2020 Animation School Rankings

What are the top west coast animation schools for 2020?

Top 20 Animation Schools and Colleges on the West Coast – 2020 College Rankings
RankingSchoolState
1California Institute of the ArtsCalifornia
2University of California, Los AngelesCalifornia
3University of Southern CaliforniaCalifornia
4Gnomon School of Visual EffectsCalifornia
5Otis College of Art and DesignCalifornia
6Academy of Art UniversityCalifornia
7California College of the ArtsCalifornia
8San Jose State UniversityCalifornia
9ArtCenter College of DesignCalifornia
10Laguna College of Art and DesignCalifornia
11California State University-FullertonCalifornia
12DigiPen Institute of TechnologyWashington
13University of WashingtonWashington
14California State University-Long BeachCalifornia
15Loyola Marymount UniversityCalifornia
16Woodbury UniversityCalifornia
17Chapman UniversityCalifornia
18California State University-NorthridgeCalifornia
19California State University-Los AngelesCalifornia
20Pacific Northwest College of ArtOregon

Our 2020 list 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

Walt and Roy Disney formed California Institute of the Arts in 1961 through the merger of two existing Los Angeles schools for art and music. The school became the nation's first postsecondary institution to offer graduate and undergraduate degrees in both the visual and performing arts. Just shy of a decade later, the new college, CalArts, opened its doors to offer programs in art, design, film, music, theater and dance.

Today, the school serves around 1,500 students enrolled in more than 70 undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral programs across six schools including the School of Critical Studies, The Sharon Disney Lund School of Dance, the School of Art, the School of Film/Video, The Herb Alpert School of Music at CalArts, and the School of Theater.

The School of Film/Video is the largest school at CalArts, accounting for nearly 30% of the student population. Programs offered include a BFA in Character Animation and BFA and MFA degrees in Experimental Animation. The BFA in Character Animation is a four-year program that the school says is “designed for students who seek an understanding of the art of character performance and storytelling in animation.” Courses for the program are taught by “experienced professionals who work at the forefront of traditional, CG and independent animation.”

Course highlights include Advanced Life Drawing, Animation Layout, CG Foundation I-II, Character Animation I-IV, Digital Methods I and Digital Methods II: Sound, Film Workshop I-IV, Story I and Story II: Storyboarding, and 2D Character Animation I-II. In addition, all Character Animation students are required to take Acting for Animators once during their BFA degree.

The Experimental Animation program emphasizes “the creative development of a personal aesthetic in an artist-centered environment. A broad range of animation approaches, processes, and techniques are covered in lecture courses, seminars, workshops, visiting artist lectures, internships, and independent studies.”

Students in both programs will also “work closely with a mentor in developing skills, course schedules, and projects, and also benefit from working among artistic peers in a studio environment.” Sample BFA courses include Animation Production, Cinematic Voices: In Person, Concept Development, Hybrid Imaging, Motion and Meaning, and Sound Image. A Senior Project is also part of the program.

The MFA program covers history, styles, techniques, and technology of animation arts. Students can expect to take courses such as Drawn Techniques for the Experimental Animator, Hybrid Imaging, History of Experimental Animation, Interactive Media, and Stop Motion Basics. “As a culminating project” students will “conceive, design, and produce a thesis that reflects the student’s personal artistic sensibilities.”

In addition, all students are required to take production courses in other Schools at CalArts (Art, Dance, Theater, Music), in order to develop interdisciplinary approaches. Study abroad opportunities are also offered.

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

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

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

Founded in 1948 by Disney animator William Shull, the UCLA Animation Workshop is a three-year MFA program that accepts just 12 new students each year. Per the school, "the first year of the program is devoted to learning the principles of making a traditional hand-done, animated film and the second year is devoted to creating computer animation; the film may be 2D, 3D, or a combination.” The third year of the program “begins with the creation of an interactive animation project or game. Electives and outstanding requirements are completed. Most significantly, the student forms a Thesis Committee and begins production on their thesis film.”

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

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

Established in 1880, University of Southern California (USC) serves 47,500 students enrolled in more than 200 undergraduate programs, 300-plus graduate programs, and more than 150 minors. Undergraduate offerings for aspiring animators include a BA in Animation and Digital Arts and a BFA in Cinematic Arts, Film & Television Production with Animation and Interactive Media electives. Graduate offerings include MFA degrees in Animation and Digital Arts and Interactive Media with heavy Animation electives.

Minors in Animation & Digital Arts, 3D Animation in Cinematic Arts, and Game Animation are also available. Course highlights for the programs include Animation Design and Production, Basic Animation Production Technologies, Contemporary Topics in Animation and Digital Arts, Digital Narrative Design, Directed Studies in Animation, Expanded Animation, Expanded Concepts in 2D/3D Animation, Fundamentals of Animation, Storytelling for Animation, The Digital Actor, and 3D Character Performance Animation.

Animation and Digital Arts programs are offered through The John C. Hench Division of Animation and Digital Arts (Hench DADA) of the School of Cinematic Arts (USC Cinematic Arts). The BFA in Cinematic Arts, Film & Television Production with Animation and Interactive Media electives is offered through the Division of Film and Television Production, USC Cinematic Arts.

Graduates of the animation programs at USC Cinematic Arts have landed positions at DreamWorks Animation, Sony Pictures, Nickelodeon Animation Studios, Pixar, Rhythm and Hues, Industrial Light & Magic, Digital Idea, Illumination Entertainment, Digital Domain and many others.

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

Gnomon School of Visual Effects was established in 1997. Called the “MIT of Visual Effects” by Fast Company, “Gnomon offers a variety of educational options to help students reach their goals in the entertainment industry, with both degree and vocational certificate programs, specialized courses for high school students and over 100 individual courses for professional enrichment,” says the school. Gnomon, which has 600 graduates to date, offers a BFA and a Certificate in Digital Production.

Individual animation courses are available and may be “mixed and matched” to suit students’ career goals. Options include Acting for Animators, Introduction to 3D with Maya, Character Sculpture, Color Theory and Light, History and Principles of Animation, History of Visual Effects, Animation and Visual Effects, Character Animation, Modeling, Motion Graphics, Storyboarding, Texturing and Shading, Timing for Animation, Animation for Games, Character Design, Character Modeling and Sculpting, Previsualization and Animatics, Stylized Character Creation, and Creature Animation.

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

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

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

Specific programs for aspiring animators are 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. OTIS Digital Media students will “acquire real-world skills in industry-standard technology, as well as concept development, from leading designers, artists, and entrepreneurs,” says the school.

The programs begin with training in “fundamentals of digital tools and their creative applications.” Along the way, students will have the opportunity to find their own visual style. Animation students “bring characters and stories to life through the magic of computer animation. Using a wide variety of techniques, from traditional 2D animation to 3D computer-generated imagery (CGI), students learn to develop narratives that evoke emotion and create the illusion of movement. Special emphasis is placed on storytelling, character design, and acting, as well as traditional drawing skills and business acumen.”

Course highlights include Storytelling for Digital Artists, 3D Animation, The Visual Language of Film, Games and Design, Creative Action Studio, and Animation Explorations.

“By graduation,” says the school, 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.

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

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

Academy of Art University was established in 1929. The school serves more than 7,200 students from 112 countries enrolled in dozens of Art, Design, Fashion, and Architecture programs. Degrees are offered at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, and many programs are available entirely online. The School of Animation and Visual Effects offers AA, BFA, MA and MFA degrees in Animation and Visual Effects. A Certificate in Animation and Visual Effects is also available and programs are available on campus and online.

Undergraduate students take classes specializing in one main area of the industry. Emphasis is placed on creating a professional demo reel and/or portfolio in tune with the latest industry trends. Specialization areas include 3D Animation, 3D Modeling, Rigging, Animation Generalist, Animation Producing, Storyboarding, 2D Animation, Puppet Fabrication, Stop Motion Animation, Compositing, Dynamics, Lighting, and Matte Painting. Course highlights include Cinematics for Animation & VFX, Computer Animation Production, Producing for Animation & Visual Effects, Sketching for Communication, and 3D Animation.

Students will also complete Senior Portfolio for Animation & VFX, Collaborative Project, and Internship in Animation.

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 Advanced Character Animation, Feature Animation, Gesture & Quick Sketch for Animators, Storyboarding, and 3D Animation Physics and Mechanics. Students will also complete a portfolio.

The MFA in Animation & Visual Effects program focuses on developing skills in any one of the many areas of expertise within the animation and visual effects industry. The program educates students in all aspects of animation and visual effects, from ideation to post production. Course highlights include Acting for Animators, Perspective for Characters & Environment, Storyboarding for Thesis, 3D Modeling & Animation (Maya), 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.

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

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

Founded in 1907, California College of the Arts (CCA) serves around 1,900 students enrolled more than 30 degree programs. The Animation Department is home to the third largest major at CCA—the BFA in Animation. Students in the program receive guidance from “the best animators in the industry” from Pixar, DreamWorks Animation, and Tippett Studio, among others. Students in the program also receive feedback and visual storytelling advice from actual industry animators and directors of such animated films as Toy Story, Star Wars, and Brave.

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. Course highlights for the program include Animation, Animation: Visual Storytelling, and Drawing for Animation as well as Character Modeling, Character Rigging, Experimental Animation, Intro to Virtual Reality, and Maya for Game and Anima Workshops. Students will also take advanced courses such as Advanced Animation 3D Tips & Tricks, Advanced Rigging, Advanced Sculpture for Animation, and Advanced Visual Storytelling. Junior and Senior projects are also part of the program.

In 2019, the BFA in Animation program began offering a Games Track. The emphasis area is 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 Making and Maya for Game and Anima. 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 landed positions at major animation studios such as Walt Disney Feature Animation, Sony Pictures Animation, Pixar, Nickelodeon Animation Studios, DreamWorks Animation, and Cartoon Network. They can also be found at game studios such as Electronic Arts, Phosphor Games, Vigil Games, and many others. 

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

Founded in 1857, San Jose State University (SJSU) serves approximately 36,000 students enrolled in bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in 250 areas of study across eight colleges. The College of Humanities and the Arts houses the Department of Design, which offers a BFA in Animation/Illustration. The core curriculum for the 120 credit hour program “combines both traditional and innovative educational strategies, says the school. “Rigorous drawing classes and intensive study of color theory, design, perspective, and conventional and digital painting are required, as well as the study of the principles of both traditional and 3D animation, physics of motion, modeling, storyboarding, character design, and visual development.” The program’s upper-division courses “further define these disciplines offering students an opportunity to specialize in their area of choice.”

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 Interactive, Electronic Arts, Lucasfilm Animation, NBCUniversal Studios, Nickelodeon, Pixar, Sony/Columbia, The Art Institute of Las Vegas, Disney Animation, and Zynga.

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

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

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

Founded in 1930, ArtCenter College of Design serves approximately 2,250 students representing more than 40 countries. The school offers 11 undergraduate and seven graduate degree programs in a variety of Industrial Design, Visual, and Applied Arts Disciplines. A joint MS/MBA program with the Drucker-Ito School of Management is also available. The school, which has a campus in Berlin, two campuses in Pasadena, and satellite studios in Los Angeles at the Peterson Automotive Museum, offers a degree in Entertainment Design with three tracks: Animation, Concept, and Game Design.

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

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

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

Established in 1961 as the Laguna Beach School of Art, Laguna College of Art and Design (LCAD) serves 670 students enrolled in five BFA and two MFA programs. With 177 students enrolled, Animation is the largest program at LCAD. Game Art is the second largest with 168 students. 

The school says animation students “will become skilled at shaping compelling frame-by-frame performances that inspire viewers to accept that the characters on screen are alive with genuine thoughts and sincere emotions.” The school also says that it is dedicated to ensuring that students become exceptional storytellers who understand the entire process of filmmaking from script to screen.

Students will develop their “abilities in traditional animation with classic artistic skills and then enhance that knowledge with fluency in the latest digital tools.” Taught by “experienced industry professionals,” courses for the program include Animal Drawing, Background Painting, CG Animation, CG Modeling, Character Design, Directing for Animators, Figure Drawing, Layout, Perspective, Professional Studies and Visual Development for Animators. Students will also complete a Thesis.

The Animation BFA provides the opportunity for students to participate in master class workshops each summer where they learn from leaders in the field. Each year, LCAD also hosts the LCAD Animation Film Festival known as LAFF, which showcases the best work from all levels of (the schools) animation artists.

LCAD Animation graduates have landed positions at Cartoon Network, Disney, DreamWorks, Fox, Industrial Light & Magic, Laika, Mattel, Nickelodeon, Obsidian Entertainment, Pixar, Renegade Animation, Sony, South Park Studios, The Jim Henson Company, Titmouse, and Warner Bros.

11. California State University-Fullerton, Fullerton, California
California State University-Fullerton

California State University Fullerton (Cal State Fullerton or CSUF) serves more than 39,000 students enrolled in 110 undergraduate, graduate, and doctorate programs. Established in 1957, the school consists of eight colleges, including the College of the Arts (Department of Visual Arts), which offers more than a dozen graduate and undergraduate programs for artists. Programs for aspiring animators include a BFA in Entertainment Art with a Concentration in Animation.

The 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 Animal and Wildlife Drawing, Animation Preproduction, Animation Production, Cartooning and Caricature, Elements of Sequential Art, Illustration, Life Studies – Drawing, Motion Graphics Design, Special Studies in Entertainment Art/Animation, 3D Computer Animation, Visual Development and Background Painting, and Writing in the Visual Arts. Independent Research (ART 499) and Internship in Art (ART 495) 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 program have landed positions at Lucasfilm, Sony Games, Sony Pictures Imageworks, Cartoon Network, Disney Feature Animation, Disney TV Animation, and Electronic Arts, to name a few.

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

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

Founded in 1988, DigiPen Institute of Technology was the first school in the world to offer a bachelor’s degree in Video Game Development. More than 550 companies have hired DigiPen graduates and the school is located near more than 400 interactive media companies, making the region one of the largest video game centers in the world. The school, which serves around 1,100 students from all 50 states and close to 50 countries, has international campuses in Singapore and Spain along with educational partnerships with Keimyung University in South Korea and Thammasat University in Thailand.  

DigiPen offers ten graduate and undergraduate program options in the areas of Art, Design, and Computer Science. 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. Sample courses for the program include Animation, Human Anatomy, Art and Technology, Storytelling, Storyboards, 2D & 3D Animation, Cinematography, and Conceptual Illustration and Visual Development.

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 build proficiency in subjects such as digital sculpting, digital painting, character design, and other specializations within the digital media industries.

The MFA culminates with an advanced thesis project that allows students to develop and showcase an original body of work that is both personal and reflective of their strongest capabilities as a digital artist. Graduates of the program are prepared to seek positions in both academia and production. Possible roles include Animator, 3D Modeler, Character Artist, Senior Animator, Senior Character Artist, Texture Artist, and Professor of Fine Arts.

Graduates of the Digital Art Programs at DigiPen have been hired at companies such as Activision, Blizzard Entertainment, Disney Online, Electronic Arts, Microsoft, and more.

13. University of Washington, Seattle, Washington
University of Washington

Established in 1861, University of Washington (UW) serves more than 57,000 students across three campuses in Seattle, Bothell, and Tacoma. The school offers more than 570 degree options across 300+ programs and 16 colleges and schools. The Paul G. Allen School Computer Science & Engineering offers a BS in Computer Science, a BS in Engineering, and a PhD or Professional Master’s Program (PMP) in Computer Science & Engineering (CSE).

In all degree programs, students can work with faculty and graduate students on research; collaborate with industry partners; tackle complex design and implementation projects in capstone courses; and tailor their degree to meet their interests and goals. Sample courses 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 Graphics and Imaging Lab (GRAIL), the Center for Game Science, and the Animation Research Labs. The GRAIL group is known for “groundbreaking” research in computational photography, games for science and education, 3D reconstruction, Internet photo collections, object recognition, human shape and motion analysis, information visualization, and animation, says the school, while 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 Animation Research Labs is a multi-disciplinary effort that brings together faculty and students from UW CSE, the Department of Architecture, and the Schools of Art, DXARTS, 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.

In addition to the Computer Science and Engineering Programs, University of Washington offers a BFA with a Major in Digital Arts and Experimental Arts (BFA DXARTS) and a PhD in DXARTS. Students in both programs have the opportunity to focus their work in a particular area of experimental arts (computer animation, digital video, digital media art, computer music and sound art, design computing, mechatronics, and so on). Whatever the chosen area, “artists and scholars working at DXARTS engage in teaching, learning, and research within the synergistic, multidisciplinary setting of the center's labs, studios, and classrooms.”

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

California State University-Long Beach (CSULB) was established in 1949. One of the 23 campuses of the California State University System, CSULB serves around 36,850 students enrolled in more than 300 programs across eight colleges. The College of the Arts houses the School of Art, which offers a BFA in Art with an Illustration/Animation Option. Students may choose the Animation or Illustration Track, but they may take courses in both tracks and work with students in both tracks in the digital lab.

Other program highlights include internship and study abroad opportunities, as well as visiting artists that present workshops and presentations in collaboration with faculty.

The school says 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.” 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.”

In addition to the BFA, CSULB has a graduate program (MFA/MA) that it says is “individualized and dependent on the student’s 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 in Film and Electronic Arts. Although the program does not have a formal animation specialization, the program highlights heavy animation coursework including 3D Computer Animation, History of Animation, Digital Arts Production (Visual Effects, Computer Animation, Interactive Media), and others.

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

Established in 1911, Loyola Marymount University (LMU) serves around 9,680 students enrolled in nearly 180 major, minor, master’s degree, and doctoral programs through seven colleges and schools. The School of Film and Television is home to LMUs Animation Program, which leads to a BA. The School of Film and Television also offers an Animation Minor that is available to all students, regardless of major. 

The cross-disciplinary BA in Animation “supports the creative vision of each student, providing a safe space for you to grow as an artist,” says the school “Fostering the collaborative filmmaking process is essential, too–you can see teamwork in action in the animation labs, with students actively creating their collective projects. And state-of-the-art networked computer workstations allow them to collaborate with ease.” Students in the 120 credit hour program benefit from hands-on experience and small class sizes that “encourage a high degree of student-faculty interaction in coursework including Visual Effects, Stop Motion, Experimental Animation, 2D and 3D, and Game Design.”

During the final years of the program, students will complete an Animation Internship that provides the opportunity to gain valuable experience in the field. Also during the senior year of the BA program, 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 (9 semester hours), chosen from 300 and 400 level Animation courses under the direction of the Chairperson.

Graduates of the Animation programs at LMU will “have a unique personal artistic vision and work effectively in a collaborative filmmaking process.” They will also become “active leaders in the new emerging industries, whether it will be in the studio system or as independent artists.”

16. Woodbury University, Burbank, California
Woodbury University

Founded in 1884, Woodbury University is one of the oldest institutions of higher education in Southern California. The school, which serves nearly 1,200 students, has campuses in Los Angeles/Burbank and San Diego. The school also has a Gallery called WUHO Gallery in Hollywood.

Woodbury 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, the School of Architecture, the School of Business, and the School of Media, Culture & Design. The School of Media, Culture & Design houses the Animation BFA Program.

Because Woodbury promotes “cross-disciplinarity,” animation students may study in other areas such as Game Art & Design, Media Technology, and Filmmaking. Students may also participate in Woodbury’s internship program and the Animation Club, which hosts events, speakers, and exhibitions. Internship opportunities include positions at Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, DreamWorks, Warner Bros., Chiodo Bros., Bix Pix Entertainment, Blur Studios, Walt Disney Imagineering, Walt Disney Animation, Renegade Animation, Hasbro Studios, and others.

17. Chapman University, Orange, California
Chapman University

Founded as Hesperian College in 1861, Chapman University is home to more than 8,500 students from 49 states, two territories, and 82 different countries. Chapman offers 110 areas of study across nine colleges and schools, including Dodge College of Film & Media Arts. The College 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 the junior and senior years, students will focus on their chosen area of specialization and the development and production of the senior thesis project.

Other program highlights include access to the state-of-the-art Digital Media Arts Center (DMAC), which provides “24/7 access to an art studio, an animation lab with both traditional animation pegged drawing discs and digital Cintique tablets, a VFX lab with dual monitors and a 4K workflow, individual digital suites with specialized 3D and sound gear.” 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 gaming, VFX, and animation studios, students in the program will stay connected with the industry. Students have explored or interned with Pixar, DreamWorks, Blizzard, and Blur. 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.

18. California State University-Northridge, Northridge, California
California State University-Northridge

Founded in 1958, California State University-Northridge (CSUN) serves more than 40,000 students enrolled in more than 140 programs. The school consists of nine colleges, including the Mike Curb College of Arts, Media, and Communication, which houses the Department of Art. Here, aspiring animators can earn a BA in Visual Arts with one of three Animation Tracks including 2D Animation Design, 3D Animation, and Game Animation.

The school says 2D Animation Design “provides students with a foundation in drawing, design and the essential software skills necessary to thrive in post-graduation careers. 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 Animation “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.

19. California State University-Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California
California State University-Los Angeles

Founded in 1947, California State University-Los Angeles (Cal State LA or CSLA) serves approximately 27,685 students enrolled in more than 150 programs in eight colleges. The College of Arts & Letters consists of nine departments including ART, Communication Studies, English, Liberal Studies, Modern Languages and Literatures, Music, Philosophy, Television, Film and Media Studies, and Theatre and Dance.

The ART Department offers BA, MA, and MFA programs that the school says are “structured so that students have the opportunity to acquire an understanding of the variety of subjects encompassed within the visual arts as well as to develop excellence in a specific area. They are Animation; Art Education; Art History; Graphic Design/Visual Communication; Fashion and Textiles; and Studio Arts, which include ceramics, drawing, painting, photography, printmaking, sculpture and new genre.”

Specific programs for aspiring animators include a BA in Art with an Animation Major and MA and MFA degrees with a Design Option in Animation. The BA is a 120-unit program that “provides a thorough education in the creative, practical and historical uses of animation. The option encourages an experimental approach to animation that combines traditional and contemporary techniques.” Animation majors can choose courses involving: stop-motion animation, digital 2D and 3D animation, computer graphics, hand-painted abstract animation, story and visualization, as well as other art and film courses that galvanize their understanding of art-making, animation production, mixed-media, narrative, and cinema.

The MA is a 30-unit graduate program consisting of advanced study and practice Animation. “The degree provides students with an opportunity to gain stronger educational and experiential basis for a professional career and may be an interim step to pursue further graduate work in the field. It is considered to be a general degree, and is well suited for individuals that are seeking an advanced degree for teaching purposes.”

The MFA is a “highly selective” 60-unit graduate program designed for students who have “already achieved a strong direction and focus in their work and a high level of technical proficiency in a specific discipline in the Design Option or Studio Arts Option.” The goal of the program is to “develop students into professional artists capable of producing high quality work for public exhibition and presentation, or professional designers well-positioned to be leaders in their industry.”

MFA graduates will have the qualifications needed to teach at the university level, and are “prepared to take their place within the visual arts or design communities and to make a significant contribution to their fields.”

Students in all programs will benefit from The Getty Trust, which offers graduate internships as well as multicultural undergraduate internships at the Getty Center. In addition, the Getty supports multicultural internships at Los Angeles area museums and visual arts organizations. Students will also benefit from access to Cal State LA Fine Arts Gallery and frequent visits by guest artists and scholars.

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

Founded in 1909, Pacific Northwest College of Art (PNCA) is a fine arts and design college serves more than 600 students from 42 states and 10 countries. The school offers 11 BFA degrees and eight minors, eight graduate degrees including MFA and MA degrees within the Hallie Ford School of Graduate Studies, a Post-Baccalaureate, and a range of Community Education programs for adults and youth. From Animated Arts to Video and Sound, 21 areas of study are offered within the school’s degree programs.

The Animated Arts Program at PNCA teaches the principles of animation, as students “experiment with a variety of media, production methods, and narrative strategies to produce work for multiple and varied platforms,” says the school. The program teaches the “history of animated arts in the context of a broad engagement with both cinema and fine art.” Sample courses for the program include Animated Installation, Animated Short Film, Animation I: Materials, Methods & Motion, Animation II: Hybrid Moving Image, Beginning Sound, Beginning Video, Narrative Strategies, Time Arts, and Visual Elements 2D.

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

Graduates of the Animated Arts Program at PNCA “go on to work for top animation studios, attend prestigious graduate schools, and have their work featured in international film festivals.”

Locations