-Denver (CU Denver) sits on a 120+ acre campus in the heart of Downtown Denver. The school, which is home to more than 14,000 students (2013), also has a campus in Aurora—the Anschutz Medical Campus, which houses around 3,700 students. UC Denver is part of Colorado’s largest public university system and it is the only architecture school in Colorado, and one of the largest in the U.S.
5. New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, New Mexico
New Mexico State University’s (NMSU) College of Arts and Sciences is home to the Creative Media Institute (CMI) for Film and Digital Arts. The Institute offers a Bachelor of Creative Media in Animation & Visual Effects (BCM-ANVE) and a Bachelor of Creative Media in Digital Film Making (BCM-DFM). BCM students have access to state of the art facilities such as an animation lab, post-production lab, production space, and a digital projection system screening room.
Established in 1888, New Mexico State University (NMSU) is a public land-grant university that offers a wide variety of bachelor’s and master’s degree programs through 7 colleges and schools. NMU also houses 4 community colleges, distance education programs, and extension centers in every New Mexico County. The school, which sits on 3,500 acres, is home to 28,262 students.
6. Sam Houston State University, Huntsville, Texas
Sam Houston State University (SHSU) is a Best Western College by The Princeton Review, The school offers a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in Computer Animation through the school’s Department of Art. Students in the Computer Animation program will study Drawing, Painting, Sculpture, History of Animation, Photography, Video/Performance Art, Web Design, and Computer Programming. Many of these courses are taught during a mandatory semester in the Workshop in Art Studio and History Program, also known as “W.A.S.H.”
Besides Animation, the Computer Animation program prepares students for a career in Advertising, Educational Media, Film, Fine Art, Game Production, and Video Production. Animation students may also be interested in several SHSU programs that could enhance their education and career opportunities. They include a BA/BFA in Studio Art, a BA/BFA in Art, a BA in Mass Communication with an Emphasis in Film Production, and a MA in Digital Media.
Sam Houston State University was established in 1879. It is home to 19,214 students from across the U.S. and 60 countries. The school, which sits on a 316-acre campus, offers more than 80 undergraduate degree programs, 50+ master’s programs, 6 doctoral programs, and 20+ online degree programs.
7. Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design, Denver, Colorado
Founded in 1963, Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design (RMCAD) is a private, for-profit college that sits on a beautiful 23-acre National Historic District campus. Home to around 619 students, the school features 17 buildings including 4 galleries, a number of advanced production studio spaces, and TECHBAR—a full-service technical support center open to students of all levels and concentrations.
RMCAD (pronounced “Rem-cad”) is home to several online and on-campus degree programs for aspiring animators. Offerings include a BFA in Animation (on-campus), a BFA in 3D Animation (online), and a BFA in Illustration (on-campus and online). Students may also be interested in the Certificate in 3D Animation-Pre Production (online), the Certificate in 3D Animation-Character Animation (online) or the BFA in Fine Arts.
Online and on-campus programs offer the same coursework and level of intensity, and all students have access to all RMCAD studios, TECHBAR, libraries, networking opportunities, internships, and more.
8. The Art Institute of Colorado, Denver, Colorado
The Art Institute of Colorado is part of the Art Institutes (AI), which has more than 40 locations throughout North America. Like other AI schools, the Colorado location offers a wide variety of programs for artists of all kinds. Established in 1952 with just 15 Commercial Art students, the Art Institute of Colorado now serves 2,100 students from more than 40 states and 15 countries in the areas of Culinary Arts, Design, Fashion, Media Arts, and General Education.
Aspiring animators will find themselves in AI’s vast Media Arts Department among hundreds of students enrolled in several competitive programs. Offerings include a BA in Media Arts & Animation, a BA in Visual Effects & Motion Graphics, a BA in Digital Filmmaking & Video Production, and an AAS in Video Production.
Art Institute of Colorado graduates have been successful in their respective fields. Many operate their own studios or design services, while others have found employment at places such as Comcast, National CineMedia, JWT Advertising, High Noon Productions, Biemedia Productions, Playtime Creations, and more.
9. University of Advancing Technology, Tempe, Arizona
Home to more than 800 students from all 50 states and 4 countries, the University of Advancing Technology (UAT) offers 20 undergraduate degrees “in advancing technology disciplines” and 5 graduate degrees. The most popular programs for aspiring animators are the AA and BA programs in Game Art and Animation, Digital Media, and Virtual Modeling and Design. A competitive AA and BA in Digital Video are also on the menu.
Many UAT programs are offered virtually through UAT-Online. Online offerings include a BA in Virtual Modeling and Design and a BA in Game Art and Animation. UAT-Online allows students to “learn interactively, in short (5-week) intensive courses.”
The University of Advancing Technology sits on a 2-acre campus, less than 10 miles from the heart of Downtown Phoenix, the “hub of the southwest—a high-tech and manufacturing center.” The conveniently located campus also offers “hundreds of computers in all corners of the campus,” Feng Shui design, and quick access to hiking, biking, and skateboarding excursions for inspiration.
10. The Art Institute of Phoenix, Phoenix, Arizona
The Art Institute of Phoenix opened its doors in 1995 to just 45 students. Today, the school is home to 1,100 students enrolled in 20 programs in the areas of art and design. Offerings for aspiring animators include a BA in Media Arts & Animation, a BA in Visual Effects & Motion Graphics, and a BA in Digital Filmmaking & Video Production.
Home to more than 1.4 million people, Phoenix has lots to offer aspiring animators and other artists. Considered an up-and-comer in the technology industry, Phoenix is one of the nation’s fastest growing cities, and the job market is expanding as well. Popular points of interest for artists include the Phoenix Symphony Orchestra, the Phoenix Art Museum, and dozens of theater companies.