What are the top animation school programs in California for 2023?

Top 20 California Animation School Programs - 2023 College Rankings
1California Institute of the ArtsValencia
2University of Southern CaliforniaLos Angeles
3Gnomon School of Visual EffectsHollywood
4University of California, Los AngelesLos Angeles
5ArtCenter College of DesignPasadena
6Academy of Art UniversitySan Francisco
7California College of the ArtsMultiple
8Otis College of Art and DesignLos Angeles
9San Jose State UniversitySan Jose
10California State University, FullertonFullerton
11Laguna College of Art and DesignLaguna Beach
12California State University, Long BeachLong Beach
13Loyola Marymount UniversityLos Angeles
14California State University, Los AngelesLos Angeles
15California State University, NorthridgeNorthridge
16Chapman UniversityOrange
17Woodbury UniversityBurbank
18New York Film AcademyLos Angeles
19California State University, ChicoChico
20University of Silicon ValleySan Jose

Our 2023 ranking -our twelfth annual- of the top animation school programs in California. For an explanation of the ranking criteria, click here.

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

The Animation Programs at California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) are housed in the School of Film/Video where famous alumni such as Chris Buck (Frozen), John Lasseter (Toy Story, Cars), and Tim Burton (Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands, Ed Wood) got their start. The largest of CalArts’ six schools, the School of Film/Video focuses on intensive programs that emphasize comprehensive and technical artistic training. Programs, including BFA and MFA degrees in Experimental Animation and a BFA in Character Animation, are led by experienced professionals working in computer graphic (CG), traditional, and independent animation.

The BFA in Character Animation at California Institute of the Arts is a four-year program that prepares students to work in both traditional and CG animation environments. In addition to required courses such as Acting for Animators and Perspective, the intensive Character Animation curriculum includes 2D Character Animation, Animation Layout, CG Foundation, Digital Methods, Life Drawing, Storyboarding, Character Animation I-IV, Film Workshop I-IV, and Professional Preparation. This four-year program concludes with the creation of a professional portfolio and several short films.

Students the Experimental Animation BFA and MFA Programs at in CalArts collaborate closely with mentors to develop skills in animation processes, approaches and techniques. Examples include 2D animation, digital production, installation, motion capture, multipane, performance animation, programming, and stop motion. Experimental Animation students will participate in independent study, lecture courses, and the internship program and attend seminars, workshops, and visiting artist lectures.

BFA students will take courses such as Animation Production, Animation Workshop, Concept Development, Film History, and Motion and Meaning. MFA course examples include Digital Workflow for Animators, Drawn Techniques for the Experimental Animator , First Year Shorts, Sound for Experimental Animation, and The Digital Path for Animation. Undergraduate students (including Character Animation students) may add the Digital Arts Minor to develop skills in video editing, digital sound production, computer programming, web design, digital fabrication, and digital arts.

The BFA Program takes four years to complete and the MFA takes three years to complete.  Students in both programs will produce a professional portfolio and final project to graduate.

California Institute of the Arts graduates go on to successful careers in advertising, animation, film/video, and marketing. Many have launched their own freelance careers and studios.

In 1961, Walt and Roy Disney formed California Institute of the Arts through a merger of the Los Angeles Conservatory of Music and the Chouinard Art Institute. Today, CalArts serves more than 1,400 students enrolled in over 70 degree 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, and the School of Theater. California Institute of the Arts also encompasses the Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater (REDCAT), located in downtown LA, and the Community Arts Partnership (CAP) with community organizations and public schools across LA County.

California Institute of the Arts is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC). The school is also an accredited institution member of the National Association of Schools of Dance (NASD).

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

The School of Cinematic Arts (SCA) at University of California (USC) houses the John C. Hench Division of Animation + Digital Arts (Hench DADA). The Division has programs for animators at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Options for undergraduates include an Animation + Digital Arts BFA and Minors in Animation, 3D Animation in Cinematic Arts, and Animation + Digital Arts. The Interactive Media Division offers a Minor in Game Animation.

Through electives, the 3D Animation in Cinematic Arts Minor allows students to focus in a specific area such as Character Animation, Motion Capture, Modeling, Virtual Reality, or Visual Effects. The Animation + Digital Arts Minor covers animation theory and students may create work in genres ranging from traditional animation to experimental to computer animation. The Game Animation Minor combines the teaching of systems thinking and developing animation skills. Through electives, Game Animation students may study Visual effects, Digital Effects, Game Development, and more. Minors are 16 units and all require a final project to graduate.

The Hench DADA Animation + Digital Arts BFA consists of general education requirements, a concentration area, and several courses that must be taken from the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences (Physical Education), USC Kaufman School of Dance, and USC School of Dramatic Arts. Potential areas of concentration include Character Animation, Immersive Media, 3D Computer Animation, Experimental Animation, Motion Graphics, Interactive Animation, Visualizing Science, Documentary Animation, and Visual Effects.

During the final year of the program, BFA students will complete a Senior Project, which consists of the production and post-production of a fully rendered, animated piece—with soundtrack. Projects are presented to a committee upon completion.

At the graduate level, USC Hench DADA houses an Animation + Digital Arts MFA Program, which takes three years to complete. In addition, the School of Cinematic Arts launched a new MFA in Expanded Animation Research + Practice (XA), with classes beginning Fall 2022. Research concentrations for the XA Program include Experimental Animation, Animation for Robotics, Documentary Animation, Performance Gesture, Fine Art Animation Practice, Gesture Movement, Advanced Character Performance, Cinematic Installations, Sound Design, Narrativity, Virtual Humans and AI, and Dreams and Consciousness and Science Visualization. Of the minimum 50 units required to graduate with an XA MFA, 30 units are dedicated to Expanded Animation.

The Animation + Digital Arts MFA Program provides mini studios for all students as well as ongoing workshops in new technologies and internship opportunities. Techniques and approaches covered range from hand-drawn character animation to interactive digital animation. Course examples for the program include Expanded Animation, Animation Production, and Storytelling for Animation. Elective units are an important part of the MFA Program and include course titles such as Survey of Interactive Media, Seminar: Avant-Garde Film/Video, and World Cinema Before 1945.

Graduates of the Animation programs at the University of Southern California have been hired at major studios such as Digital Domain, Digital Idea, DreamWorks Animation, Illumination Entertainment, Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), Nickelodeon Animation Studios, Pixar, and Sony Pictures. Many USC alumni have founded their own independent studios. 

Established in 1880, University of Southern California (USC) is the largest private sector employer in Los Angeles. Serving 49,500 students, USC houses 23 schools and divisions. More than 600 graduate and professional programs are offered. The University of Southern California is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC).

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

Gnomon School of Visual Effects has several programs designed to develop studio-ready professionals. Options include a BFA or Certificate in Digital Production. A preparatory program, Foundation in Art & Design, is also available. The certificate can be completed in two years and the BFA can be completed in as few as three years. The preparatory program requires a full year of continuous study, which includes four courses per quarter. The goal of the program is to help students enhance existing skills, pursue a degree in a related field, or polish their portfolios.

Gnomon BFA students will receive training in industry software such as After Effects, Nuke, V-Ray, Photoshop, ZBrush, and Maya. Students will graduate from the BFA program with a professional demo reel that showcases their best work.

The Certificate in Digital Production has five areas of emphasized study. Options include Visual Effects Animation, Character & Creature Animation, 3D Generalist, Games, and Modeling & Texturing. Students in the program may also focus on Film, Games, or Visual Effects Production.

With a near 100% employment rate, Gnomon School of Visual Effects has alumni working at studios and gaming companies such as DreamWorks, Electronic Arts (EA), Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), Sony Pictures Imageworks, Marvel Entertainment, Nickelodeon Animation, Blizzard Entertainment, Walt Disney Animation Studios, Reel FX, and Digital Domain.

Located in Hollywood, California, Gnomon School of Visual Effects sits on a 35,000 square foot lot within the historic Television Center Studio lot. Established in 1997, Gnomon offers degree and vocational certificate programs, as well as over 100 individual 10-week courses. Gnomon School of Visual Effects is accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC).

4. University of California Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California
University of California Los Angeles

The UCLA Animation Workshop launched in 1948, making one of the oldest animation programs in the U.S. Part of the School of Theater, Film & Television’s (TFT), Department of Film, Television, and Digital Media (FTVDM), the three-year Animation Workshop guides students through the filmmaking process from beginning to end.

Examples of required courses for the Workshop include Visual Thinking and Organization for Animation, Advanced Computer Animation Maya, Animation Design, Interactive Animation, and Writing for Animation. Other courses include Experimental Film, Animation Seminar, and Directing.

Workshop students may develop skills in specific areas of animation through electives. Examples include Writing for the Animated TV Series, Real Time Animation: Puppetry Arts, and Film and Television Sound Recording. Throughout the program, students will complete one interactive project and several films including a thesis film, traditional film, and computer film.

At the undergraduate level, UCLA has a Film and Television BA with a Concentration in Animation. The concentration consists of 20 units of study to be completed during the student’s senior year. All students are required to complete coursework in three areas: film and television craft (writing, editing, directing, sound recording, and photography; cinema and media studies (aesthetics, theory, and history); and production (animation, digital, television, film, and experimental). An internship is also part of the program and must be completed in the students junior or senior year.

Students in the BA and MFA programs at UCLA have access to the state-of-the-art Walter Lantz Digital Animation Studio.

Graduates of the animation and film programs at the University of California Los Angeles work for Pixar, DreamWorks, Walt Disney Imagineering, Nickelodeon, and many other major studios.  

Established in 1919, University of California Los Angeles has played a pivotal role in the formation of nearly 200 startup companies. Serving 45,900 students from 118 countries, UCLA offers more than 250 programs across 12 professional schools and UCLA College. University of California Los Angeles is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC).

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

ArtCenter College of Design (ArtCenter) houses an Entertainment Design Program with three tracks: Animation, Concept, and Game Design. Programs lead to a BS. 

The Entertainment Design BS with an Animation Track explores lighting, character animation, modeling, storyboarding, and art direction. Course examples for the program include 2D Fundamentals, 2D Mechanics, Concept Art, Shorts, Design History of Comic Animation, CG Mechanics, Storyboard, Science & Technology, and Entertainment Design Industry.

BS students will complete one of three business courses (Business 101, Business, or Entrepreneurship), or Professional Practices as well as three Capstone Production courses and a 5th Term Portfolio Review. The Entertainment Design BS with an Animation Track requires 132 units to graduate.

ArtCenter College of Design graduates are prepared for positions within the entertainment industry such as Animator, Modeler, Digital Artist, Production Designer, and Storyboard Artist. ArtCenter graduates have been hired at Amazon, DreamWorks Animation, Cartoon Network, Google, Netflix, Paramount, Marvel, Rockstar Games, Ogilvy, Sony Pictures Animation, and Universal Creative, among others.

ArtCenter College of Design serves around 2,320 students from more than 50 countries. Founded in 1930, ArtCenter has campuses in Pasadena and Los Angeles, California, and satellite studios in Petersen Automotive Museum (Miracle Mile, Los Angeles) and Berlin, Germany. ArtCenter offers 11 undergraduate programs, seven graduate degree programs leading to an MFA or MS, a joint MS/MBA program, and undergraduate minors for Business, Creative Writing, and Social Innovation students.

ArtCenter College of Design is fully accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC) and the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD).

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

The School of Animation & Visual Effects (VFX) at Academy of Art University (Academy of Art) has an Animation Program with five pathways for artists seeking a career in animation. Options include a certificate and AA, BFA, MA, and MFA degrees in Animation & Visual Effects.

The certificate is a top choice for students who would like to dive into animation coursework from day one. In addition to skipping liberal arts coursework, this 120-unit program allows students to complete an internship, a study abroad experience, and a senior portfolio in Animation and VFX.

Consisting of 66 units of study, the Animation & VFX AA explores 3D animation, 3D modeling, 2D animation and stop motion, storyboarding, and VFX through required coursework and electives. Students in the 132-unit Animation & VFX BFA have the opportunity to focus in one primary area of emphasis. Options include VFX, 2D animation and stop motion, 3D modeling, 3D animation, and storyboarding.

The Animation & VFX MA focuses on storytelling and technical skills. Students in this 36-unit graduate program will work in work in 2D Animation & Stop Motion, 3D Animation, 3D Modeling, or VFX. Consisting of 63 units of study, the Animation & VFX MFA Program explores all areas of animation and visual effects from concept to post-production. Students in this program will also develop communication and management skills. A thesis is required to graduate.

All Academy of Art Animation programs take place in a studio production environment known as StudioX. The School of Animation & VFX is the only school of its kind to teach in this type of environment. Because StudioX mirrors most real-world studios, students gain hands-on experience with industry standard equipment, collaborating with other artists and on teams, and managing a production from start to finish.

In addition to several collaborative projects, all degree-seeking students will complete an internship and create a professional portfolio of their best work.  

Academy of Art Animation alumni go on to establish careers at major studios and companies such as Google, LAIKA Studios, Walt Disney Animation Studios, Marvel, Sony Pictures Animation, CASA VFX, Sony Pictures Imageworks, Riot Games, Weta Digital, and Industrial Light & Magic (ILM).  

Academy of Art University is a family-owned private university located in San Francisco—one of the world’s top cities for animation careers. Established in 1929 and serving more than 7,000 students, Academy of Art is of the nation’s largest private art and design schools. Divided into 22 schools, Academy of Art University offers more than 129 degree programs in 40+ areas of study. Programs lead to the AA, BA, BFA, BS, B. Arch, MAT, MA, MFA and M. Arch degrees.

The Academy is accredited by Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC).

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

The Animation BFA at California College of the Arts (CCA) is the school’s largest major. Housed in the Animation Department, the program provides hands-on learning in state-of-the art studios and labs such as the Foley Room, Hybrid Lab, Sound Studio, and Founder 309. In the classroom and labs, Animation BFA students will learn to create 2D and 3D animation, sound effects, animation for games, stop-motion animation, and more.

Courses for the BFA program are taught by instructors who are working in the industry with studios such as Pixar, DreamWorks, and Tippett Studio. Course examples include 3D Computer Animation, Drawing for Animation, Animation 1 and 2, Workshop: Experimental Animation, Visual Storytelling, Sound for Animation, Acting for Animation, and Writing 1 and 2. During the third year of study, CCA animation students will complete Junior Project 1 and 2. In the final year of the program, students will complete Senior Project 1: Pre-production and Senior Project 2: Production.

Upon completion of the Animation BFA Program, graduates will have a portfolio of their best work. CCA Animation alumni have gone on to establish successful freelance careers or launch their own studios. CCA graduates have also been hired at studios and gaming companies such as Sony Pictures Animation, Nickelodeon Animation Studios, Electronic Arts (EA), Walt Disney Feature Animation, Pixar, Cartoon Network, DreamWorks Animation, Phosphor Games, Bento Box Entertainment, and many others.

California College of the Arts began in 1907 as the School of the California Guild of Arts and Crafts. When it opened, the school had just three teachers and 43 students. Today, 420 faculty members serve more than 1,600 students enrolled in over 40 undergraduate, graduate, minor, and dual degree programs. California College of the Arts is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC), the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD), and the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB).

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

Otis College of Art and Design (OTIS) has two pathways to becoming an animator: the Animation BFA and the Animation Certificate. The BFA explores 3D modeling, storyboarding, animation, character design, rendering and sound. Students will gain experience in 2D and 3D computer animation, 3D production, and visual development, as well as software such as Houdini, Maya, ToonBoom, Unreal, Nuke, Adobe Suite, Zbrush, and Cinema 4D. All BFA students will complete key projects including Animation Explorations, Animation Studio Project I & II, and Animation Senior Project I & II. 

The Animation Certificate Program is provided through the Otis College of Art and Design Extension Center. Consisting of 16 required courses and two elective courses, the Certificate Program explores character creation, story development, visual effects, animated graphics, and creating environments. Course examples include 2D and 3D Animation, Digital Drawing: Illustrator, Digital Tools: Maya, Drawing and Composition, Storyboarding for Film and Animation, Digital Storytelling, and 2D Design.

The Animation Certificate concludes with the Final Portfolio: Digital Media Arts. Students can complete the program in 1.5 to 2 years.

Graduates of the Animation Programs at OTIS have gone on to secure positions at major studios such as Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), DreamWorks Animation, Nickelodeon, Disney, and Pixar Animation Studios, among others. OTIS Animation alumni are 3D Animators, Animation Designers, Game Designers, Junior Character Animators, Layout Artists, 2D/3D CG Artists, Cinematic Animators, Previz Artists, Production Coordinators, and Storyboard Artists, among others.

Established in 1918, Otis College of Art and Design is Los Angeles’ oldest professional school of the arts. This private, non-profit college serves more than 1,200 students enrolled in 11 BFA and MFA degree programs in the Fine Arts, Graphic Design, Public Practice, and Writing. A variety of minors and certificate programs are also available. Programs and courses at OTIS are led by more than 430 professors—all active professionals in their respective fields.

Otis College of Art and Design is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC). The school is also a member of the Association of Independent Colleges of Art and Design (AICAD).

9. San Jose State University, San Jose, California
San Jose State University

San Jose State University (SJSU) houses the College of Humanities and the Arts, home to the Departments of Design and Art and Art History. The Department of Design has three degree options for animators including a BFA in Animation/Illustration (A/I BFA), a BA in Design Studies Specializing in A/I, and a Master of Design (MDes) with a Specialization in Animation. The Department of Art and Art History has a Digital Media Art (DMA) MFA Program, provided in partnership with SJSU’s Computers in Art, Design, Research, and Education (CADRE) Laboratory for New Media.

The multidisciplinary MFA explores areas from computer graphics and interactivity to computer games. Students in this program have the opportunity to create an area of focus through 24 units of required electives. In addition, students may choose three units of specialized study in any area of art.

Other program benefits include exclusive 24/7 access to lab facilities, collaborative art and technology projects, and internship opportunities throughout Silicon Valley. Consisting of 60 units of study, the DMA MFA culminates with the MFA Project worth three units.

The SJSU A/I BFA is a professional degree that covers 3D and traditional animation. Students in this program may specialize in Animation or Visual Development. Specializations are 21 units, including 12 units of approved electives. Course examples across specializations include Animation Production – Storyboarding, Digital Animation I-II, Visual Development I-II, and Digital  Modeling I-II.  Students in both areas must pass a milestone portfolio review and complete a six-unit capstone—Senior Seminar Animation/Illustration.

The SJSU Design Studies BA with A/I is a liberal arts degree that allows students to explore animation and film, as well as photography, design, and theater arts. Both the BA and BFA programs provide professional internship opportunities.

San Jose State University’s MDes with a Specialization in Animation focuses on current, experimental, and emerging professional practices. Comparable to an MFA, the MDes features technical courses such as CG Animation, Building Interactivity in Animation and Games, Lighting and Rendering. An additional program benefit is SJSU’s partnership with industry professionals who provide mentoring as students  work on their portfolio and final projects.

Students in all programs benefit from access to state-of-the-art studios, courses taught by industry professionals, and guest speakers from major studios such as Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), Nickelodeon, Disney, Sony Pictures Animation, DreamWorks, Blizzard Entertainment, Pixar, Cartoon Network, Hallmark, Warner Bros. Animation, and many others.

Graduates of the A/I and Design Studies Programs at SJSU have been hired at more than 135 studios and colleges. Examples include Disney Interactive, Cartoon Network, Cogswell Institute, Sony Pictures, Blizzard Entertainment, Lucasfilm Animation, Animation Mentor, NBCUniversal Studios, Nickelodeon, Pixar, Zynga, and 20th Century Fox.

San Jose State University was established in 1857. Located in the center of Silicon Valley, SJSU serves approximately 36,000 students, offers 250 areas of study at the bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral levels. Programs at SJSU are offered across nine colleges that house dozens of departments and schools. San Jose State University is accredited by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).

10. California State University, Fullerton, Fullerton, California
California State University, Fullerton

California State University, Fullerton (Cal State Fullerton) houses the College of the Arts, home to Department of Visual Arts. Accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD), the Department features partnerships with studios such as Nickelodeon and Walt Disney; access to the Visual Arts Complex, which houses state-of-the-art animation, illustration, drawing, and painting studios; and an Art BFA with an Entertainment Art/Animation Concentration.

Students in this 132-unit program will complete 36 units in the concentration. Course highlights include Cartooning and Caricature, Visual Development and Background Painting, Special Studies in Entertainment Art/Animation, 3D Animation, and Elements of Sequential Art. Other courses include Animation Preproduction, Animation Production, Animal and Wildlife Drawing, and Writing in the Visual Arts. Studio Art electives allow students to explore other areas of art such as illustration, graphic design, photography, kinetic sculpture, and even glass blowing.

In addition to a wide range of course options, the Cal State Fullerton Art BFA Program includes Group Projects, Independent Research, internship opportunities at major studios, and the BFA Capstone.

Cal State Fullerton alumni have worked on The Simpsons, SpongeBob Squarepants, Alvin and the Chipmunks, Superman Returns, Avatar, Ice Age 2, Spiderman 3, and many other productions. BFA program graduates also hold positions at Nickelodeon, Lucasfilm, Sony Games, Cartoon Network, Disney Feature Animation, Disney TV Animation, Sony Pictures Imageworks, and Electronic Arts (EA), among others.

Founded in 1957, California State University, Fullerton is part of the 23 campus California State University (CSU) system. Serving just over 39,550 students. Cal State Fullerton offers 110 degree programs across eight academic colleges. California State University, Fullerton is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC).

11. Laguna College of Art and Design, Laguna Beach, California
Laguna College of Art and Design

The Animation Program at Laguna College of Art and Design (LCAD) has the largest enrollment of any other program at the school. Degree options include BFAs in Animation and Experimental Animation. An Animation Minor that provides instruction in the principles of both traditional and CG animation is also available. Courses for the program include Animation 1, Character Design for Animators 1, Storyboarding 1, CG Animation 1, and Animation 2. History of Animation is strongly recommended for this program, but it is not a requirement.

The Animation BFA provides instruction and hands-on training in creating animated characters, filmmaking (editing, directing, screenwriting, sound design), pitching stories, and working in teams. The program consists of a combination of liberal arts and studio courses. Examples of liberal arts courses include Age of Michelangelo, Illuminating Women: Female Artists, Scientists, Poets, and Philosophers of the Renaissance, Worldly + Otherworldly Creatures, Traditional Arts of West Africa, and the Science of Sight.

Examples of studio courses and other course requirements include Character Design for Animators, Digital Skills, Acting for Animators, CG Modeling, Directing for Animators, Visual Development for Animators, and Figure Drawing for Animators. Animation BFA students will also complete the Animation Practicum, and the Senior Capstone and Thesis Defense course.

The Experimental Animation BFA Program at Laguna College of Art and Design is led by experienced instructors who are active in the television, film, games, and animation industries. With class sizes limited to 18 students, the program emphasizes learning by doing. This means, students will complete several projects throughout the program, including Experimental Thesis Film 1 and 2. In addition, students may specialize in one or more of the following areas: storyboarding, internet series projects, and show design.

Course examples for the Experimental Animation BFA Program include Fundamentals of Maya, 2D Analog/Digital Puppetry, Directing for Limited and Experimental Animation, Paperless Animation, Experimental Stop Motion Techniques, Compositing for Animators, Animation for New Media, Art Direction for TV and New Media, New Media Auteur, Storyboarding for Limited Animation, and Character Design or Limited Animation and Stop Motion.

Students in all LCAD Animation Programs have the opportunity to participate in the LCAD Animation Film Festival (LAFF). Held annually, LAFF is a theatrical exhibition that showcases the best student animated films.

Graduates of the LCAD Animation Programs are routinely hired by major television, film, games, and animation studios. Examples include Warner Brothers Feature Animation, Obsidian Entertainment, Pixar, The Jim Henson Company, Sony, South Park Studios, Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, Disney, LAIKA Studios, DreamWorks, Fox, Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), and Titmouse.

Founded in 1961, Laguna College of Art and Design began as Laguna Beach School of Art (LBSA). In addition to the main campus in Laguna Beach, LCAD has educational affiliates locally and around the world including Florence Academy of Arts in Florence, Italy, Los Angeles Academy of Figurative Art, and NHTV Breda University of Applied Sciences (NHTV), Netherlands.

Laguna College of Art and Design serves around 770 students enrolled in dozens of degree and minor programs. The school is regionally and nationally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC) and the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD).

12. California State University, Long Beach, Long Beach, California
California State University, Long Beach

California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) houses the College of the Arts (COTA). One of the universities largest and most popular colleges, COTA consists of six separate academic units including the School of Art, The Bob Cole Conservatory of Music, and the Departments of Film and Electronic Arts, Dance, Design, and Theatre Arts. The School of Art houses the Art BFA and MFA Programs. The BFA has an Illustration/Animation Option and the MFA has an Illustration/Animation Track.

For the BFA Program, students may choose one of three Tracks within the Option: Animation, Illustration or Pre-Production. Consisting of 132 units, the Art BFA Program requires 31 units in the Animation Track, six units of upper division Art History courses, and nine units of electives. Examples of required courses include Core Studio: Animation - Practices, Core Studio: Animation - Design 1-2, Professional Practices in Illustration/Animation, Core Studio: Animation - Story Art, Advanced Studio: Animation Filmmaking, Advanced Studio: Animation - 3D CG 1, Experimental Animation, and Animation Senior Project.

Electives provide opportunities to create additional works. Elective examples include Costumed Figure Drawing, Experimental Animation, Advanced Animation Practices, Animation: Acting and Staging, and Animation Senior Film I-II.

The Art MFA-Illustration/Animation Track requires 39 units in the focus area. Course examples include Experimental Animation 2, Graduate Studies: Advanced Illustration/Animation, Animation 4, Computer Animation 2, Graduate Studies: Directed Studio, Writing for Artists, Graduate Studies: Image as Text, and Graduate Studies: Professional Practices for Visual Communication. In the final semester of the program, students will take the Graduate Studies: MFA Project course with members of the student’s Project Committee.

The COTA Department of Film and Electronic Arts has an Option in Theory and Practice of Cinema. Within the Option is a Specialization Track in Postproduction. The Track provides several courses for animators including 3D Computer Animation, Digital Arts Production, Color Correction, Editing, Sound Design, and Audio Production. Students in this program also have access to courses such as Advanced Screenwriting, Alternative Media, Writing the Short Script, Film Production, and Studio Directing.

Graduates of the COTA BA, BFA, and MFA Programs at California State University Long Beach will enter the job market with a professional portfolio of their best work. Program alumni are prepared for careers such as Animator, Animation Technical Director, Character Animator, Compositing Artist, Illustrator, Art Director, Storyboard Artist, and Forensic Animator.

California State University, Long Beach was established in 1949. One of the 23 campuses of the California State University System, CSULB serves more than 38,000 students enrolled in over 300 programs across eight colleges. California State University, Long Beach is accredited by Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC).

13. Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles, California
Loyola Marymount University

The School of Film and Television at Loyola Marymount University (LMU) houses the Walter and Grace Lantz Undergraduate Animation Program. Students in this program will study traditional and digital techniques to develop films, television productions, video games, and emerging media forms. Animation students will gain hands-on experience in storytelling, 3D filmmaking, visual effects (VFX), stop-motion animation, and motion capture, among others. Programs lead to a BA or a Minor in Animation.

The LMU BA is a four year program that requires 45 semester hours of study in upper division coursework. The Minor consists of 18 semester hours of study and is open to all LMU students, regardless of major. Course examples across programs include Visual Story Development, 3D Computer Animation, Discovering Animation, Pixel Animation, Animated Perspectives, Virtual Production, Character Development, Interactive Animation, History of Animation, Immersive Media Studio, and Animation Workshop. 

The Animation BA requires a significant number of electives, allowing students to focus their studies in an area of interest. During the final year of the Animation BA Program, students will complete the Animation Practicum and Senior Thesis Project.

Graduates of Animation Programs at Loyola Marymount University are prepared for positions in animation, film, games, design, television, advertising, science, medicine, law, and education, among others. Animation Program alumni have worked on a number of major productions such as Wonder Woman, Superman: Doomsday, Green Lantern: First Flight, The Simpsons, and The Simpsons Movie.

Loyola Marymount University was established in 1911. The school serves 10,000 students enrolled in 55 undergraduate majors, 58 minors, 46 master's degree programs, one education doctorate, one doctorate in juridical science, one juris doctorate, and 14 credential programs across seven colleges and schools. Loyola Marymount University is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC).

14. California State University, Los Angeles, California
California State University

The Department of Art at California State University, Los Angeles (Cal State LA or CSU) has an Animation Option that combines the study of experimental, traditional, and contemporary animation techniques with hands-on learning in digital classrooms, labs, and other facilities. Part of the College of Arts & Letters, the Art Department provides access to the Stop-Motion Animation Labs, Design Library, and the Tool Crib. Art Department students will also have opportunities to exhibit in the student-run COMA Gallery and/or Ronald H. Silverman Fine Arts Gallery.

The Animation Option is a path within the Art BA Program. The program requires a minimum of 98 units of coursework, including 48 units in the Option, and students may take select electives from art and film offerings. Course examples include Story and Visualization, Art and Motion, Digital Modeling, Three-Dimensional Animation, Advanced Animation, Experimental Animation, Video for Artists, Digital Design Tools, Color Theory and Perception, World Animation History, and Advanced Illustration. A Capstone Animation Project worth up to six credits is required to graduate.

Also within the Art Department is the Art MA and MFA Programs. Both provide the opportunity to enroll in the Design Option (Graphic Design/Visual Communication, Animation). The Art MA requires 30 units to graduate, while the MFA requires 60 units. Elective options allow students to take additional coursework in animation. Course examples across programs include Advanced Animation, Two-Dimensional Animation, Graduate Interactive Design, Experimental Animation, Advanced Illustration, and Problems in Advanced Design.

Each semester, students in the Cal State LA Art Department will join professional artists and faculty for several events that provide the opportunity to present their work to their peers and the public. Graduates of the Art Programs at Cal State LA are prepared to pursue careers in animation, game design, screenwriting, storyboard art, visual effects (VFX), art direction, production, advertising, film editing, and special effects, among others.

Established in 1947, California State University, Los Angeles serves approximately 27,030 students enrolled in more than 150 degree, certificate, and minor programs. Part of the 23 campus, California State University System of nearly 480,000 students, Cal State LA is comprised of nine colleges and the University Library. California State University, Los Angeles is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC). Programs in the CSU Department of Art are accredited by National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD).

15. California State University Northridge, Northridge, California
California State University Northridge

The Department of Art at California State University Northridge (CSUN) houses a Visual Arts Program with several pathways to study animation. Within the Department’s Visual Arts BA is a Concentration in Animation with three Tracks: 2D Animation Design, 3D Animation, and Game Design. As part of the Mike Curb College of Arts, Media, and Communication, all tracks provide access to the Entertainment Industry Institute (EII) and the student-operated creative agency known as IntersectLA.

In addition, students in all tracks may join the Animation Students League of Northridge and/or the CSUN Game Development Club. Both student-run organizations provide networking opportunities and the chance to interact with industry guests through lectures and workshops. Other program highlights include internship opportunities, participation in studio tours, and CSUN’s partnerships with Seoul Institute of the Arts and DreamWorks studios.

Students in the Visual Arts BA: 2D Animation Design Track will take courses such as Visual Development, Pre-Production, Compositing, and 3D Computer Animation. Potential careers for graduates of this Track include Animator, Storyboard Artist, and Background Designer. In the Visual Arts BA: 3D Animation Track, students will explore Game Animation, Compositing, and Visual Development. Possible job titles for graduates include Character Animator, Lighting Artist, CG Modeler, Compositor, and Pre-Vis Artist. During the final year of both Tracks, students will work on collaborative group projects and their final portfolio.

Game Track students will take Character Animation, Compositing, Animation Production, 3D Computer Animation, and Game Production courses. Graduates of this track are prepared for careers in character animation, modeling, texture painting & lighting, quality assurance, and level design, among others.

With a population of more than 38,500 students, California State University Northridge is one of the largest universities in the nation. Founded in 1958, CSUN is also one of the youngest universities in the U.S. and within the 23 campus California State University System. This liberal arts institution comprises eight academic colleges, The Tseng College, and the University Library.

CSUN program offerings include bachelor’s degrees in 69 disciplines, master’s degrees in 76 fields, three doctorates, and 17 teaching credential programs. California State University Northridge is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC).

16. Chapman University, Orange, California
Chapman University

Chapman University (Chapman) houses Dodge College of Film & Media Arts—one of the fastest growing film, advertising, and broadcast journalism school in the U.S. Students in all Dodge programs have access to the highly collaborative Digital Media Arts Center (DMAC), which was inspired by the creative spaces at major studios and companies such as Google, Disney, Microsoft, and Pixar.

Other Dodge College highlights include internships with studios such as Blizzard Entertainment, Disney, and Blur Studios; study abroad experiences in places such as Japan, France, Mozambique, Peru and New Zealand; access to industry software and tools such Adobe Creative Suite, 3ds Max, Xsens MVN Animate, and Autodesk Maya; and participation in student clubs such as the Chapman Animation and Visual Effects Club, The Collective, and the Virtual Reality/AR Club.

For animators, Chapman’s Dodge College of Film & Media Arts has an Animation and Visual Effects (VFX) Program with a focus in either Animation or VFX. Within the Animation Focus are two Areas: CG and 2D. Course examples for the CG Area include Mechanics of Motion, Beginning, Intermediate, and Advanced Character Animation for CG, Storyboarding and Story Reels, Production Design, and Storytelling in Animation and Visual Effects. 

2D students will take courses such as Fundamental Graphics I-II for Animation and Visual Effects, 3D Computer Graphics I-II, Character Design, Visual Storytelling, and Color and Design: Principles and Practice. Students in both areas will complete Senior Thesis I: Concept Development, Senior Thesis II: Pre-Production and Production I, and Senior Thesis III: Production II and Post-Production. The Animation and VFX Program leads to a BFA.

Graduates of the Animation and VFX Program at Chapman University are prepared for careers in the animation, film and gaming industries. Possible job titles include Animator, Production Designer, Modeler, Texture Painter, Visual Effects Artist or Supervisor, Rigger, and Compositor, among others.

Founded in 1861 as Hesperian College, Chapman University is a business, entertainment, and technology college that serves 9,600 students enrolled in 200 programs across 11 colleges and schools. Chapman University is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, Accrediting Commission for Senior Colleges and Universities (WSCUC).

17. Woodbury University, Burbank, California
Woodbury University

The School of Media: Culture : Design at Woodbury University (Woodbury) has an Animation + VFX Program that prepares students for careers in professional animation and visual effects production. This STEM-designated BFA program consists of coursework in 2D animation production, 3D animation production, stop-motion animation production, and visual effects. The program also provides a variety of electives such as Digital Painting, History of Women in Animation, Puppet Building, Digital Sculpting, and History of Disney Animation.

The Animation + VFX BFA at Woodbury University is a professional degree that requires the completion of a thesis. Students will complete this final project across four courses during the junior and senior years of the program. In addition, all students are required to complete an internship. Students have interned at major studios such as Walt Disney Imagineering, Walt Disney Animation Studios, Cartoon Network, DreamWorks, and Nickelodeon.

Graduates of the Animation + VFX Program at Woodbury have been hired at Netflix Animation, DreamWorks, 20th Century Studios, The Walt Disney Company, and American Broadcasting Company (ABC), among others.

Woodbury University was founded in 1884 as Woodbury College, making it one of the oldest universities on the west coast. Serving approximately 950 students, Woodbury offers 25 undergraduate and five graduate programs across four schools and three campuses in Burbank (main), Hollywood, and San Diego, California. Woodbury University is accredited by the National Association of Schools of Arts & Design (NASAD) and the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, Accrediting Commission for Senior Colleges and Universities (WSCUC).

18. New York Film Academy, Los Angeles, California
New York Film Academy

The 3D Animation & Visual Effects (VFX) School at New York Film Academy Los Angeles (NYFA Los Angeles) has several pathways to study animation including an Animation BFA, a One-Year 3D Animation Conservatory Program, and an immersive Four-Week 3D Animation Workshop. Students in all programs work and learn in hands-on production workshops on the Universal Studios backlot in the Burbank area of Los Angeles.

Course examples across programs include Animation, Maya Polygonal Modeling, Professional Development in Animation, Character Design, Screenwriting, Acting for Animation, Advanced Rigging, UP Mapping, and Particle Dynamics and Visual Effects in Maya. Courses at NYFA Los Angeles are taught by professionals in the field who have worked with studios and companies such as Disney Animation, DreamWorks, Netflix, Digital Domain, and Sony Pictures Imageworks.

NYFA Los Angeles alumni are Animators, VFX Artists, and Filmmakers. They work for (or have worked with) NBCUniversal, Bad Robot Productions, Digital Domain, DreamWorks Animation, Tyler Perry Studios, ACM Siggraph, and Gearbox Software, among others.

New York Film Academy has degree-granting campuses in Los Angeles, New York, and Miami. Additional campuses and programs are located at Harvard University (Cambridge, MA) and in China, France, Australia, and Russia. Founded in 1992, NYFA serves thousands of students enrolled in dozens of Visual and Performing Arts programs. New York Film Academy is accredited Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC).

19. California State University, Chico, Chico, California
California State University, Chico

Computer Animation and Game Development (CAGD) is one of the top 10 largest majors at California State University, Chico. Established in 1999 as the Applied Computer Graphics Program, The CAGD Program is housed in the College of Engineering, Computer Science & Construction Management. Highlights for this 120-unit program include the opportunity to complete an internship, access to labs, workshops, and studios, and study abroad experiences in Germany and other destinations. The CAGD Program leads to a BS in CAGD. Minors in Applied Computer Graphics and Video Game Design (both require 21 units of study) are also available.

CAGD BS students must choose an Animation Production or Game Development Option, and five courses from an Interdisciplinary Program Area. Options include Media Arts, Design, and Technology, Art Studio, and Computer Science. The Animation Production Option combines coursework in Art Studio or Communication Design, with Graphics and Animation. Both options explore game scripting, media arts design and technology, and computer science. Course topics may include 3D Animation and Character Animation, 3D Modeling, Motion Capture, Video Character Modeling, and Team Production Development.

Students in all CAGD Programs have access to the in-house motion capture studio, and they may participate in the student-run Computer Graphics Club (CGC). Chico State alumni work in game development, animation, CGI/VFX, or other areas at major studios such as Blizzard, Pixar, Epic Games, Zynga, Disney, Sony Imageworks, Ubisoft, Electronic Arts (EA), and WetaFX, among others.

The College of Humanities & Fine Arts at California State University, Chico (Chico State) houses the Department of Art & Art History, which has an additional option for animators—the Art Studio BFA with Digital Media Concentration. Accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD), the program has three focus areas: Time-Based Media, Digital illustration, and Fine Arts. While all focus areas provide opportunities to study animation through required coursework and electives, the most popular option for animators is Time-based Media. This focus area explores stop-motion animation, hand-drawn animation, digital filmmaking, and computer-assisted 2D animation.

Graduates of the Art Studio BFA at Chico State will leave the program with an industry-ready portfolio of their work. Program alumni are animators, studio owners, game artists, illustrators, freelance artists, film directors, digital artists, graphic designers, editors, and art directors, among others.

Founded in 1887, California State University, Chico serves 13,840 students from 43 nations, 30 states, and one U.S. territory. Chico State offers more than 350 programs across seven colleges, five schools, and 22 centers and institutes. California State University, Chico is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC).

20. University of Silicon Valley, San Jose, California
University of Silicon Valley

The Department of Digital Art & Animation (DAA) at University of Silicon Valley (USV) provides several focus areas that take students through the full animation and visual effects (VFX) pipelines. Programs lead to a BA in DAA with a Focus in 3D Animation, 3D Modeling, Entertainment Design, or Technical Art.

Courses for the USV DAA Program are designed and taught by industry professionals. Across focus areas, students will take courses such as 3D Animation Principles, Storyboarding, Animated Film Production, 3D Modeling, Character Rigging, Texturing, Perspective and Rendering, 2D Design, and Digital Imaging Concepts. Students will also develop advanced skills in industry software such as Maya, Zbrush, Substance, After Effects, Nuke, and Houdini.

The DAA Program at University of Silicon Valley emphasizes project-based learning. Students have the opportunity to work in teams with real clients on real projects through USV’s MediaWorks Studios. Students will also work on a film, from start to finish, to be presented at film festivals around the world.

Graduates of the University of Silicon Valley DAA BA Program work in a variety of roles such as Animator, Modeler, Technical Artist, Compositor, Concept Artist, Character Artist, Technical Director, Rigging Artist, Lighting Artist, Environment Artist, and Surface Artist. USV DAA alumni have been hired at major studios and networks such as, Activision Blizzard, Pixar, DreamWorks, Cartoon Network, and Disney.

University of Silicon Valley is a specialized college that dates back to 1887. Formerly known as Cogswell College—the first technical training institution in the West—USV serves approximately 500 students enrolled in BA, BS, BBA, MA, MS, and Certificate Programs. University of Silicon Valley is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC).