What are the top animation schools in the west for 2024?
|California Institute of the Arts
|University of Southern California
|Gnomon School of Visual Effects
|University of California, Los Angeles
|Academy of Art University
|ArtCenter College of Design
|Otis College of Art and Design
|California College of the Arts
|San Jose State University
|DigiPen Institute of Technology
|California State University, Fullerton
|Laguna College of Art and Design
|California State University, Long Beach
|Loyola Marymount University
|California State University, Los Angeles
|California State University, Northridge
|University of Washington
|California State University, Chico
|New York Film Academy Los Angeles
|Academy of Interactive Entertainment
|Cornish College of the Arts
|California State University, East Bay
|California State University, Fresno
Our 2024 list -our thirteenth annual- of the Top 25 Animation School Programs in the West. For reference, we define the West as California, Oregon, Washington, Hawaii, and Alaska. For an explanation of our ranking criteria, click here.
1. California Institute of the Arts, Valencia, California
The School of Film/Video is the largest department at California Institute of the Arts (CalArts). It is also one of the nation’s most celebrated F/V schools, with famous alumni such as Tim Burton (Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands, Ed Wood), Chris Buck (Frozen), and John Lasseter (Toy Story, Cars).
Within the School of Film/Video at CalArts are several intensive BFA and MFA programs in F/V, Film Directing, Character Animation, and Experimental Animation. All programs allow students to explore live-action, animation/animated cinema, and documentary filmmaking, among others. For students seeking a solid animation program, the BFA and MFA degrees in Experimental Animation and the BFA in Character Animation are ideal options.
The Character Animation BFA at CalArts is a four-year program that prepares students to work in both traditional and CG animation environments. Students also have opportunities to pursue one of several interdisciplinary programs (concurrently) and/or add a minor that complements the BFA program. A popular option is the Digital Arts minor.
Other program features include participation in lectures; interactions with visiting artists such as accomplished animators and filmmakers; attendance at a variety of demonstrations and screenings throughout the program; and a comprehensive curriculum that explores all areas of character and CG animation. Examples include several courses in Digital Methods; Character Animation; Film Workshop; Storyboarding; CG Foundation; and Professional Preparation. All students are also required to take Acting for Animators at least once during the program.
The Character Animation BFA at California Institute of the Arts concludes with the creation of a professional portfolio and several short films.
The Experimental Animation BFA and MFA programs at in CalArts collaborate closely with mentors to develop skills in animation approaches, techniques, and processes. Examples include 2D animation, programming, stop motion, digital production, installation, performance animation, motion capture, and multipane. Experimental Animation students will also participate in independent study, lecture courses, and the internship program, as well as seminars, workshops, and visiting artist lectures.
BFA students will take courses such as Sound for Experimental Animation; Animation Workshop; Motion and Meaning; Hybrid Imaging; Concept Development; Animation Production; Critical Studies; and Film History.
Like Character Animation students, all CalArts Experimental Animation BFA students can add the Digital Arts Minor and/or pursue one of several interdisciplinary programs (concurrently). The Digital Arts Minor allows students to develop skills in areas such as computer programming, web design, video editing, digital sound production, and digital fabrication.
The CalArts Experimental Animation BFA program takes four years to complete. To graduate, students will produce a professional portfolio and final project.
The Experimental Animation MFA at California Institute of the Arts is a three-year, residency track program designed for students seeking leadership positions in studio production, those interested in launching their own studios, and individuals who would like to teach and create. Students in this interdisciplinary program will have opportunities to take courses from Art, Music, Theater, and Dance to reach the 60 required credits to graduate.
At least six graduate-level credits of history/theory coursework must be completed in residence at CalArts. To fulfill these requirements, students will take History of Experimental Animation; Seminar in Animation History; and one other approved history/theory course. Other course examples include First Year Shorts; Drawn Techniques for the Experimental Animator; Stop Motion Basics; Interactive Media; Digital Workflow for Animators; and Sound for Experimental Animation.
The Experimental Animation MFA at CalArts culminates with a thesis, which students will complete across four seminar courses consisting of 12 credit hours. Courses include Experimental Animation Thesis Concept Seminar (two courses) and Experimental Animation Thesis Production Seminar (two courses).
California Institute of the Arts graduates go on to successful careers in animation, film and video, advertising, marketing, and acting. Many CalArts alumni have launched their own studios and other entertainment businesses.
In 1961, Walt and Roy Disney formed California Institute of the Arts through a merger of the Los Angeles Conservatory of Music and the Chouinard Art Institute. Today, CalArts serves 1,440 students enrolled in more than 70 degree programs across six schools including Art; Film/Video; Theater; Critical Studies; Sharon Disney Lund School of Dance; and Herb Alpert School of Music. California Institute of the Arts also houses the Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater (REDCAT), located in downtown LA, and the Community Arts Partnership (CAP) with community organizations and public schools across LA County.
California Institute of the Arts is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC). The school is also an accredited institutional member of the National Association of Schools of Dance (NASD).
2. University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California
University of Southern California (USC) is home to the School of Cinematic Arts (SCA). Within USC Cinematic Arts is The John C. Hench Division of Animation + Digital Arts (Hench DADA), which has programs for animators at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Options for undergraduates include the Animation + Digital Arts BFA, and Minors in 3D Animation and Game Animation. The Game Animation Minor is part of the Interactive Media Division within the School of Cinematic Arts.
Through electives, the USC 3D Animation Minor allows students to focus in a specific area such as Character Animation; Motion Capture; Modeling; Virtual Reality; and Visual Effects. The Game Animation Minor combines the teaching of systems thinking and developing animation skills. Through electives, Game Animation students may explore areas such as visual effects game development or digital effects. USC SCA minors are 16 units and all require a final project to graduate.
At the graduate level, USC students can earn an Animation + Digital Arts MFA or an Expanded Animation Research + Practice (XA) MFA. This program is housed in SCA’s Expanded Animation Division.
All program options feature the opportunity to collaborate with students across other creative USC schools such Roski School of Art and Design, Thornton School of Music, the School of Architecture, and Viterbi School of Engineering. School of Cinematic Art students also have access to state-of-the art facilities and equipment such as the Ganek Immersive Studio; Cintiq and computer labs; Motion Capture, sound mixing; green screen, and film stages; and an IMAX theater and new Virtual Production Stage.
Other SCA features include guest speakers; courses taught by seasoned filmmakers and industry professionals; and the student-organized USC Animation Studio Day, where students have the opportunity to meet with studio representatives to discuss internships and job opportunities and present their portfolios.
The Animation + Digital Arts BFA program at University of Southern California provides the opportunity to choose a concentration area. Potential options include Character Animation, Immersive Media, 3D Computer Animation, Experimental Animation, Motion Graphics, Interactive Animation, Visualizing Science, Documentary Animation, and Visual Effects.
In addition to the concentration, BFA students will complete courses such as Design Fundamentals I-II; Storyboarding for Animation; Intermediate Character Performance; Cinematography for Animators; and Professionalism in Animation; and Ideation + Pre-Production. Access to an array of animation electives allow students to enhance the degree further. Just a few elective examples include Demystifying the TV Animation Pipeline; Procedural Animation (Houdini); and Live Action Integration with Visual Effects.
During the final year of the Animation + Digital Arts BFA program, students will complete the Senior Capstone Film/Project course, which consists of the production and post-production of a fully rendered, animated piece—with soundtrack. Projects are presented to a committee upon completion.
The Animation + Digital Arts MFA at USC provides mini studios for all students as well as ongoing workshops in new technologies and internship opportunities. Techniques and approaches covered range from hand-drawn character animation to interactive digital animation. Course examples for the program include Expanded Animation, Animation Production, and Storytelling for Animation.
Elective units are an important part of the MFA program and include course titles such as Seminar: Avant-Garde Film/Video; World Cinema Before 1945; and Survey of Interactive Media. The Animation + Digital Arts MFA program at USC takes three years to complete.
The XA MFA at University of Southern California requires a minimum of 50 units to graduate. Thirty of these units are dedicated to Expanded Animation. Students in this program can select a research concentration from an extensive list of options. Examples include Experimental Animation; Animation for Robotics; Documentary Animation; Fine Art Animation Practice; Cinematic Installations; Virtual Humans and AI; Performance Gesture; Narrativity; Dreams and Consciousness; Sound Design; Gesture Movement; and Science Visualization.
Courses for the XA MFA program are supported by exhibitions, research collaborations, and overnight field trips. Course examples include Expanded Animation; Cinematic Animation - the Art of Motion in Virtual Space; Expanded Animation Production; Writing and Story Art for Vision and Motion; Applied Expanded Animation; and Theory and Practice in Contemporary Animation.
The XA MFA program at USC culminates with the Master’s Thesis, completed over two courses. Final projects have included animation, AI, AR/VR, interactive, installations, and more.
Graduates of the Animation programs at the University of Southern California are prepared to pursue leadership roles at major studios across the U.S. and around the globe. Program alumni have been hired at places such DreamWorks Animation, Pixar, Sony Pictures, Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), Nickelodeon Animation Studios, Illumination, and Digital Domain. Many USC alumni have also launched their own independent studios.
University of Southern California opened in 1880 with 53 students and 10 teachers. Today, USC employs over 4,400 full-time faculty that serve 49,500 students. This makes University of Southern California the largest private sector employer in Los Angeles and the largest school by enrollment in the state. Students at USC have access to more than 23 schools and divisions that provide over 600 graduate and professional programs. The University of Southern California is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC).
3. Gnomon School of Visual Effects, Hollywood, California
Gnomon School of Visual Effects houses several immersive programs designed to develop studio-ready professionals. Options include the Digital Production BFA or Certificate, and a preparatory program known as Foundation in Art & Design. The certificate program can be completed in two years and the BFA can be completed in as few as three years. The preparatory program requires a full year of continuous study, which includes four courses per quarter. The goal of the program is to help students enhance existing skills, pursue a degree in a related field, or polish their portfolios.
The Digital Production BFA at Gnomon requires 180 total units, including 135 in career-focused study and 45 in general education. Students may choose from three options including 3D Generalist, Visual Effects, or Game Art. The 3D Generalist option explores all aspects of 3D production, making it an ideal choice for animators.
Across all options, students will receive intensive training in industry software such as After Effects, Houdini, Nuke, V-Ray, Unreal Engine, Photoshop, ZBrush, and Maya. Course examples for the program include Character Animation; Animation and Visual Effects; Animal Drawing; Creature Animation; Storyboarding; Figure Drawing; Digital Painting; Photoshop for Digital Production; Matchmoving and Integration; Narrative Structure; Previsualization and Animatics; Digital Production; Art of Compositing; and HD Digital Filmmaking for VFX.
The Digital Production BFA program at Gnomon School of Visual Effects concludes with the production of a professional demo reel. This culminating experience takes place across four courses.
The Gnomon Digital Production Certificate is a 147-unit program that provides five areas of focused study. Options include Character & Creature Animation; Visual Effects Animation; 3D Generalist; Game Art; and Modeling & Texturing.
With a near 100% employment rate, Gnomon School of Visual Effects has alumni working at studios and gaming companies such as DreamWorks, Electronic Arts (EA), Riot Games, Walt Disney Animation Studios, Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), Sony Pictures Imageworks, Marvel Entertainment, Nickelodeon Animation, Blizzard Entertainment, Reel FX, Digital Domain, Naughty Dog, and Weta FX.
Located in Hollywood, California, Gnomon School of Visual Effects sits on a 35,000 square foot lot within the historic Television Center Studio lot. Established in 1997, Gnomon provides degree and vocational certificate programs, as well as over 100 individual 10-week courses. Gnomon School of Visual Effects is accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC).
4. University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California
University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) is home to one of the oldest animation programs in the U.S. Leading to an MFA and known as the UCLA Animation Workshop, this competitive program accepts just 12 students each year. Part of the School of Theater, Film & Television (TFT)-Department of Film, Television & Digital Media (FTVDM), the three-year Animation Workshop guides students through the filmmaking process from beginning to end.
Program features include immersive studies in CG technologies within the state-of-the-art Walter Lantz Digital Animation Studio; personalized instruction by celebrated industry professionals; and the opportunity to develop individual projects across styles from traditional to computer to experimental.
All UCLA Animation Workshop students will complete a combination of required courses; two Cinema Media Studies program (CMS) courses; one live-action course; and several electives. Course examples include Animation Design; Computer Animation for Film; Cinematography; Interactive Animation; Viewing and Reading Media; Animation Seminar; Introduction to Experimental Film; The Disney Feature: Then and Now (elective); Real Time Animation: Puppetry Arts; Advanced Animation (Character Animation); Advanced Animation (Writing for the Animated TV Series); and Legal Issues in Animation.
To graduate from the UCLA Animation Workshop, every student will complete one traditional film one computer film, one interactive project, and one thesis film (if needed).
At the undergraduate level, School of TFT/FTVDM has a Film, Television & Digital Media BA with a concentration in Animation Cinema and Media Studies. Like all Animation Workshop students, students in the BA program at UCLA have access to the Walter Lantz Digital Animation Studio, as well as courses such as Film Editing; Screenwriting; and Introduction to Digital Media and Tools.
The Film, Television & Digital Media BA culminates with a professional internship.
Graduates of the animation and film programs at University of California Los Angeles are prepared to pursue leadership roles and others at major companies and studios across the U.S. and abroad. School of TFT alumni have been hired at studios such as Pixar, DreamWorks, Walt Disney Imagineering, and Nickelodeon.
Founded on May 23, 1919 as the Southern Branch of the University of California, UCLA serves 46,430 students from more than 100 countries. More than 250 programs are provided across 12 professional schools and UCLA College. University of California Los Angeles is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC).
5. Academy of Art University, San Francisco, California
Academy of Art University (Academy of Art) is home to the Houdini Certified School of Animation & Visual Effects (VFX). The school provides programs that take place in a studio production environment known as StudioX. The Academy of Art School of Animation & VFX is the only school of its kind to teach in this type of environment.
Because StudioX functions like most real-world studios, students gain hands-on experience using the latest industry standard equipment. Studio X students have been credited for their work on productions such as Beasts of the Southern Wild, Fruitvale Station, and many others.
Other School of Animation & VFX highlights include collaborations with other artists individually and in teams; the opportunity to manage a production from start to finish; and FAT (Feature Animation Training) Tuesdays classes. Taught by industry professionals from companies like Pixar and Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), these classes take place every Tuesday evening, and allow students to immerse in the mental processes of creating a character, and explore the emotional aspects of acting to enhance the characters they have created. All degree-seeking students will also complete an internship and create a professional portfolio of their best work.
The School of Animation & VFX at Academy of Art has five pathways for artists seeking a career in animation. Options include AA, BFA, MA, and MFA degrees in Animation & Visual Effects. A four-year certificate is also available. This is a top choice for students who would like to begin animation coursework on day one. In addition to skipping liberal arts coursework, this 120-unit program allows students to complete an internship, study abroad experience, and a senior portfolio in Animation and VFX.
The Animation & VFX AA at Academy of Art consists of 66 units of study. Areas explored include 3D animation, 3D modeling, 2D animation and stop motion, and storyboarding. Students in this program will also explore VFX through both required coursework and electives. Students in the 132-unit Animation & VFX BFA can focus in one primary area of emphasis. Options include VFX, 2D animation and stop motion, 3D modeling, 3D animation, and storyboarding.
Across undergraduate programs, course examples include Cinematics for Animation; History and Technology of VFX and Computer Animation; Traditional Animation 1-3; Motion Quick Sketching; Cinematics for Animation and VFX; Storyboarding Principles; Digital Drawing for Entertainment; Game Engines; 3D Character Animation 1 for Animators, Riggers; Programming and Culture; 3D Realistic Animation; and Physics for Artists: Light, Sound, and Motion.
The Animation & VFX MA at Academy of Art University focuses on storytelling and technical skills. Students in this 36-unit graduate program will work in 2D Animation & Stop Motion, 3D Animation, 3D Modeling, or VFX. Consisting of 63 units of study, the Animation & VFX MFA explores all areas of animation and visual effects from concept to post-production. Across programs, students will take courses such as Traditional Animation; 3D Modeling and Animation 1 (Maya); Feature Animation; Perspective for Characters and Environment; Advanced Character Animation; and 3D Animation Studio.
The MA program culminates with the Final Portfolio for Animators. During this three unit course, students will gain communication, collaboration, networking, marketing, and workplace pipeline skills while polishing their final portfolios. The culminating experiences for the MFA include the Directed Study, Final Portfolio Preparation for Animators, and Animation: Thesis Completion courses.
Graduates of the School of Animation & VFX at Academy of Art University are prepared to pursue positions in all areas of animation, and at all levels. Graduates have gone on to establish careers at major companies and studios such as Pixar, Paramount, Marvel, Sony Pictures Animation, Google, LAIKA Studios, Walt Disney Animation Studios, Sony Pictures Imageworks, Wieden + Kennedy, DNEG, Riot Games, Weta Digital, Industrial Light & Magic (ILM).
Academy of Art University is a family-owned private university located in San Francisco—one of the world’s top cities for animation careers. Established in 1929 and serving more than 7,000 students, Academy of Art is of the nation’s largest private art and design schools. Divided into 22 schools, Academy of Art University provides more than 129 degree programs across 40+ areas of study. Programs lead to the AA, BA, BFA, BS, B. Arch, MAT, MA, MFA, and M. Arch degrees. Academy of Art University is accredited by WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC).
6. ArtCenter College of Design, Pasadena, California
ArtCenter College of Design (ArtCenter) is the first design school to receive the United Nations’ Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) status. ArtCenter is also a major employer of top talent from Disney, Nickelodeon, DreamWorks, Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), Sony, Universal, Netflix, Insomniac Games, Warner Bros., Blizzard, Marvel, Fox Pictures, LAIKA, Blur Studio, Tencent, Marvel, Riot Games, and Aardman Animations.
For students seeking a degree in animation or games, ArtCenter College of Design has an Entertainment Design BS with three tracks: Animation, Concept, and Game Design. Across all tracks, students will learn how to create animated films from concept to finished product. Throughout the program, students will have the opportunity to work in teams on these projects—in a real-world studio environment. Well over one hour of animation is produced in the Entertainment BS program each year, with many shorts going on to play at festivals across the globe.
The Entertainment BS program at ArtCenter College of Design also highlights collaborations with Illustration, Concept Design, and Game Design students. Whether working in teams or collaborations across majors, Entertainment BS students will develop advanced skills utilizing the latest industry tools.
The ArtCenter Animation track explores lighting, character animation, modeling, storyboarding, and art direction. Course examples for the program include Art of Research; 2D Fundamentals; 2D Mechanics; Concept Art; Shorts; Design History of Comic Animation; CG Mechanics; Performance as Art; Storyboard; Science & Technology; and Entertainment Design Industry.
All Entertainment BS students will also complete several business courses. Examples include Business 101; Entrepreneurship; Professional Practices; and Business & Professional Practice. In 7th and 8th terms of the program, students will complete Capstone Production 1-3 and Portfolio 1-2. The Entertainment Design BS culminates with the Graduate Show.
ArtCenter College of Design graduates are prepared to pursue positions within the entertainment industry such as Animator, Modeler, Digital Artist, Production Designer, and Storyboard Artist. ArtCenter graduates have been hired at major companies and studios such as Pixar, Sony Pictures Animation, Cartoon Network, Warner Bros., Amazon, DreamWorks Animation, Marvel, Rockstar Games, Ogilvy, Google, Netflix, Paramount, and Universal Creative.
ArtCenter College of Design serves approximately 2,425 students from more than 50 countries. Founded in 1930, the school has campuses in Pasadena and Los Angeles, California, along with satellite studios in Petersen Automotive Museum (Miracle Mile, Los Angeles) and Berlin, Germany. ArtCenter provides 11 undergraduate programs; 10 graduate degree programs leading to an MFA or MS; a joint MS/MBA program; and undergraduate minors for Business, Creative Writing, and Social Innovation students.
ArtCenter College of Design is fully accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC) and the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD).
7. Otis College of Art and Design, Los Angeles, California
Otis College of Art and Design (OTIS or Otis College) has two paths to study animation: the Animation BFA and the Animation Certificate. The BFA explores animation, character design, 3D modeling, storyboarding, sound, and rendering. In addition to gaining experience in 2D and 3D computer animation, 3D production, and visual development, students will master software such as Houdini, Unreal, Toon Boom, Nuke, Adobe Suite, Maya, ToonBoom, Zbrush, and Cinema 4D.
All OTIS Animation BFA students will complete courses such as Storyboarding and Pre-Viz; Design and Drawing for Animation I-III; Storytelling Fundamentals; Art History of Animation; Advanced Animation; and Creative Action Studio. Key projects include Animation Explorations; Animation Studio Project I & II; and Animation Senior Project I & II. BFA students also have the opportunity to complete a professional internship.
The Animation Certificate Program is provided through the Otis College of Art and Design Extension Center. Consisting of 16 required courses and two elective courses, the Certificate Program explores character creation, story development, visual effects, animated graphics, and creating environments. Course examples include 2D and 3D Animation, Digital Drawing: Illustrator, Digital Tools: Maya, Drawing and Composition, Storyboarding for Film and Animation, Digital Storytelling, and 2D Design.
The Animation Certificate culminates with the Final Portfolio: Digital Media Arts course. Upon completion of this course, students will have a professional-quality portfolio of their best work. The Animation Certificate program at Otis College of Art and Design can be completed in 1.5 to two years.
Graduates of the Animation Programs at OTIS have gone on to secure positions at major studios such as Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), DreamWorks Animation, Nickelodeon, Disney, and Pixar. OTIS Animation alumni hold positions such as 3D Animator, Animation Designer, Cinematic Animator, Visual Effects Artist, Creative Director, Game Designer, Junior Character Animator, Production Coordinator, Layout Artist, 3D Modeler, Storyboard Artist, 2D/3D CG Artist, Concept Artist, and Previz Artist.
Established in 1918, Otis College of Art and Design is Los Angeles’ oldest professional school of the arts. This private, non-profit college serves more than 1,200 students enrolled in 11 BFA and MFA degree programs in the Fine Arts, Graphic Design, Public Practice, and Writing. A variety of minors and certificate programs are also available. Programs and courses at OTIS are led by more than 430 professors—all active professionals in their respective fields.
Otis College of Art and Design is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC) and the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). OTIS is also a member of the Association of Independent Colleges of Art and Design (AICAD) and the Partnership for Academic Leadership on Sustainability (PALS).
8. California College of the Arts, San Francisco and Oakland, California
The Animation BFA at California College of the Arts (CCA) is the school’s largest major. Housed in the Animation Department, the program provides hands-on, collaborative learning in state-of-the art studios and labs. CCA’s Animation Studios house six labs, a sound booth, and stop motion suites. The school also houses the Digital Animation Lab, which has a Hybrid Lab for experimental making, a foley room for sound effects and voice-overs, and a sound studio for editing and mixing soundtracks. Students also have access to a Multi-Purpose Suite and the Open VR Space.
The studios, shops, and labs at California College of the Arts are outfitted with the latest industry equipment and software such as Autodesk software, including Maya and Mudbox; down-shooter cameras for stop-motion animation; Wacom Cintiq displays for digital drawing; Dragonframe, TVPaint Animation, Adobe Creative Cloud, and Toon Boom's Harmony and Storyboard Pro; 27-inch iMac workstations; and drawing light tables.
In CCA classrooms and studios, Animation BFA students learn to create 2D and 3D animation, sound effects, animation for games, and stop-motion animation. Because the program is interdisciplinary, animation students will develop skills in other creative areas from drawing and sculpture to acting and storytelling. The CCA BFA also requires 48 units of Humanities and Sciences coursework. Course examples include Introduction to the Modern Arts; Media History: History of Animation; Foundation in Critical Studies; Writing 1 and 2; Literary and Performing Arts Studies.
Courses for the CCA BFA are led by working professionals in the entertainment industry. CCA faculty work at major studios such as DreamWorks, Pixar, and Tippett Studio. Course examples include Animation 1 and 2; Visual Storytelling; Animation Tutorials; Sound for Animation; Acting for Animation; Drawing for Animation; and 3D Computer Animation 1 and 2.
During the third year of study, CCA animation students will complete Junior Project 1 and 2. In the final year of the program, students will complete Senior Project 1: Pre-production and Senior Project 2: Production.
Upon completion of the Animation BFA program at California College of the Arts, graduates will have a portfolio of their best work. CCA Animation alumni have gone on to launch their own studios, start a freelance career, or establish themselves at major studios and gaming companies. Examples include Cartoon Network, Pixar, DreamWorks Animation, Electronic Arts (EA), Walt Disney Animation Studios, Sony Pictures Animation, Nickelodeon Animation, Phosphor Games, Bento Box Entertainment, and many others.
Established in 1907 as the School of the California Guild of Arts and Crafts, California College of the Arts had just three teachers and 43 students when it opened. Today, CCA employs 420 faculty members that serve approximately 1,500 students enrolled in more than 40 undergraduate, graduate, minor, and dual degree options. California College of the Arts is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC), the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD), and the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB).
9. San Jose State University, San Jose, California
The College of Humanities and the Arts at San Jose State University (SJSU) houses the Design Department and the Department of Art and Art History. The Design Department has three paths to study animation: the Animation/Illustration BFA (ANI BFA), the Design Studies BA, and a Master of Design (MDes) with a Specialization in Animation. The Department of Art and Art History has an Art MFA with a Digital Media Art (DMA) concentration.
The Art/DMA graduate program is provided in partnership with CADRE (Computer in Art, Design, Research, and Education). Established in 1985, CADRE is the second oldest education art media lab in the U.S. MIT’s Media Lab was the first. CADRE houses the Physical Computing Lab (Art 237) and the Game Development Lab (Art 241) on the San Jose State University campus.
The SJSU ANI BFA is a professional degree that explores traditional and 3D animation, storyboarding, visual development, character design, modeling, and physics of motion. Students in this program may specialize in Animation or Visual Development. Specializations are 21 units, including 12 units of approved electives. Course examples across specializations include Digital Animation I-II; Visual Development I-II; Animation Production – Storyboarding; and Digital Modeling I-II.
Students in both specializations will take courses such as Drawing for Animation/Illustration; Visual Storytelling; 2D Animation I-II; Illustration Fundamentals I-III; Color Principles for Screen Arts; and All ANI BFA students must also pass a milestone portfolio review and complete the six-unit capstone Senior Seminar Animation/Illustration.
The SJSU Design Studies BA is a liberal arts degree that requires a specialization. If a student was admitted to the ANI BFA program, but did not pass the portfolio review, they may enroll in the Design BA with a specialization in Animation and Illustration. Even without the specialization, the Design BA provides plenty of opportunities to study animation. Course examples for the program include 2D Animation; Digital Apps: Motion & Interaction Design; Fundamentals of Graphic Visualization; Design Process; Illustration Fundamentals; Visualization I-II; and Sketching, Drawing + Modeling.
San Jose State University’s MDes with a specialization in Animation focuses on current, experimental, and emerging professional practices. Comparable to an MFA, the MDes emphasizes technical courses such as Building Interactivity in Animation and Games; CG Animation; and Lighting and Rendering.
An additional program benefit is SJSU’s partnership with industry professionals who provide mentoring as MDes students work on their portfolio and final projects.
The multidisciplinary Art MFA with a DMA concentration explores areas from computer graphics and interactivity to computer games. Students in this program can create an area of focus through 24 units of required electives. In addition, students may choose three units of specialized study in any area of art.
Other DMA MFA program benefits include exclusive 24/7 access to lab facilities; collaborative art and technology projects; and internship opportunities at major companies and studios throughout Silicon Valley. Consisting of 60 units of study, the DMA MFA culminates with the MFA Project, worth three units.
Across all programs, students have access to state-of-the-art studios; courses taught by industry professionals; and internship and study abroad opportunities. Students also benefit from interactions with guest speakers from major studios such as Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), Pixar, Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, Disney, DreamWorks, Blizzard Entertainment, Warner Bros. Animation, Sony Pictures Animation, and Hallmark.
Graduates of the A/I, DMA, and Design Studies programs at San Jose State University are prepared to pursue roles at major studios, top academic institutions, and any industry that utilizes animation, illustration, digital media, and games. To date, SJSU alumni have been hired at more than 135 studios and colleges. Examples include Disney Interactive, the Cogswell Institute, Sony Pictures, Blizzard Entertainment, Pixar, Animation Mentor, Cartoon Network, Lucasfilm Animation, NBCUniversal Studios, Nickelodeon, 20th Century Fox, and Zynga.
San Jose State University was established in 1857. Located in the center of Silicon Valley, SJSU serves approximately 35,800 students enrolled in 250 areas of study at the bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral levels. Programs at SJSU are provided across nine colleges and dozens of departments and schools. San Jose State University is accredited by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).
10. DigiPen Institute of Technology, Redmond, Washington
DigiPen Institute of Technology (DigiPen) is the first school in the world to offer a bachelor’s degree in video game programming. The school is also a Certified Partner of SideFX—developers of the procedural 3D art software, Houdini. This tool is preferred by major studios that produce films, games, and projects for television.
DigiPen provides intensive programs for artists seeking a degree in art, design, technology, and engineering. Across programs, students benefit from technology-focused curriculums; interdisciplinary team-based projects that last anywhere from a semester to a year; courses taught by instructors who have worked on projects for Walt Disney Animation Studio and LucasArts; and the opportunity to study abroad at a DigiPen campus in Singapore or Spain.
For animators, DigiPen has two program options: the Digital Art and Animation BFA, and the Digital Arts MFA. The BFA program is designed for artists looking to enhance their skills. Competitive and challenging, the program covers animation, 2D and 3D digital art, traditional media, and production pipelines. Course examples for this 126 credit hour program include Animation I-III; Introduction to Scripting and Programming; 3D Digital Art Pipeline; Visual Development for Production; Film History; Storytelling; Game History; and Cinematic Project I-III.
The Digital Art and Animation BFA is available at the main DigiPen campus in Redmond and at the school’s overseas campuses DigiPen Europe-Bilbao, Spain and DigiPen Singapore.
The Digital Arts MFA program at DigiPen Institute of Technology provides advanced training in 2D and 3D digital art production. Students in this 60 credit hour program will already have formal training in animation, 3D modeling, digital painting, figure drawing, color theory, drawing, and composition sculpture.
Course examples for the program include 3D Concepts and Production; Organic and Hard Surface Modeling; Digital Arts Survey and Analysis; Conceptual Design and Illustration; Art Research Methodology; Character Design; and Art Production Process. Free electives and independent study provide opportunities for students to customize their pathway.
Digital Arts MFA students will complete two MFA Thesis courses, which begins with Thesis Pre-Production. This course lasts one semester. For the final two semesters of the program, students will work with a faculty advisor to complete the final Thesis Project. Throughout the program, students will also work in teams to create several games, films, and other productions.
Graduates of the Digital Art and Animation BFA, and the Digital Arts MFA programs at DigiPen are prepared for advancement opportunities in their current careers or to pursue positions in their chosen area.
Since its inception in 1988, DigiPen Institute of technology has produced hundreds of accomplished animators, filmmakers, game designers, and other artists who have earned more than 300 awards and festival selections. DigiPen students and graduates have also won 230 awards for game projects and academic papers. And, to date, DigiPen graduates have helped develop more than 2,000 commercial game titles.
More than 1,250 companies worldwide have hired DigiPen graduates. Examples include Walt Disney Imagineering, Riot Games, Blizzard Entertainment, Warner Bros. Games, Electronic Arts (EA), Microsoft, Zynga, DreamWorks Interactive, Sony, ArenaNet, Google, Apple, Meta, Amazon Games, and Nintendo.
Established in 1988 as a Vancouver, British Columbia-based computer simulation and animation company, DigiPen Institute of Technology serves 1,200 students enrolled in 10 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in Computer Science, Digital Art and Animation, Engineering, Game Design and Development, and Music and Audio. In addition to the Redmond, Washington campus, DigiPen has international campuses in Singapore and Spain.
The school also has educational partnerships with Princess Nourah bint Abdul Rahman University in Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Keimyung University in South Korea, The One Academy in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and Thammasat University in Thailand. DigiPen Institute of Technology is accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC).
11. California State University, Fullerton, Fullerton, California
California State University, Fullerton (Cal State Fullerton or CSUF) houses the College of the Arts, home to Department of Visual Arts. This National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD)-accredited Department features partnerships with major studios such as Walt Disney and Nickelodeon. Visual Arts students also benefit from experiential learning through exhibitions, visiting artists, internships, and external projects; and access to the Visual Arts Complex, which houses state-of-the-art animation, illustration, drawing, and painting studios.
The Visual Arts Department also provides eight studio concentrations. This includes an Art BFA with a concentration in Entertainment Art/Animation.
Students in this 132-unit program will complete 36 units in the concentration. Course examples include Principles of Animation; Intermediate Character Animation; 3D Animation; Design for Interactive Art; Video Art and Moving Image; Special Studies in Entertainment Art/Animation; Elements of Sequential Art; Digital narrative Illustration; and Cartooning and Caricature. Studio Art electives allow students to explore other areas of art such as sculpture, photography, printmaking, and even glass casting.
In addition to a wide selection of course options, the Cal State Fullerton Art BFA program includes Group Projects, Independent Research, and internship opportunities at major studios. The program culminates with the BFA Capstone: Game Art, Animation, and Immersive Media, worth three credits.
Graduates of the Entertainment Art/Animation BFA program at Cal State Fullerton alumni have worked on productions such as Avatar, The Simpsons, Spiderman 3, SpongeBob Squarepants, Ice Age 2, Alvin and the Chipmunks, and Superman Returns. BFA alumni also hold positions at major studios such as Sony Pictures Imageworks, Disney Feature Animation, Electronic Arts (EA), Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, Lucasfilm, and Sony Games.
Founded in 1957, California State University, Fullerton is part of the 23 campus California State University (CSU) system. Serving more than 41,000 students, CSUF provides 110 undergraduate and graduate degree programs across eight academic colleges. California State University, Fullerton is Accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC).
12. Laguna College of Art and Design, Laguna Beach, California
The Animation program at Laguna College of Art and Design (LCAD) has the largest enrollment of any other program at the school. Students in this area have opportunities to work with and learn from industry partners such as Disney, DreamWorks, Nickelodeon, Pixar, Sony, and Industrial Light & Magic (ILM). In addition, students have two program options—Animation and Experimental Animation. Both programs lead to a BFA.
An Animation minor be added to any LCAD program. However, this program is an ideal option for students Game Art, Entertainment Design, and Illustration majors. The Animation minor explores principles of both traditional and CG animation. Courses for the program include Animation 1 and 2; Character Design for Animators 1; Storyboarding 1; and CG Animation 1. History of Animation is strongly recommended for this program, but it is not a requirement.
The Animation BFA provides instruction and hands-on training in creating animated characters, filmmaking (editing, directing, screenwriting, sound design), pitching stories, and working in teams. The program consists of a combination of liberal arts and studio courses. Required liberal arts courses include Art History: Modern Movements; Professional Studies for Animators; and the Senior Capstone and Thesis Defense. Students will select other liberal arts courses from titles such as Project Green: Oceans; The Psychology of Space and Settings; Exhibition Design; and Exiles in LA: Art, Architecture, Film of Wartime Émigrés.
Studio courses include Visual Development; Animal Drawing; Background Painting; Animation Practicum; and Thesis Film 1, 2 and 3. Students in the LCAD Animation BFA program will complete a total of 122 credit hours to graduate. Program alumni can pursue a variety of roles in the entertainment industry. Examples include animating, directing, editing, cinematography, screenwriting, and sound design.
The Experimental Animation BFA program at Laguna College of Art and Design is led by experienced instructors who are active in the television, film, games, and animation industries. With class sizes limited to 18 students, the program emphasizes hands-on projects. In addition, BFA students can specialize in Storyboarding, Show Design, and/or Internet Series Projects.
Course examples for the Experimental Animation BFA program include Storyboarding for Limited Animation; Fundamentals of Maya; 2D Paperless Animation; Experimental Stop Motion Techniques; Animation for New Media; Art Direction for TV and New Media; Original Series Development; Acting for Animators; Compositing for Animators; and Directing for Limited and Experimental Animation. This 122 credit hour program culminates with the Senior Capstone and Thesis Defense course.
Graduates of the LCAD Experimental Animation BFA program are prepared to pursue careers in areas such as stop motion animation; 3D modeling and animation; character design & storyboarding for limited animation; 2D digital puppetry; 2D paperless animation; show and series design; and new media authorship.
All LCAD Animation students can participate in the LCAD Animation Film Festival (LAFF). Held annually, LAFF is a theatrical exhibition that showcases the best student animated films.
Graduates of the Animation programs at Laguna College of Art and Design are routinely hired by major animation, film, television, and game studios. Examples include Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), Cartoon Network, DreamWorks, Warner Brothers Feature Animation, Disney, South Park Studios, Nickelodeon, Obsidian Entertainment, Pixar, The Jim Henson Company, Sony, Titmouse, LAIKA, and Fox.
Laguna College of Art and Design opened in 1961 as Laguna Beach School of Art (LBSA). The school has a main campus in Laguna Beach and educational affiliates locally and around the world including Florence Academy of Arts in Florence, Italy, Los Angeles Academy of Figurative Art, and NHTV Breda University of Applied Sciences (NHTV), Netherlands. Laguna College of Art and Design serves around 770 students with access to 15 degree options and nine minors. LCAD is regionally and nationally accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC) and the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD).
13. California State University, Long Beach, Long Beach, California
The College of the Arts (COTA) at California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) is one of the school’s largest and most popular colleges. Housing six separate academic units (departments), COTA employs over 100 full-time and 150 part-time faculty members that serve more than 3,000 students. Departments include the School of Art; Bob Cole Conservatory of Music; Theatre Arts; Film and Electronic Arts; Design; and Dance.
The COTA School of Art at California State University, Long Beach received designation as a school in 2012. The school houses state-of-the-art facilities and top-rated work spaces and seven separate and customizable galleries for displaying, critiquing, and viewing student work. School of Art students also have access to international travel opportunities to support their work, as well as opportunities to interact with professional working artists.
Within the CSULB COTA School of Art are several paths to study Animation. Students can enroll in the multidisciplinary Art BA with an Option in Studio Art; the Art BFA with an option in Animation; or the Art MFA (concentration in Studio Art) with an Animation track.
The Art BA at California State University, Long Beach is the most flexible degree option, as it allows students to develop a distinct focus area and select courses from a broad range of art and art history courses. In addition to required courses in both 2D and 3D media, students have access to courses such as Computer Art; Intro Studio: Animation; Color Theory; Intro Studio: Illustration- Rendering; Transdisciplinary Practice; and Life Drawing.
The Art BFA at CSULB requires 15 units in the track. Note that BFA students can select the Animation track or the Pre-Production track. Both provide plenty of opportunities to study animation. Animation track students are required to take Professional Practices in Illustration/Animation and Experimental Animation 1. Pre-Production students must take Core Studio: Illustration. Examples of common course options include Advanced Studio: Animation; Special Studies in Animation; Animation Film I; and Animation Film II. The Art MFA in Studio Art with an Animation track requires 39 approved units in the focus area. Course examples include Experimental Animation 2; Graduate Studies: Advanced Illustration/Animation; Animation 4; Computer Animation 2; Graduate Studies: Directed Studio; Writing for Artists; Graduate Studies: Image as Text; and Graduate Studies: Professional Practices for Visual Communication.
In the final semester of the program, students will take the Graduate Studies: MFA Project course with members of the student’s Project Committee.
Upon completion of the COTA BA, BFA, and MFA programs at California State University, Long Beach graduates will have a professional portfolio of their best work. Program alumni are prepared for careers such as Animator, Art Director, Storyboard Artist, Animation Technical Director, Forensic Animator, Character Animator, Compositing Artist, and Illustrator.
California State University, Long Beach was established in 1949 as Los Angeles-Orange County State College. One of the 23 campuses of the California State University System, CSULB serves approximately 39,965 students enrolled in more than 300 programs across eight colleges. California State University, Long Beach is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC).
14. Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles, California
The School of Film and Television (SFTV) at Loyola Marymount University (LMU) is home to the first program to build a motion-capture lab offering classes in virtual cinematography and pre-visualization. Known as the Walter and Grace Lantz Animation Program, pathways lead to either a BA or a minor. Both options feature small class sizes; coursework with high student-faculty interaction; and access to state-of-the-art facilities, labs, and networked computer workstations.
LMU students have two additional options for studying animation: the Computer Science BS and the Interactive, Gaming, and Immersive Media (IGI) minor. The BS has a Games and Interaction Computer Science track, which provides access to animation courses and additional free electives in film, creative arts, music, and more. Students in this program can select up to 21 elective credits to focus in animation games, and other areas.
The IGI minor is a collaboration between the Frank R. Seaver College of Science and Engineering and the School of Film and Television. To complete the program, students must take six courses including two gateway courses, two from the School of Film and Television courses, and two from Science and Engineering. Course examples include Introduction to Interactive Animation; Advanced Interactive Animation; Interaction Design; and Immersive Media Studio.
The Animation BA in the School of Film and Television focuses on teaching students how to use the latest technology to master drawing, visual effects (VFX), production techniques, interactive design, and storytelling. Collaborative, hands-on courses include Art of Cinema; Storytelling for the Screen; Visual Story Development; Digital Toolbox; Interactive Animation; History of Animation; 3D Computer Animation; and Intermediate Animation Workshop.
The LMU Animation BA is a four year program that requires 45 semester hours of study in upper division coursework. In addition to core and major requirements, the program requires a significant number of electives, allowing students to focus their studies in an area of interest. During the final year of the Animation BA Program, students will complete the Animation Practicum and Senior Thesis Project.
The Animation minor consists of 18 semester hours of study and it is open to all LMU students, regardless of major. Course examples include Introduction to 3D Computer Animation; History of Animation; Visual Story Development; Introduction to Interactive Animation; and Discovering Animation.
Graduates of Animation programs at Loyola Marymount University are prepared to pursue roles at all levels in film, television, and animation production; game design and development; advertising and marketing; science and medicine; forensic animation; and art education. To date, more than 400 employers have hired LMU SFTV alumni. More than 80% of alumni are working in the field and more than 10% are in graduate school.
Animation program alumni have worked on major productions and series such as The Simpsons and The Simpsons Movie, Wonder Woman, Superman: Doomsday, and Green Lantern: First Flight. They have been hired by major companies, networks, and studios such as Walt Disney Animation, HBO, DreamWorks, NBCUniversal, Cartoon Network, Amazon Studios, Nickelodeon, Paramount, Sony Pictures Animation, Viacom, Warner Bros., Disney/ABC, BET Networks, E! Entertainment, Netflix, Sony Playstation, Randon House Studios, and 21st Century Fox.
Established in 1911, Loyola Marymount University is a National University/High Research Activity (R2) institution. The school serves approximately 10,000 students enrolled in more than 175 degree programs, minors, and credential programs. The academic programs at Loyola Marymount University are housed across three campuses—LMU Westchester (Los Angeles), LMU Downtown (Law School), and LMU Playa Vista (Silicon Beach)—and seven colleges and schools. Loyola Marymount University is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC).
15. California State University, Los Angeles, California
The Department of Art at California State University, Los Angeles (Cal State LA) has an Animation Option that combines the study of traditional, contemporary, and experimental animation techniques with hands-on learning in digital classrooms, labs, and other facilities. Part of the College of Arts & Letters, the Department of Art provides access to a Design Library, the Tool Crib, and a stop-motion animation lab. Art Department students also have opportunities to exhibit in the Ronald H. Silverman Fine Arts Gallery and the student-run COMA Gallery.
The Animation Option is a 98-unit path within the Art BA program. Students will complete 48 units in the Option and select electives from art and film course offerings. Examples include World Animation History; Video for Artists; Color Theory and Perception; Three-Dimensional Animation; Story and Visualization; Digital Design Tools; Advanced Animation; Art and Motion; Experimental Animation, Digital Modeling; and Advanced Illustration. The Animation Project Capstone, worth up to six credits, is required to graduate.
Also within the Art Department at Cal State LA is the Art MA and MFA Programs. Both graduate pathways provide the opportunity to enroll in the Design Option (Graphic Design/Visual Communication, Animation). The Art MA requires 30 units to graduate, while the MFA requires 60 units. Elective options allow students to take additional coursework in animation. Examples include Experimental Animation; Problems in Advanced Design; Two-Dimensional Animation; Advanced Illustration; Graduate Interactive Design; and Advanced Animation.
Each semester, students in the Cal State LA Art Department join professional artists and faculty for several events that provide the opportunity to present their work to peers and the public. Graduates of the Art programs at Cal State LA are prepared to pursue careers in animation, game design, screenwriting, storyboard art, visual effects (VFX), art direction, production, advertising, film editing, and special effects.
Examples of Cal State LA recruiting companies Disney, Lionsgate Entertainment, DreamWorks, Yahoo!, NASA, KTLA, and Boeing.
Established in 1947, California State University, Los Angeles serves approximately 24,675 students (Fall 2023) enrolled in more than 150 degree, certificate, and minor programs. Part of the 23 campus, California State University System, Cal State LA is comprised of nine colleges and the University Library. California State University, Los Angeles is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC). Department of Art Programs are accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD).
16. California State University, Northridge, Northridge, California
California State University Northridge (CSUN) is home to the Mike Curb College of Arts, Media, and Communication (AMC). Within the College is the Department of Art and Design, which has a Visual Arts BA with an Animation concentration. Students in this program can select one of three tracks. These include 2D Design, 3D Animation, and Game Development.
All tracks provide access to the Entertainment Industry Institute (EII) and the student-operated creative agency known as IntersectLA. Students in all tracks also may join the Animation Students League of Northridge and/or the CSUN Game Development Club. Both student-run organizations provide networking opportunities and opportunities to interact with industry guests through supplemental workshops and lectures.
Other program features include partnerships with Seoul Institute of the Arts and DreamWorks studios; interactions with industry professionals through workshops, demonstrations, lectures, and studio visits; participation in studio tours; and internship opportunities.
In the Visual Arts 2D Design track will take courses in 2D Animation (Toon Boom/Flash); Visual Development; and Pre-Production. Optional courses such as Compositing and 3D Animation are also part of the program. Potential careers for graduates of this track include Animator, Storyboard Artist, and Background Designer.
In the Visual Arts 3D Animation track, students will explore Game Animation, Compositing, and Visual Development. Possible job titles for graduates include Character Animator, Lighting Artist, CG Modeler, Compositor, and Pre-Vis Artist.
During the final year of both Tracks, students will work on collaborative group projects and their final portfolio.
Game Development students will explore Character Animation, Compositing, Animation Production, 3D Computer Animation, and Game Production. Graduates of this track are prepared for careers in character animation, modeling, texture painting & lighting, quality assurance, and level design, among others.
CSUN alumni work in a variety of roles across industries. Examples of companies and studios that hire CSUN graduates include Apple, Walt Disney Company, Microsoft, Universal Pictures, Google, NBC, Amazon, Netflix, Earner Bros., Paramount, Microsoft MGM Studios, and Fox Sports.
Serving more than 38,500 students, California State University Northridge is one of the largest universities within the 23 campus California State University System. Founded in 1958, this liberal arts institution comprises nine colleges, The Tseng College, and the University Library. More than 2,000 CSUN faculty members teach courses leading to bachelor’s degrees in 71 disciplines, master’s degrees in 78 fields, three doctorates, and 17 teaching credentials. California State University Northridge is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC).
17. Woodbury University, Burbank, California
The School of Media: Culture: Design at Woodbury University (Woodbury) houses eight programs. Six are STEM-designated. This includes the Animation + VFX BFA that explores 2D animation, stop=motion, 3D animation, and VFX. Led by accomplished professionals and academics, course examples include History of Animation and VFX; Animation Principles 1 and 2; Figure and Animal Drawing; Industry Insiders; Stop Motion Animation; 3D Animation 1 and 2; Storyboarding; Production Design; and Digital Media.
Animation + VFX at Woodbury University also provides opportunities for students to develop skills in additional areas through electives. Puppet Building, Digital Painting, and Digital Sculpting are just a few examples. Other program highlights opportunities to work one-on-one with instructors in small studio classes; the Progress Portfolio, where students will develop a portfolio/reel in specified work from each completed lower-division studio; access to state-of-the art computer labs and equipment; and the required internship.
Thanks to Woodbury’s location near more than 15 animation and visual effects studios, students have many opportunities to fulfill the internship requirement. Examples include Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, DreamWorks, Warner Bros., Bix Pix Entertainment, Acme Filmworks, Walt Disney Imagineering, Walt Disney Animation, Titmouse Studios, Hasbro Studios, Stoopid Buddy Stoodios, Netflix Animation, and Skydance Animation.
In the third year of the Animation + VFX program, students will complete a 20- to 30-second long junior thesis film. This Junior Thesis course includes a review of the 2D/3D/stop-motion production pipelines and soundtrack synchronization. The BFA program culminates with Animation Thesis I, 2 and 3, completed over three semesters. This final film project will be viewed at the end of year Animation + VFX Showcase in Woodbury’s campus theater, equipped with surround-sound and 4K projection. Student films are also ready for submission to national and international animation festivals.
Graduates of the Animation + VFX BFA program at Woodbury University are prepared to pursue roles such as 3D Animator, Director, Stop-Motion Animator, Storyboard Artist, 2D Animator, Character Designer, Puppet-Builder, Medical Animator, Visual Effects Artist, Architectural Visualizer, Visual Development Artist, Character Technical Director, Visual Effects Supervisor, Rendering Artist, Writer, Game Artist or Game Animator, and Visual Effects Producer.
Program alumni have been hired by major networks and studios such as DreamWorks, The Walt Disney Company, 20th Century Studios, Netflix Animation, and American Broadcasting Company (ABC).
Woodbury University was founded in 1884 as Woodbury College, making it one of the oldest universities on the west coast. Serving approximately 950 students, Woodbury provides 26 professional and liberal arts undergraduate and graduate majors across four schools and three campuses in Burbank (main), Hollywood, and San Diego, California. Woodbury University is accredited by the National Association of Schools of Arts & Design (NASAD) and the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC).
18. University of Washington, Seattle, Washington
The Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering at the University of Washington (UW) began as an intercollege graduate program in 1967. Today, the Allen School serves 1,500 undergraduates in across two majors, and more than 300 graduate students across several options. Programs are housed across the six-story Paul G. Allen Center for Computer Science & Engineering, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Center for Computer Science & Engineering.
Allen School programs are highly interdisciplinary, and each provides access to three labs including the UW Graphics and Imaging Lab (GRAIL), the Center for Game Science, and Animation Research Labs (ARL). Collectively, the Labs at UW engage in animation, computer game science, visualization, graphics, and vision.
Undergraduate paths for animators include BS degrees in CS and Computer Engineering (CE). Graduate options include a PhD and Professional Master’s Program (PMP) in Computer Science and Engineering (CSE). Course examples across programs include Computer Animation; Artificial Intelligence; Digital Sound; Computer Graphics; Advanced Digital Design; and Data Visualization.
Students in all Allen School programs will work in interdisciplinary teams to complete several capstone and senior-level project courses. Students will have opportunities to gain experience through an internship, and study at one of UW’s four partner universities. These include ETH Zurich; École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Switzerland; Saarland University in Saarbrücken, Germany; and KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm. Allen School students may also fulfill elective and general education requirements through hundreds of other study abroad options.
Graduates of the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering at University of Washington are routinely hired by some of the world’s top companies. Examples include Microsoft, Google, Intel, Apple, Amazon, and Meta.
Founded in 1861, the University of Washington serves approximately 60,690 students, making it the largest university in the state. More than 300 separate programs and over 600 degree options are provided across three campuses (Seattle/main, Bothell, and Tacoma) that house 18 colleges and schools. The University of Washington is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU) and the school is a member of the Association of American Universities (AAU). Engineering at UW is accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET).
19. Chapman University, Orange, California
Dodge College of Film & Media Arts (Dodge College) at Chapman University (Chapman) is one of the nation’s fastest growing film, advertising, and broadcast journalism schools. Serving around 16% of all students enrolled, Dodge regularly welcomes award-winning guest speakers such as Judd Apatow, Natasha Lyonne, Oliver Stone, Barry Jenkins, Michelle Yeoh, Alejandro G. Inarritu, and Brendan Fraser.
Dodge College also houses the highly collaborative Digital Media Arts Center (DMAC), which was inspired by the creative spaces at major studios and companies such as Disney, Pixar, Microsoft, and Google. Students have access to industry software and tools such Toon Boom, Adobe, Unreal Engine, Maya, Houdini, Zbrush, Nuke, Blender, and Rokoko.
Within Dodge College at Chapman University are several paths to study animation. The Animation and Visual Effects (VFX) program has three study areas: CG Animation, 2D Animation, and Visual Effects. Course examples for the CG Area include Mechanics of Motion; Beginning, Intermediate, and Advanced Character Animation for CG; Storyboarding and Story Reels; Production Design; and Storytelling in Animation and Visual Effects.
2D students will take courses such as Production Design for Animation and Visual Effects; 2D Computer Graphics I-II; Character Design; Advanced Storyboards and Character Layout; Figure Drawing for Animators; and Writing for Animation. Note that many courses overlap for the CG and 2D areas.
In the Visual Effects area, students will take courses such as Compositing for Visual Effects; Virtual Production Workshop for Animation and Visual Effects; Unreal Engine for Filmmakers 3 credits Advanced 3D Computer Graphics for Visual Effects; Advanced Visual Effects Production and Workflow Advanced Pre-visualization for Motion Pictures; and On-Set and Post-Production Visual Effects Supervision.
Across areas, students have access to electives such as Pinocchio & Co: The Puppet Across Media; Game Development; Audio Techniques; Short Film Analysis; Set Decoration; and Costume Design. All Animation and VFX students will complete Senior Thesis I: Concept Development; Senior Thesis II: Pre-Production and Production I; and Senior Thesis III: Production II and Post-Production. The Animation and VFX program leads to a BFA.
During the final years of the Animation and VFX program at Chapman University, students may complete an internship. Because Dodge College has relationships with major studios such as Disney, Pixar, DreamWorks, Nickelodeon, Blizzard Entertainment, and Blur Studios, students have access to these coveted internship opportunities. All Dodge College students also have the chance to study abroad in places such as Japan, New Zealand, France, Mozambique, and Peru, and participate in student clubs such as the Chapman Animation and Visual Effects Club, The Collective, and the Virtual Reality/AR Club.
Graduates of the Animation and VFX BFA program at Chapman University are prepared for careers across the animation, television, film, and game industries, among others. Program alumni have landed positions at Marvel, DreamWorks, Blizzard Entertainment, Sony Pictures, Nickelodeon, PlayStation, Netflix, DNEG, Bento Box Entertainment, Frame48, and Lightstorm Entertainment.
Founded in 1861 as Hesperian College, Chapman University is a business, entertainment, and technology college that serves 10,015 students from 49 states, two territories, and 82 countries. The school provides approximately 200 programs of study across 11 colleges and schools. Chapman University is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC).
20. California State University, Chico, Chico, California
California State University, Chico (Chico State) is home to one of the largest Computer Animation and Game Development (CAGD) programs in the nation. Out of hundreds of majors, the program is also one of the top 10 largest at Chico State.
Established in 1999 as the Applied Computer Graphics Program, CAGD is housed in the College of Engineering, Computer Science & Construction Management. Students in this 120-unit program may major in Animation OR Game Development. Leading to a BS, the program provides access to state-of-the-art labs, workshops, and studios—including an in-house motion capture studio; study abroad experiences in Germany and other countries; participation in the student-run Computer Graphics Club (CGC); and the opportunity to complete an internship at a local or national studio.
In addition to selecting an Animation or Game major, CAGD students will select five courses from an interdisciplinary program area. Options include Computer Science; Media Arts, Design, and Technology; and Art Studio. The Animation major combines coursework in Art Studio and Communication Design, with Graphics and Animation. Other areas of exploration include CGI, game scripting, augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR), media arts design, technology, and computer science. Course topics may include 3D Animation and Character Animation; 3D Modeling; Motion Capture; Video Character Modeling; and Team Production Development.
Students in all CAGD Programs have access to the in-house motion capture studio, and they may participate in the student-run Computer Graphics Club (CGC). Chico State alumni work in game development, animation, CGI/VFX, or other areas at major studios such as Blizzard, Pixar, Epic Games, Zynga, Disney, Sony Imageworks, Ubisoft, Electronic Arts (EA), WetaFX, Crystal Dynamics, Super Alloy Interactive, and 2K.
Students also work in other industries such as defense (simulation), advertising and marketing, television and media, web design, medical, architecture, construction, and business.
The College of Humanities & Fine Arts at California State University, Chico houses the Department of Art & Art History, which has an additional option for animators—the Art Studio BFA with a Digital Media concentration. Accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD), the program has three focus areas: Time-Based Media, Digital illustration, and Fine Arts. While all focus areas provide opportunities to study animation through required coursework and electives, the most popular option for animators is Time-based Media. This focus area explores computer-assisted 2D animation, digital filmmaking, stop-motion animation, and hand-drawn animation.
Graduates of the Art Studio BFA at California State University, Chico State will leave the program with an industry-ready portfolio of their work. Program alumni are Animators, Fine Artists, Illustrators, Film Directors, Digital Artists, Graphic Designers, Editors, and Art Directors. Some program alumni go on to launch their own studios and freelance businesses. Others go on to pursue advanced studies at major universities across the U.S.
Founded in 1887, California State University, Chico serves 13,840 students from 43 nations, 30 states, and one U.S. territory. Chico State provides 385 programs across seven colleges, five schools, and 22 centers and institutes. California State University, Chico is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC).
21. New York Film Academy Los Angeles, Burbank, California
New York Film Academy Los Angeles (NYFA Los Angeles) has multiple paths to study animation. Options include BFA and MFA degrees in 3D Animation & VFX; and a 1-Year 3D Animation & VFX college credit-bearing Certificate.
Under the guidance of faculty from major studios including Disney, DreamWorks, Universal, and Netflix, NYFA Los Angeles students will work and learn in hands-on production workshops on the Universal Studios backlot in the Burbank.
The BFA emphasizes visual storytelling and production pipelines. The MFA program prepares students for leadership roles in cinematic and emerging arts. The 1-Year intensive 3D Animation & VFX program explores the fundamental skills in 3D animation and visual effects while using industry standard software such as Nuke, Maya, Zbrush, and Maya.
Course examples across programs include Animation Practices & Pipelines; Character Animation; Stop Motion; Visual Effects; Python; Previs, Interactive Games & Virtual Reality; Animation; Maya Polygonal Modeling; Character Design; Screenwriting; Acting for Animation; Advanced Rigging; UP Mapping; Particle Dynamics and Visual Effects in Maya; Acquisition & Shooting; and Professional Development in Animation.
Students in both the BFA and MFA will produce works using Maya, MotionBuilder, ZBrush, Houdini FX, V-Ray, and Nuke. The BFA and MFA programs culminate with the 3D Animation Thesis Project.
Graduates of the 3D Animation & VFX programs at NYFA Los Angeles are prepared to pursue just about any production role in the entertainment industry. Program alumni are Animators, VFX Artists, Filmmakers, and Game Artists. They work for (or have worked with) studios and game developers such as DreamWorks Animation, Tyler Perry Studios, Playstation, Digital Domain, Electronic Arts (EA), NBCUniversal, Riot Games, Ubisoft, Hi-Rez Studios, Bad Robot Productions, ACM Siggraph, and Gearbox Software.
New York Film Academy has degree-granting campuses in Los Angeles, New York, and Miami. Additional campuses and programs are located at Harvard University, and in China, France, Australia, and Russia. Founded in 1992, NYFA serves thousands of students from more than 120 countries. The school provides dozens of Visual and Performing Arts programs that prepare students for immediate employment in the industry. New York Film Academy is accredited Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC).
22. Academy of Interactive Entertainment, Seattle, Washington
Academy of Interactive Entertainment (AIE) is the world’s first nonprofit specialist visual effects and games educator. A Houdini Certified School, AIE provides programs in 3D Animation and Visual Effects (VFX); Game Art and Animation; Game Design and Production; and Game Programming. All options are hands-on and industry focused, with courses and projects that take place in a collaborative studio-environment led by industry professionals.
Across programs, students also benefit from AIE’s close relationships with major animation and game design studios; access to state-of-the-art technology and the latest industry software; and graduate placement. Software includes Maya, Zbrush, Adobe Photoshop, Nuke, 3D Equalizer, Renderman, Thinkbox, Substance Suite, Houdini, and DaVinci Resolve.
Courses for the 3D Animation and VFX and the Game Art and Animation programs are completed in two stages. During stage one, 3D Animation and VFX program will explore subjects such as character animation, storyboards, production planning, modeling and texturing, and digital lighting and compositing. Stage two covers visual effects, story development, and a specialization. At this stage, students will have the skills needed to complete a short film and online portfolio of their work.
AIE 3D Animation and VFX graduates work in industries such as animation, game design and development, and filmmaking. Job titles include Character Animator, Surfacing/Texture Painter, Environment Modeler, Digital/Matte Painter, Technical Director, Fur/Feathers or Water FX Artist, 3D Tracker/Match Mover, and Modeler.
In stage one of the Game Art and Animation program at Academy of Interactive Entertainment, students will explore everything from 3D modeling and rendering to compositing. They will also produce a short animated film. In stage two, students will work in teams to build a professional showreel of animation, 3D modeling, and a game level. Game Art and Animation students will also produce a playable game.
Both the 3D Animation and VFX and the Game Art and Animation programs can be completed in two years, full-time. Graduates enjoy a high employment rate. Program alumni have established careers at major game studios, independent studios, and as entrepreneurs. They also work in defense, education, and health care (serious games and simulations), and for top mining companies. Sample job titles include 3D Animator, Character Animator, UI Designer, Technical Artist, Level Designer, Rigger, Environment Modeler, 2D Artist, and Texture Artist.
Academy of Interactive Entertainment graduates have worked on productions and games such as Spiderman, Dune, Thor, Dungeons & Dragons, Godzilla vs. Kong, Peter Rabbit 2, DC League of Super-Pets, Batman, The Magicians Elephant, The Mandalorian, Avengers: Infinity War, and Guardians of the Galaxy.
Established in 1996, Academy of Interactive Entertainment (AIE) is a non-profit institution that consists of four campuses in Australia, two in the United States (Seattle and Lafayette), and an Online campus. The school serves an estimated 150-200 students enrolled in four Advanced Diploma programs.
23. Cornish College of the Arts, Seattle, Washington
Situated near theaters, galleries, museums, the Space Needle Cornish College of the Arts (Cornish) has been training artists for over 100 years. Within the Film & Media Department at Cornish is an Animation program that leads to a BFA. Consisting of 120 credit hours, this project-based program combines studios, labs, and lectures, with private, independent, and small group study. Students in the program also benefit from industry partnerships and the opportunity to gain experience through a professional internship.
In addition to Animation, Cornish Animation BFA students will work in Game Art, Interaction Design, and Web Design, as well as emerging areas such Virtual and Augmented Reality (VR/AR) and User Interface/User Experience Design (UI/UX). Course examples for the program include Analog Animation; Immersive Studio; Motion Design; Color + Composition; Meta-Systems; Collaborative Studio; Parallel Views; Narratives of Design; Time + Motion; Publishing Tools; Design Research; and Professional Practices in the Arts.
To enhance the degree, students have opportunities to develop skills in other areas through studio electives and open electives, and/or add a Game Art or Experience Design Minor. The program culminates with the BFA Capstone and BFA Exhibition Seminar.
The Seminar introduces students to the coordination involved in the planning, preparation, and installation of the BFA Capstone exhibition. Students will also learn about exhibition graphics, way-finding, marketing, and public engagement. Lectures, guest speakers, and presentations will explore best practices in exhibition design. Students will also review different exhibitions around Seattle through field trips.
Graduates of the Animation BFA program at Cornish College of the Arts are prepared to pursue careers in animation, visual effects (VFX), game design, film and video, advertising, graphic design, theater, and multimedia. Some of the top employers of Cornish alumni include Amazon, Microsoft, Starbucks, and the University of Washington.
Founded by Nellie Cornish in 1914, Cornish College of the Arts began as The Cornish School for Drama, Music, Dance. The school serves 635 students enrolled in 13 programs across eight departments. Cornish College of the Arts has been accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU) since 1977.
24. California State University, East Bay, Hayward, California
California State University East Bay (Cal State East Bay) houses the College of Letters, Arts, and Social Sciences (CLASS), home to the School of Arts & Media. Within the school is the Department of Art, which provides visual arts programs leading to a BA, BFA, or MA. Department highlights include small classes led by industry professionals; state-of-the-art Electronic Media facilities; and field trips to museums, galleries, and artists’ studios.
The Art Department also houses a 2,000 square foot University Art Gallery with a year round program of changing exhibits and two student art galleries for solo or group advanced student exhibitions.
For students seeking an animation program, the Department of Art at Cal State East Bay has two options: the Art BA with a Video and Animation concentration or the Illustration concentration. This option consists of courses such as Narrative illustration; Concept and Color; and Contemporary Visual Studies. Student also have access to electives such as Animation I; 3D Modeling and Animation II; Motion Graphics; Design for Production; and Graphic Arts.
The Video and Animation concentration requires 33 units of study. Course examples include Audio Production for Video & Animation; 3D Processes; Motion Graphics; 3D Modeling and Animation; Cinema Art Studies; Advanced 4D Projects; 4D Project Development & Pre-Production; and Contemporary Visual Studies. The program culminates with the BFA Critique courses, and the Video and Animation Senior Project.
Graduates of the Cal State East Bay Art BFA in Video and Animation or Illustration are prepared for further study at the graduate level or for immediate employment across creative and other industries. Examples of potential job titles include Animator, Forensic Animator, Stop Motion Animator, 3D Character Animator, Effects Animator, 3D Modeler for Film, Compositing Artist, Game Artist, Matte Painter (Film and Game Industry), Storyboard Artist, Character Designer, Advertising Illustrator, 3D Modeler, 3D Character Rigger, Creative Director, and Computer Aided Designer (CAD).
Some top potential employers of Cal State East Bay graduates include Pixar, Lucasfilm, Apple, Google, Facebook, Adobe, Pandora, and YouTube.
California State University East Bay has been serving the Bay Area as part of the California State University System for more than 60 years. Serving approximately 13,695 students, the school has campuses in Hayward, Concord, and Oakland, California. More than 150 degree, minor, and certificate programs are provided across four colleges. California State University East Bay is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC).
25. California State University, Fresno, Fresno, California
The College of Arts and Humanities at California State University Fresno (Fresno State) houses the Department of Art, Design, and Art History. Students in the department study and produce work in the award-wining contemporary structure knows as the Phebe Conley Art Building. Facilities include state-of-the-art computer labs; painting, drawing, and printmaking studios; smart classroom lecture hall; digital facilities; studio classrooms with north lighting; and the Phebe Conley Art Gallery, Dean’s Gallery, and President’s Gallery.
The Department of Art, Design, and Art History at Freson State is also home to the Animation/Intermedia BA that highlights industry partnerships; individual and collaborative projects; and internship opportunities. The program has three emphasis areas: 2D Animation, 3D Animation, and Intermedia. 2D Animation explores traditional and digital animation techniques. Students will work with compositing, frame-by-frame, and cutouts.
3D Animation focuses in specific skillsets such as character animation and environments. This area begins with foundations in rendering, lighting, animating, and modeling. The Intermedia emphasis explores video, installations, digital photography, and animation. All areas prepare students for careers in art and industry.
Course examples for the program include 2D Animation 1 and 2; Alternative Approaches to Digital Imagery; Advanced 3D Digital Art - Indirect Animation; 3 Dimensional Design; Intermediate 3D Digital Art – Animation; Advanced 3D Digital Art – Environment; Digital Video Art; and Advanced 3D Digital Art – Character.
The Animation/Intermedia BA at Fresno State culminates with a final project. Graduates are prepared for immediate employment in the industry or graduate study. Sample career opportunities include 2D Animator, 3D Animator, CAD Designer, Illustrator, Fine Artist, 2D Storyboard Artist, 3D Texture Artist, Intermedia Designer, 3D Modeler, Computer Artist, and Art Educator.
Founded as the Fresno State Normal School in 1911, California State University Fresno serves approximately 24,140 students enrolled in more than 100 degree programs across eight colleges and schools. One of the 23 campuses in the California State University System, Fresno State is fully accredited by the California State Board of Education and the Accrediting Commission for Schools, Western Association of Schools and Colleges (ASC WASC).