2021 Animation School Rankings

What are the top animation schools on the west coast for 2021?

Top 20 Animation Schools on the West Coast – 2021 College Rankings
1California Institute of the ArtsCalifornia
2University of Southern CaliforniaCalifornia
3University of California Los AngelesCalifornia
4Gnomon School of Visual EffectsCalifornia
5Academy of Art UniversityCalifornia
6ArtCenter College of DesignCalifornia
7California College of the ArtsCalifornia
8Otis College of Art and DesignCalifornia
9DigiPen Institute of TechnologyWashington
10San Jose State UniversityCalifornia
11California State University-Long BeachCalifornia
12California State University-FullertonCalifornia
13Loyola Marymount UniversityCalifornia
14Laguna College of Art and DesignCalifornia
15Chapman UniversityCalifornia
16University of WashingtonWashington
17California State University-NorthridgeCalifornia
18Woodbury UniversityCalifornia
19Cogswell University of Silicon ValleyCalifornia
20Pacific Northwest College of ArtOregon

Our 2021 list -our tenth annual- of the Top 20 Animation School Programs in the West. For an explanation of our ranking criteria, click here.

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

California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) opened its doors in 1970. Formed by Walt and Roy Disney as a multidisciplinary community of artists, the school, which offers programs in art, design, film, music, theater, and dance, became the nation's first postsecondary institution to offer graduate and undergraduate degrees in both the visual and performing arts.

Serving just over 1,500 students, CalArts provides more than 70 degree programs, including the unique Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA). Programs are administered within 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.

The animation program is housed in the School of Film/Video—the largest school at CalArts. Programs options include a BFA in Character Animation, and BFA and MFA degrees in Experimental Animation. The BFA in Character Animation is an “intensive” four-year program, that “provides comprehensive artistic and technical training to help each student develop as a fully-fledged animation artist within both the traditional and computer graphic (CG) animation environments,” says the school.

Courses for the program are taught by “a faculty of experienced professionals who work at the forefront of traditional, CG and independent animation.”

Course highlights include 2D Character Animation, CG Foundation, Digital Methods, and Film Workshop. During the final year of the BFA program, students have the opportunity to customize their curriculum according to their own areas of specific interest. Graduates of the program will enter the job market with a professional-caliber portfolio and four short individually made films. 

The BFA Track in the Experimental Animation program “emphasizes the creative development of a personal aesthetic in an interdisciplinary, artist-centered environment.” Courses for the program “blend practical knowledge with creative practice and critique, allowing for a detailed examination of animation art.” Course highlights include Animation Production, BFA Workshop, Hybrid Imaging, and Motion and Meaning.

The MFA is a three-year program that encourages students to “seek out poetic, lyrical, structural and other modes of experimentation with the materials and forms of the moving image. Students are trained to become makers, as well as “critically minded contributors to the advancement of animation history and theory.” Courses such as Post-Production Sound for Experimental Animators and The Digital Path for Animation are part of the program, as well as Experimental Animation Thesis Production. Graduates will leave the program with two film projects.

Throughout both the BFA and MFA programs, students will work closely with a mentor to achieve their academic and professional goals.

CalArts has produced hundreds of successful alumni including Brad Bird (The Incredibles, Ratatouille, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol), Chris Buck (Frozen), John Lasseter (Toy Story, Cars), Mark Andrews (Brave), Stephen Hillenburg (creator of SpongeBob SquarePants), and Tim Burton (Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands, Ed Wood), to name a few.

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

Established in 1880, University of Southern California (USC) is a private research university that houses the USC Dana and Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, along with 22 academic schools and units. The school, which opened with just 53 students and 10 teachers, now serves 46,000 students and 4,000 full-time faculty. In addition to the Los Angeles campus, USC has programs and centers in Marina Del Rey, Orange County, Sacramento, Washington, D.C., Catalina Island, Alhambra, and around Southern California.

More than 200 undergraduate programs and over 400 graduate and professional programs are offered, including several for aspiring animators. The John C. Hench Division of Animation + Digital Arts offers a BA, BFA, MFA and a Minor that encourage collaborations across the School of Cinematic Arts and with students from Thornton School of Music, the Kaufman School of Dance, the School of Dramatic Arts, the Viterbi School of Engineering, and the School of Architecture, to name a few.

Students in the “unique” four-year BA program “study within the framework that combines a broad liberal arts background with specialization in a profession,” says the school. For 2020-2021, USC lists the following possible areas of concentration: Character Animation, Experimental Animation, Visual Effects, 3D Computer Animation, Science Visualization and Interactive Animation.

The program requires 128 units, including a minimum of 16 lower-division units and a minimum of 26 upper-division units in Cinematic Arts. Course highlights include 3D Character Performance Animation, Drawing for Art and Design, Expanded Concepts in 2D/3D Animation, Ideation and Pre-Production, The World of Visual Effects, Transmedia Entertainment, and Writing for Animation. Students will complete a senior project and they will have the opportunity to complete Directed Studies, Directed Research OR an Internship in Cinematic Arts.

The BFA is a newly created program that focuses on “front-end creative foundation to build your filmmaking knowledge over four years,” says the school. Areas of study include Character Animation, Documentary Animation, Experimental Animation, Installation, Motion Capture, Motion Graphics, Projection Mapping, Science Visualization, Stop-Motion, Storyboarding, Visual Effects, and VR/Immersive Media.

The three-year Minor consists of 26 units of study. The program “provides students with an opportunity to create both personal and collaborative work in a wide range of genres, from traditional character to contemporary experimental and computer animation. This includes painting, cel, stop-motion, collage, mixed media, 2- and 3-D computer animation software and interactive digital media.” Students in this program will complete a required final project.

The three-year MFA allows students to “further their animation knowledge and refine their production and motion design skills.” More than 25% of MFA degree units are open electives in the School of Cinematic Arts. Students also benefit from “top-tier” weekly guest lecturers and the opportunity to complete a final thesis film or project.

Many graduates of the animation programs at USC have gone on to become independent filmmakers while others go on to work for major feature and animation studios such as Digital Domain, Digital Idea, DreamWorks Animation, Illumination Entertainment, Industrial Light & Magic, Nickelodeon Animation Studios, Pixar, Rhythm and Hues, Sony Pictures, and many others.

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

University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) is considered one of the leading arts and cultural centers in the western United States, hosting more than 1,000 visual and performing arts events each year and attracting more than 500,000 patrons. Founded in 1919 as the Southern Branch of the University of California, the school serves nearly 45,000 students enrolled more than 125 undergraduate majors in 109 academic departments, and master’s degrees in over 80 academic and professional fields.

Among the schools programs is a BA in Film and Television with a Concentration in Animation and the UCLA Animation Workshop. Both programs are offered in the School of Theater, Film and Television (STFT), Department of Film, Television, and Digital Media (FTVDM).

The BA program requires courses such as Cinematography, Digital Media Studies, Film Editing and Screenwriting. The Animation Concentration consists of 20 credit hours of study. Students in the program will complete Film TV – Senior Symposium and a Film TV Internship.

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. Per the school, the animation area “serves as an instruction and production center for both traditional and CG animation. This includes 2D and 3D character animation; experimental; stop-motion; cut-out; interactive work and more.”

Students in the program have the opportunity to work in the “state-of-the art Walter Lantz Digital Animation Studio,” where they gain “hands-on knowledge about the latest CG innovations that continue to transform the animation field.” Just a few course highlights include Computer Animation for Film and Video, Animation Timing, Interactive Animation, Real Time Animation: Puppetry, and The Disney Feature: Then and Now.

Graduates will leave UCLA’s Animation Workshop with one completed traditional film, one computer film, one interactive project, and one thesis film. Program alumni have landed positions at Pixar and they have worked with directors such as Tim Burton, and contributed to films such as Monster House and The Simpsons Movie.

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

Gnomon School of Visual Effects recently received the ACCSC School of Excellence Award. Bestowed by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges, the award placed Gnomon in the top 3% of ACCSC-accredited schools and colleges. Established in 1997, the school’s campus is located in Hollywood, California, within the historic Television Center Studio Lot, where classrooms mimic the environments of real production studios.

Both degree and vocational certificate programs are available to students looking to break into the entertainment industry. Individual 10-week courses are available as well, allowing students to mix and match courses to meet their goals.

Formal programs include a BFA or Certificate in Digital Production. A one-year preparatory program, Foundation in Art & Design, is also available.

The BFA in Digital Production is a full-time program that may be completed in three or four years. Per the school, the curriculum for this baccalaureate program “covers all aspects of a 3D generalist skillset, providing an in-depth understanding of the 3D production pipeline, visual arts, and general education studies.” Through electives, students can enhance particular skills in specific areas of digital production.

The BFA program, which culminates in the creation of a professional demo reel, prepares students to work as digital artists within the animation, games, and VFX industries.

The Certificate in Digital Production is a full-time, two-year program offering emphasized studies in character or creature animation, games, modeling and texturing, or visual effects. Building on the 3D generalist foundation, this intensive program is “geared towards students with a background in art and who desire a career as a digital artist” in the animation, film, games, or visual effects industries.

With a 97% employment rate, Gnomon has helped graduates of both programs land positions at major studios such as Blizzard Entertainment, Digital Domain, DreamWorks, Electronic Arts, Industrial Light & Magic, Marvel Entertainment, Nickelodeon Animation, Reel FX, Rhythm & Hues, Sony Pictures Imageworks, and Walt Disney Animation Studios.

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

Established in 1929, Academy of Art University is one of the largest private, accredited art and design schools in the nation. Family-owned, the school is located in one of the world’s top cities for animators. Serving more than 7,200 students from 112 countries, Academy of Art offers programs from acting, animation and architecture to visual development, web design, and writing for film and television. Degrees are offered at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, and many programs are available entirely online.

The School of Animation and Visual Effects (VFX) is the only school of its kind to teach in a studio production environment (StudioX). “The “X” in Studio X stands for the valuable eXperience students gain as they prepare for animation careers,” says the school. Graduates have gone on to land positions at top studios such as Blue Sky Studios, Industrial Light & Magic, Laika, Sony Pictures, Walt Disney Animation Studios, Weta Digital and many others.

Program options for aspiring animators include a four-year Certificate program and AA, BFA, MA and MFA in degrees in Animation and Visual Effects.

The AA program “offers students a strong introduction to the core principles of animation production.” The BFA program allows students to specialize 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 2D Animation, 3D Animation, 3D Modeling, Stop-Motion, and Storyboarding.

Course highlights include Cinematics for Animation & VFX, Computer Animation Production, Lip Sync & Facial Performances, Preproduction Principles, Previs & Postvis, Producing for Animation & Visual Effects, and Sketching for Communication. Students will also complete a collaborative project, internship and senior portfolio.

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.” Students can expect to take courses such as 3D Animation Physics and Mechanics, Advanced Character Animation, Feature Animation, Gesture & Quick Sketch for Animators, and Storyboarding. Students in the program will also complete a portfolio.

The MFA 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.” Course highlights include 3D Modeling & Animation (Maya), Acting for Animators, Perspective for Characters & Environment, Storyboarding for Thesis, Traditional Animation, and Visual Effects for Animation. MFA students will also take several Directed Study courses and Special Topics, as well as Animation: Thesis Completion, Final Portfolio Preparation, and ANM 900: Internship.

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

Founded in 1930, ArtCenter College of Design sits on a hillside campus that consists of 165 wooded acres and a sprawling modernist steel-and-glass structure. The school also has campuses in downtown Pasadena and Los Angeles, and satellite studios in Petersen Automotive Museum (Miracle Mile, Los Angeles) and Berlin, Germany.

Serving approximately 2,335 students, ArtCenter offers 11 undergraduate and seven graduate degree programs in a variety of Applied Arts, Industrial Design, and Visual disciplines. The Industrial Design Program offers a joint MS/MBA in partnership with the Drucker School of Management. Programs for aspiring animators include a BS in Entertainment Design with three tracks: Animation, Concept, and Game Design.

The Animation Track develops students’ skills in the disciplines of art direction, character animation, lighting for 3D and 2D animation, modeling, and storyboarding, while the Concept Track focuses on the skills and creative ability required of entertainment industry concept designers. Game Design prepares students to create and convey game concepts through prototyping and production for multiple platforms.

Entertainment Design graduates are prepared for career opportunities as animators, lighters, modelers, and storyboard artists with companies such as 343, Blur, Disney, DreamWorks, ILM, Pixar, Riot, and Sony.

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

California College of the Arts (CCA) is a private nonprofit institution that has been in existence for more than 100 years. Founded in 1907 by a German-born cabinetmaker with links to the Arts and Craft Movement, CCA is one of America’s top art and design colleges that also specializes in architecture and writing. When founder Frederick Meyer opened the School of the California Guild of Arts and Crafts (now CCA), the school had just three teachers and 43 students. Today, some 100 full-time and 400 part-time faculty members serve 1,850 students from 42 states and 49 countries.

Degree options at CCA include 22 undergraduate and 11 graduate programs. The Animation Department is home one of the school’s largest majors –the BFA in Animation. Students in the program receive guidance from faculty, including visiting artists, who the school says are “part of animation teams for DreamWorks, Pixar, Tippett Studio, and other studios that have won prestigious awards for their animated films.”

With guidance from experienced faculty and industry professionals, students will learn how to make 2D animation, 3D animation, and visual effects for video games, as well as stop-motion animation, and more. “Courses hone technical expertise in timing and spacing, weight, and other key animation principles.” Students will “learn to combine the skills of both director and actor to create characters with authentic emotion and tell stories that make a real impact.”

Course highlights for the program include Advanced Animation 3D Tips & Tricks, Animation: Visual Storytelling, and Drawing for Animation as well as 3D Character Modeling, Acting for the Animator, Color & Design Visual Development, and Experimental Animation. Students will complete a number of workshops and projects, and internship opportunities are available.

In 2019, the BFA in Animation program began offering a Games Track. The option consists of a “series of courses that teach the discipline of Game Arts, the fundamentals of Game Design, the process of Games Development, and the nuances of Game Animation.” Course highlights include Game Design, Games Development, Game Making, and Worldbuilding. “Animators in the Games Track will produce collaborative and individual works of game art as their capstone projects.”

Graduates of CCA’s Animation programs have been hired at major animation studios and companies such as Cartoon Network, DreamWorks Animation, Nickelodeon Animation Studios, Pixar, Sony Pictures Animation, and Walt Disney Feature Animation.

Graduates have also landed positions at game studios such as Electronic Arts, Phosphor Games, Vigil Games, and many others. 

8. 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 General Harrison Gray Otis—founder and publisher of the 47-time Pulitzer Prize-winning Los Angeles Times. The school, which serves approximately 1,100 full-time students, is a private nonprofit institution and national leader in art and design education. “Alumni and faculty are Fulbright, MacArthur, and Guggenheim grant recipients, Oscar awardees, legendary costume designers, leaders of contemporary art movements, entrepreneurs, and design stars at Apple, Abercrombie & Fitch, Pixar, DreamWorks, Mattel, Nike, and Disney,” says the school.

OTIS offers 11 BFA degree programs including Architecture/Landscape/Interiors, Digital Media (Animation, Game and Entertainment Design, and Motion Design), Fashion Design, Communication Arts (Graphic Design, and Illustration), Fine Arts (Painting, Photography, and Sculpture/New Genres), Product Design, and Toy Design. Otis also awards an MFA degree in Fine Arts, Graphic Design, Public Practice, and Writing, and a variety of minors and certificate programs are available.

The Animation Program is offered in the Digital Media Department. Options 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. Students in the animation program will “learn to tell compelling stories through digital media.” They have the option to concentrate in Animation, Game and Entertainment Design, or Motion Design.

Course highlights for the Animation Concentration include Connections Through Color and Design, Animation Explorations, Basic 3D for Storytellers, Concept Development and Creativity, Form and Space, Storytelling for Digital Artists, The Visual Language of Film, Games and Design, and Writing in the Digital Age. Students will also complete a Business Seminar, Practicum in Animation, a Senior Project, and Capstone course.

The Practicum provides the opportunity for students to work with outside companies and designers who assign one or more advanced character animation assignments across the year. Students will learn how to run projects from start to finish.

“By graduation students will be able to meet the demands of a diverse and expanding job market in visual storytelling for film, television, video games, apps, and the web.” Graduates of the program “have thriving careers” at companies like Disney, DreamWorks, ILM, Nickelodeon, Pixar and many others.

9. DigiPen Institute of Technology, Redmond, Washington
DigiPen Institute of Technology

Established in 1988, DigiPen Institute of Technology is one of the country’s youngest art, technology, and design schools. Though young, DigiPen was the first college in the world to offer a bachelor’s degree in video game technology and development and in during the schools three decades in existence, more than 550 companies have hired its graduates.

Located near more than 400 interactive media companies in one of the largest video game centers in the world, DigiPen serves around 1,175 students from across the U.S. and nearly 50 countries around the world. The school also has international campuses in Singapore and Spain as well as educational partnerships with Keimyung University in South Korea and Thammasat University in Thailand. 

DigiPen offers nine undergraduate and two graduate program options in five categories: Computer Science, Digital Art and Animation, Engineering, Game Design and Development, and Music and Audio. Offerings for aspiring animators include a BFA in Digital Art and Animation and an MFA in Digital Arts.

The BFA program is designed to prepare students to create artwork at the professional level. In addition to excellent drawing skills, students will gain production experience, familiarity with modern studio processes, and storytelling abilities. As a student in the BFA program, aspiring animators can expect to “learn practice the many roles that make up the art production pipeline for games and animation,” says the school.

Course highlights for the program include 2D & 3D Animation, Art and Technology, Career Preparation, Cinematography for Visual Effects, Conceptual Illustration and Visual Development, Environment and Level Design, Production Pipeline, Storyboards, and Storytelling.

A core component of the BFA curriculum is Multidisciplinary Team Projects, which the school says provides the opportunity for students to “contribute on collaborative endeavors in student games, animated films, and more.” The semester- and year-long projects give students the opportunity to “see a project through from the concept stage to final, polished product.” Potential careers for graduates include Animator, Character Artist, Environmental/Asset Artist, Producer, Simulation and Effects Animator, UI Designer, and many others.

In addition to the Redmond campus, the BFA in Digital Art and Animation is available at the school’s international branch campuses including Digipen Europe-Bilbao and Digipen Singapore.

The MFA is a terminal degree program that allows students to build on their foundation and “expand beyond traditional arts.” Students will hone their craft in digital media and “focus on new areas of specialization” in the digital media industries. The MFA culminates with an advanced thesis project that allows students to develop and present an original body of work that is both personal and reflective of their strongest capabilities as a digital artist.

In addition to the thesis project, students will have the opportunity to collaborate with their fellow artists on team-based projects including games and films as part of elective coursework. These collaborative projects give students “firsthand experience creating 2D and 3D digital assets in a setting that reflects the professional studio environment.”

Graduates of the MFA program are prepared to seek positions in both academia and production. Possible roles include Animator, 3D Modeler, Character Artist, Professor of Fine Arts, Senior Animator, Senior Character Artist, and Texture Artist.

Graduates of the Digital Art Programs at DigiPen have been hired at companies such as Activision, Amazon Game Studios, Animation Collective, Apple, ArenaNet, Blizzard Entertainment, Disney Online, DreamWorks Interactive, Electronic Arts, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Nintendo, Riot Games, Sony Online Entertainment, Sucker Punch Productions, Walt Disney Imagineering, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, Zynga, and many others.

10. San Jose State University, San Jose, California
San Jose State University

San Jose State University (SJSU) was established in 1857. Today the school is known as “Silicon Valley’s Public University.” With approximately 36,000 students and nearly 4,300 employees, the school says, “SJSU is an essential partner in the economic, cultural and social development of Silicon Valley and California. Programs at SJSU are offered through eight colleges in over 250 areas of study at the bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral levels.

Animation options are offered in the College of Humanities and the Arts.  The Department of Design here houses the Animation/Illustration (A/I) Program and the Department of Art and Art History houses the Digital Media Program.

Two degrees are offered in the Department of Design: a BA in Design Studies, specializing in Animation/Illustration and a BFA in Animation/Illustration. The Department of Art and Art History offers an MFA in Digital Media Art.

The BA is a liberal arts degree that “provides instruction in A/I foundation skills, supplemented by studies in design, film, photography, and theater arts.” Students in the program receive “basic preparation for entry-level jobs in the entertainment industry or for entry into a graduate program or other fields of study.”

The BFA is a professional degree that “prepares students for careers in feature film animation, games, television, and any other media that uses animation and storytelling as a core communication tool.” The curriculum for the program covers color theory, conventional and digital painting, design, and perspective. Students will also study the principles of traditional and 3D animation, character design, modeling, physics of motion, storyboarding, and visual development.

Once students complete lower division courses, they will have the opportunity to specialize in their area of choice and complete an internship.

Graduates of the BFA in Animation/Illustration program have worked on films such as A Bug’s Life, Finding Nemo, Monsters, Inc. and Shrek and they have 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 Animation, Disney Interactive, Electronic Arts, Lucasfilm Animation, NBCUniversal Studios, Nickelodeon, Pixar, Sony/Columbia, and Zynga.

The MFA in Digital Media Art is a three-year program of study. Part of the CADRE Institute, which “reflects the innovative atmosphere in Silicon Valley,” the program includes art history, independent study, seminars, and studio courses. Students will “work across the boundaries of” animation, computer visualization, digital video, electronic sculpture, multimedia, sound, and virtual reality.

As students make their way through the program, they will be monitored through a series of open faculty reviews and exhibition of works. A final exhibition in the University Art Gallery is also a requirement of the program.

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

California State University-Long Beach (CSULB) began its first day of classes on September 28, 1949 in a converted apartment building. Under the name Los Angeles-Orange Country State College, the school had 160 students and 13 full-time faculty when it opened. Today CSULB employs more than 4,000 people serving 38,000+ students.

One of the 23 campuses of the California State University System, CSULB offers more than 300 programs across eight colleges. One of the school’s most popular colleges is the College of the Arts. Made up of six separate academic units, the College houses the School of Art, which offers a BFA in Art with an Illustration/Animation Option and an MFA in Studio Art with an Illustration/Animation Track.

While students in the BFA program have the option to choose the Animation or Illustration Track, they may take courses in both tracks and work with students in both tracks in the digital lab. Other program highlights include internship and study abroad opportunities, as well as visiting artists that present workshops and presentations in collaboration with faculty.

Graduates of the program “work in a variety of fields such as film and entertainment (gaming, animation and live action film), advertising, textiles, biomedical illustration, the gift market, educational illustration, architectural illustration, print publications (newspapers, magazines, graphic novels and books) and more,” says the school. Many alumni have also “distinguished themselves in visual journalism, in storyboarding for film and television, and in all aspects of editorial art as well as gallery exhibition.”

The MFA program allows students to customize 39 units of study based on their “preparation, interests and talents.” The program “centers on each student developing a strong personal and independent creative vision.” Students will “create a focused body of work in the form of an exhibition as the culminating experience of the degree.”

Also part of the College of the Arts is the Department of Film & Electronic Arts, which offers a BA and a Minor in Film and Electronic Arts. Although the BA program does not have a formal animation specialization, the curriculum includes animation courses such as 3D Computer Animation, History of Animation, Digital Arts Production (Visual Effects, Computer Animation, Interactive Media), and others. The 18-unit Minor allows students to group approved animation or other courses into a specialized track.

12. California State University-Fullerton, Fullerton, California
California State University-Fullerton

In 1957, California State University Fullerton (Cal State Fullerton or CSU Fullerton) became the 12th state college in California to be authorized by the Legislature. Since then, the school has awarded hundreds of thousands of degrees and it has produced more than 50 major league baseball players, along with artists and entertainers such as James Cameron, Gwen Stefani, and Kevin Costner.

Cal State Fullerton serves nearly 41,500 students enrolled in 110 undergraduate, graduate, and doctorate programs. Programs are offered in eight colleges, including the College of the Arts, which houses the Visual Arts Department. Through the Department, aspiring animators can earn a BFA in Art with an Entertainment Art/Animation Concentration. 

This 132-unit program requires a minimum of 81 units in art: The 12 units of studio art “Admission Requirements” plus 12 units of Art History and 57 units of art. The major is divided into 21 units of lower-division preparation and 48 upper-division units. In addition to the minimum 69-unit requirement for the BFA degree, students must meet the other university requirements for a bachelor’s degree.

Course highlights for the program include 3D Character Modeling, 3D Environment Modeling, and 3D Rigging & Animation, Cartooning and Caricature, Design for Interactive Art, Digital Narrative Illustration, Elements of Sequential Art, Lighting and Compositing, Motion Graphics Design, Video Art and Moving Image, Visual Development and Background Painting, and Writing in the Visual Arts.

Group Projects, Independent Research, a BFA Capstone and Internship in Art are also part of the program.

Through a partnership with Nickelodeon Studios, the Entertainment Art/Animation area has “developed educational opportunities to further the career goals of its students.” In addition to Nickelodeon, graduates of the BFA program have landed positions at Cartoon Network, Disney Feature Animation, Disney TV Animation, Electronic Arts, Lucasfilm, Sony Games, and Sony Pictures Imageworks, to name a few.

Graduates have also worked on productions such as Alvin and the Chipmunks, Avatar, Ice Age 2, Spiderman 3, SpongeBob Squarepants, Superman Returns, and The Simpsons.

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

Loyola Marymount University (LMU) was established in 1911 with a mission to encourage learning, the education of the whole person, the service of faith, and the promotion of justice. Serving nearly 9,600 students, the school has three campuses that it says are “are rooted in the heart of Los Angeles, a global capital for arts and entertainment, innovation and technology, business, and entrepreneurship.”

LMU offers 60 major and 56 minor undergraduate degrees and programs, 49 master's degree programs, one education doctorate, one doctorate in juridical science, one juris doctorate, and 14 credential programs. Programs are offered in seven colleges and schools, including the School of Film and Television, home to LMUs Animation Program. Program options include a BA in Animation and a minor that is open to all students, regardless of major. 

The BA in Animation encourages the development of a personal artistic vision as students immerse in the collaborative filmmaking process. After completing lower division courses, students will have the opportunity to choose one of three tracks: Traditional, 3D, or Interactive Animation. Course highlights for the program include Advanced Storyboard, Animation Workshop, Digital Toolbox, Experimental Animation, Game Design, Interactive Animation, Mechanics of Animation, and Visual Story Development for Animation.

During the final years of the program, students will complete an Animation Internship that provides the opportunity to gain valuable experience in the field. During their senior year, students will write, animate, and direct a thesis film/project for their portfolio.

The Animation Minor is an 18 credit hour program consisting of History of Animation, Introduction to 3D Computer Animation, Introduction to Interactive Animation, Beginning Animation Workshop, Visual Story Development, and three elective courses (nine semester hours), chosen from 300 and 400 level Animation courses under the direction of the Chairperson.

Both BA and Animation Minor students “will be prepared to take creative leadership roles in new and emerging industries. Many will work within the studio system while others will be independent artists.” Graduates of the programs “work in movies, television, videogames, and many other media. Many have won awards at film festivals in this country and abroad.”

Alumni include notable industry professionals such as Van Partible—creator/director of the Cartoon Network series Johnny Bravo; Emmy Award-winning producer/director of The Simpsons, and co-writer of The Simpsons Movie, David Mirkin, and Lauren Montgomery—director of the Warner Bros. animated features Wonder Woman, Superman: Doomsday, and Green Lantern: First Flight

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

Laguna Beach College of Art and Design (LCAD) began as Laguna Beach School of Art (LBSA) in 1961. The school was inspired by “pioneering cultural ventures” of the early 1900s such as the Laguna Playhouse, the Laguna Beach Art Association, the Festival of Arts, Pageant of the Masters, and Laguna Art Museum. Today, this not-for-profit institution serves more than 700 full-time students, and it is considered one of the leading colleges of art and design in the U.S.

LCAD offers around 30 degree programs, minors, and specialized minors in areas such as animation, experimental animation, game design, illustration, and painting.

The Animation Program is the largest program at LCAD and offers BFA degrees and Minors in Animation and Experimental Animation. The BFA in Animation covers traditional animation techniques and classic art. Course highlights include CG Modeling, Character Design for Animators, Digital Skills, Directing for Animators, Layout, and Storyboarding. Students in the program will become skilled at storytelling, creating “compelling frame-by-frame performances,” says the school, and the “entire process of filmmaking from script to screen.”

Graduates of the BFA in Animation program have landed positions at major studios and networks such as Cartoon Network, Disney, DreamWorks, Fox, Industrial Light & Magic, Laika, Nickelodeon, Obsidian Entertainment, Pixar, Sony, South Park Studios, The Jim Henson Company, Titmouse, Warner Brothers Feature Animation, and more.

The BFA in Experimental Animation exposes students to “all of the digital tools, skillsets, and techniques that are the new standard in television and internet animation,” says the school. The first year of the program covers traditional animation. Students will then “branch out into purely digital approaches to narrative character animation,” along with alternate approaches to stop-motion and CG techniques. During the junior and senior years of the program, students will have the opportunity to specialize in an area of interest. The program culminates in a thesis project.

Graduates of the program will demonstrate advanced skills in 2D digital puppetry & 2D, 3D modeling and animation, character design & storyboarding for limited animation, new media authorship, paperless animation, show design & series design, and stop-motion.

15. Chapman University, Orange, California
Chapman University

Chapman University was founded in 1861 as Hesperian College in Woodland, California. The school serves around 10,000 students from 49 states, two territories, and 82 countries. Some 200 programs are offered in eleven different colleges and schools.

Dodge College of Film & Media Arts offers a BFA in Animation and Visual Effects with a focus in 2D or 3D Animation or Visual Effects. This hands-on program is divided into two parts. The first two years are devoted to the fundamental artistic and technical skills that provide the foundation for the student’s development as an animation or VFX artist. During their junior and senior years, students will focus on their chosen area of specialization and the development and production of the senior thesis project.

Students at Dodge College will also connect with the industry via guest lectures, special events, career panels, resident filmmakers, and Chapman Filmed Entertainment—the school’s in-house production company. Dodge students also have access to the state-of-the-art Digital Media Arts Center (DMAC), which was inspired by the creative spaces at Disney, Google, Microsoft, and Pixar.

The DMAC provides “24/7 access to an art studio, an animation lab with both traditional animation pegged drawing discs and digital Cintiq tablets, a VFX lab with dual monitors and a 4K workflow, individual digital suites with specialized 3D and sound gear,” says the school. The spaces feature the “latest industry standard software such as Adobe Creative Suites, Maya, 3DS Max, and an Xsens motion capture suit and software.”

Through field trips to, and internships with major animation, gaming, and VFX studios, students in the program will stay connected with the industry. Students have explored or interned with studios such as Blizzard, Blur, DreamWorks and Pixar. In addition, “major industry players and professionals such as Joyce Cox (The Jungle Book), Chris Buck (Frozen), Don Hahn (Lion King, Beauty and the Beast), Randy Cook (Lord of the Rings), Pete Docter (Inside Out), Rob Liefeld (Deadpool), and many more frequently visit campus.”

Another benefit of the Animation program at Chapman’s Dodge College is the International Program. In the past academic year, Dodge College students traveled abroad to 10 countries, including Laos, Malawi, Ireland, and South Korea. In recent years, students have traveled to more than six continents and 20 countries including Asia: India, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan; Europe: England, France, Iceland, Italy; Africa: Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ghana, Mozambique, Uganda, Tanzania; South America: Peru; Australia, New Zealand and Cuba, as well as several cities in North America.

16. University of Washington, Seattle, Washington
University of Washington

Established in 1861, University of Washington (UW) serves more than 54,000 students annually. UW spans across three campuses in Seattle, Tacoma, and Bothell. The UW’s 18 colleges and schools offer more than 570 degree options across 300+ programs, with more than 1,800 undergraduate courses alone each quarter. Each year, UW Bothell confers more than 12,000 bachelors, masters, doctoral, and professional degrees.

Serving more than 1,500 undergraduates, the Paul G. Allen School Computer Science & Engineering (CSE) offers a Computer Science Program that allows students to tailor their course of study to their specific interests. The program is also highly interdisciplinary and collaborative, and it allows students to get hands-on experience building software and hardware and choose advanced courses such as Artificial Intelligence, Computational Biology, Computer Graphics and Animation, Computer Networking, Computer Security and Privacy, Data Science, Human-Computer Interaction, Machine Learning, Natural Language Processing, Robotics, and much more.

Programs lead to a BS in Computer Science, a BS in Engineering, or a PhD or Professional Master’s Program (PMP) in CSE.

In all degree programs, students can work with faculty and graduate students on research, collaborate with industry partner, and tackle complex design and implementation projects in capstone courses. Course highlights include Computer Animation, Computer Graphics, Advanced Digital Design, Digital Sound, Data Visualization, and Artificial Intelligence.

Students have access to three main labs at UW CSE. All are engaged in research spanning the areas of animation, computer game science, graphics, vision, and visualization. Labs include the Animation Research Labs (ARL), the Center for Game Science, and the UW Graphics and Imaging Lab (GRAIL).

The Animation Research Labs (ARL) is a multi-disciplinary effort that brings together faculty and students from UW CSE, the Departments of Architecture and Digital Arts and Experimental Media (DXARTS), and the Schools of Art, Drama, and Music. The ARL is focused on advancing the state-of-the-art in animation through teaching, research, and computer-animated production in collaboration with experts from Disney Animation Studios, Bungie, Industrial Light & Magic, Microsoft Game Studios, Pixar, and many others.

Researchers at the Center for Game Science use gaming to solve grand challenges, crowdsource human problem solving to aid scientific discovery, and improve student interest and achievement in mathematics. The GRAIL group is known for “groundbreaking” research in 3D reconstruction, animation, computational photography, games for science and education, human shape and motion analysis, information visualization, Internet photo collections, and object recognition.

Graduates of the UW CSE programs are often hired by some of the world’s largest companies. Top UW employers include Amazon, Apple, Intel, Microsoft, Facebook, and Google, to name a few.

17. California State University-Northridge, Northridge, California
California State University-Northridge

Founded in 1958, California State University-Northridge (CSUN) is one of the 23 campuses of the California State University System. Situated on a 356-acre campus in the heart of Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley, CSUN is a community of 38,310 students and more than 4,000 faculty and staff. Nine colleges provide bachelor's degree programs in 133 disciplines, 84 master's degree options, and doctorates in educational leadership and physical therapy.

The Mike Curb College of Arts, Media, and Communication houses the Department of Art—home of the Visual Arts Program. Here, aspiring animators can earn a BA in Visual Arts with a 2D Design, 3D Animation or Game Development Track.

The 2D Animation Design Track “provides students with a foundation in drawing, design and the essential software skills necessary to thrive in post-graduation careers,” says the school. Upon completing four lower division foundation courses, students take courses in 2D animation (flash/toonboom), pre-production and visual development, with optional classes in compositing and 3D computer animation classes. Students concentrating in the 2D design track spend their senior year focusing on their portfolios and/or collaborative group projects.”

The program prepares students for an artistic career in 2D animation as storyboard revisionists, in visual development, background design or painting, or as animators with a proficiency in flash and/or toonboom.

The 3D Animation Track offers four core CG animation courses with options in compositing, game animation, and Visual Development. Students concentrating in this track spend their senior year focusing on their portfolios and/or collaborative group projects. Career paths for 3D Animation graduates include Pre-Vis artist, character animator, CG modeler, texture painting and lighting artist, and compositor.

Students in all tracks have the opportunity to participate in industry and studio events, organized studio tours, and ongoing collaborative educational partnering with DreamWorks studios and Seoul Institute of the Arts. Students also participate in industry events and internships with Nickelodeon, Disney, Film Roman, Warner Bros., and others. Students in all programs have access to two award-winning student run animation clubs—the Animation Students League of Northridge and the Game Development Club.

Game Design “builds on 3D computer animation courses to a two sequence game production classes.” Students who complete the track will take optional animation production, compositing, and character animation courses. Graduates of the program are prepared to seek positions in quality assurance, level design, modeling, texture painting & lighting, and character animation.

18. Woodbury University, Burbank, California
Woodbury University

Woodbury University was founded in 1884 as Woodbury College by educator and entrepreneur F.C. Woodbury. One of the oldest institutions of higher education in Southern California, Woodbury University was committed to diversity, so the school’s first class was made up nearly equally of males and females. Today, the commitment to diversity remains one of the school’s core principles. The current male-female ratio is 49% male, 51% female.

Woodbury serves nearly 1,200 students on campuses in Los Angeles/Burbank and San Diego. The school also has a Gallery called “WUHO” Gallery in Hollywood. The school offers 26 practice-based, fully accredited professional and liberal arts undergraduate and graduate majors through four colleges and schools including the College of Liberal Arts and the Schools of Architecture, Business, and Media, Culture & Design.

The School of Media, Culture & Design houses the Animation BFA Program. The goal of the program is to “help students develop their creative voices and prepare them for a successful career in professional animation production,” says the school. Coursework covers 2D Animation, 3D Animation, and Stop-Motion.

2D animation production courses emphasize the traditional Principles of Animation and acting in animation, production design, storyboarding, and both paperless and puppet pipelines, “required in the professional animation industry.” The programs 3D animation production courses “emphasize the art of combining sculpted models, surfacing for color and texture, lighting for storytelling, rigging for posing, animation as acting and rendering, and compositing to create believable visual stories.”

Stop-motion production coursework emphasizes animating with a variety of stop-motion approaches such as cut-out and rapid prototyping of facial expressions with 3D printing. It also emphasizes set building and puppet making with armatures. Students will also learn visual and cinematic language through the production of personal projects.

Because Woodbury is highly interdisciplinary, animation students have the opportunity to study in other areas such as Filmmaking, Game Art & Design or Media. Students will have access to the Animation Club, which hosts events, speakers, and exhibitions, and they will gain experience through a mandatory internship.

Past internship’s include positions at Acme Filmworks, Bix Pix Entertainment, Blur Studios, Cartoon Network, DreamWorks, Hasbro Studios, Nickelodeon, Renegade Animation, Walt Disney Animation, Walt Disney Imagineering, Titmouse Studios, and Warner Bros., to name a few.  

19. Cogswell University of Silicon Valley, San Jose, California
Cogswell University of Silicon Valley

Cogswell University of Silicon Valley (USV) was founded in 1887 as Cogswell College. When it opened, the school became the first technical training institution in the West. Serving more than 500 students, USV offers cross-disciplinary programs and project studios that prepare students for careers in creative technology.

Options for animators are offered through the schools Department of Digital Art & Animation (DAA). Pathways include a BA in DAA with four concentrations including 3D Animation, 3D Modeling, Entertainment Design, and Technical Art. All concentrations allow students to “experience what it’s like being in the full animation and VFX pipeline,” says the school.

Core courses for the BA in DAA Program include 2D Design, Color Theory, Figure Drawing, Perspective and Rendering, Principles of Management, Sculpture, Sketching, and Storyboarding. The remaining courses will depend on the concentration.

Course highlights for the 3D Animation Concentration include 2D and 3D Animation, Acting, Character Rigging, Drawing Animation, Media Works for Animation Students, Scripting: Python, and Storyboarding. Students will also complete Animated Film Production, where they will work in teams to create a shore animated film.

3D Modeling students will take courses such as Character Rigging and Introduction to 3D Modeling, and, while course highlights for Entertainment Design include Perspective & Rendering and Texturing. Entertainment Design students will also take a portfolio course that will prepare them to create a finished portfolio that demonstrates their abilities in Entertainment Design.

Graduates of the Cogswell Digital Art & Animation Program have landed positions at major studios and companies such as Activision Blizzard, Cartoon Network, Disney, DreamWorks, and Pixar. Alumni have developed characters for blockbuster animated films like Big Hero 6, Deadpool and Frozen.

20. Pacific Northwest College of Art, Portland, Oregon
Pacific Northwest College of Art

Founded in 1909, Pacific Northwest College of Art (PNCA) says it is a “a center for communities of artists, designers, and scholars, presenting more free public programs and exhibitions in a given year than any other arts institution in the city.” Serving nearly 650 students, this fine arts and design college offers 12 undergraduate majors in art and design, eight graduate degrees, one Post-Baccalaureate program, and eight minors.

For aspiring animators, the school offers an Animated Arts Program that combines fine art practices and digital technologies. Leading to the BFA, the program covers principles of animation, experimentation with a wide variety of media, production methods, and narrative strategies.

Course highlights for the program include 3D Design, Animated Installation, Animated Short Film, Animation I: Materials, Methods & Motion, Animation II: Hybrid Moving Image, Beginning Sound, Beginning Video, Narrative Strategies, Time Arts, Visual Elements Digital Tool, and Writing in Context.

Students have the opportunity to select a number of studio electives to develop skills in a range of areas, and all students will complete Professional Practices and the Media Arts Thesis. Other program highlights include opportunities to produce professional work for education purposes, festivals, festivals, and screening and performance.

Graduates of PNCA’s Animated Arts Program have gone on to work for top animation studios, attend prestigious graduate schools, and have their work featured in international film festivals.