What are the top animation school programs in Illinois for 2022?

Top 5 Illinois Animation Schools - 2022 College Rankings
1School of the Art Institute of ChicagoChicago
2DePaul UniversityChicago
3Columbia College ChicagoChicago
4University of Illinois at ChicagoChicago
5American Academy of Art CollegeChicago

Our 2022 ranking -our eleventh annual- of the top animation school programs in Illinois. For an explanation of the ranking criteria, click here.

1. School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois
School of the Art Institute of Chicago

The Film, Video, New Media, and Animation Department (FVNMA) at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) has a Studio Program that offers a Post-Baccalaureate Certificate and BFA and MFA degrees in Studio. The degree programs offer extensive coursework in animation with course titles such as 3D Character Animation, Advanced Drawing for Animation, Motion Graphics and Visual Effects, Puppet Animation, Writing and Art Direction for Animation, Type and Image in Motion, and Intermediate Animation: Experimental Methods.

Other Department highlights include interaction with visiting artists, access to state-of-the-art production studios, the Art Institute of Chicago Museum, and on-campus galleries, and graduate seminars, screenings, and performances. In addition, FVNMA MFA students will participate in Critique Week. This week-long event takes place each semester. The entire faculty, along with invited visiting artists and designers, form panels designed to critique students work. All classes are suspended during this time.

Graduates of SAIC’s FVNMA Department are prepared to seek careers in animation, film, games, digital media, and more.

Founded in 1866 by a group of 35 artists, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago is one of the nation’s oldest accredited independent schools of art and design. Serving more than 3,500 students, SAIC offers over 50 areas of study in 24 academic departments. The School of the Art Institute of Chicago is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA). Since 1948, the school has been accredited as a charter member by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD).

2. DePaul University, Chicago, Illinois
DePaul University

The College of Computing and Digital Media (CDM) at DePaul University (DePaul) houses the School of Cinematic Arts, home to the Animation Program. Degree options include a BA, BFA, MA, or MFA in Animation. An Animation (BFA), combined Bachelor’s/Master’s is also available.

Courses for the animation programs at DePaul are taught by one of the largest full-time animation faculties in the nation. More than a dozen animation professors teach courses such as 3D Animation, Design, Screenwriting, Motion Graphics, Stop-Motion Animation, Narrative Development, Drawing, Animation Production, History of Animation, and more.

The BFA program has concentrations in 3D Animation, Visual Effects Animation, Cinema, Game Art, Motion Graphics, and Storyboarding and Character Design. While the BA does not offer a concentration, animation students may enhance their skills in a focused area through major and open electives.  

The MA allows students to focus in 3D Animation, Motion Graphics, Storyboarding and Character Design, Technical Artist or Traditional Animation. Course highlights for the program include Advanced Topics in Visual Effects, Animation Figure Study, Topics in 3D Animation, Game Art Pipeline, and 3D Animation Production.

The Animation MFA follows the project model. Students will spend their time creating a single project with the assistance of an MFA co-chair and MFA faculty mentors. The program is designed for animators who have earned an undergraduate degree in the visual arts. Animation, Art, Illustration, Graphic Design, and Film are just a few examples.

All animation students may participate in the Los Angeles Quarter Program. This 10-week immersion program allows students to intern at major Hollywood studios such Disney, DreamWorks Animation, Sony Studios, Nickelodeon, The Jim Henson Company, Titmouse Animation, Bix Pix Animation, Warner Brothers, and many others.

Other program highlights include the visiting artist series, where past guests have included artists from Disney and Pixar, access to the Animation Lodge, and participation in Project Bluelight. Students at The Lodge collaborate on group projects, network, and build their portfolios. Bluelight provides hands-on experience in motion picture production to all interested students.

Graduates of the animation programs at DePaul University have been hired by industry giants such as Electronic Arts, Google, Nickelodeon, Blizzard Entertainment, DreamWorks Animation, Laika Studios, Wargaming, and many others.

With 21,670 students, more than 300 programs, two campuses, and 10 academic colleges, DePaul University is the largest Catholic university in the United States. Founded in 1898, DePaul is also America’s 13th-largest private, not-for-profit university, and the largest private, not-for-profit college in the Midwest. DePaul University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA).

3. Columbia College Chicago, Chicago, Illinois
Columbia College Chicago

The School of Media Arts at Columbia College Chicago (Columbia College or Columbia) houses the Interactive Arts and Media Department, which offers several programs for animators. Options include a BA in Animation, BA and BFA degrees, a BFA in Computer Animation, and a Minor in Animation. A major component of all programs is the opportunity to begin animating in the very first year.

Columbia College Animation students may take courses such as Advanced Topics in Animation, Cinematics for Games, Alternative Strategies in Animation, Animation Layout, CVFX: Compositing, Stop-Motion Animation, Cartooning, Character Design and Modeling, The Business of Animated Content, and Animation Studios in LA, to name a few.

Animation Studios in LA is a one credit course that provides the opportunity for students to explore career opportunities at major Hollywood animation studios. Events include tours, portfolio reviews, and employment screenings. Past participating studios include Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, DreamWorks, Warner Bros., and Disney.

During the final year of the program, Columbia BA students will have the option to work with a team or individually to create a film. BA students will also fine tune their demo reels.

As a senior, BFA students will produce an animated film as a solo project, serving as producer, editor, and director. Films will be presented at Manifest—Columbia Colleges annual art festival showcasing graduating students work.

Many graduates of the Animation programs at Columbia College Chicago run their own studios, while have gone on to win Oscars and Emmy Awards. Columbia College alumni have worked on films and series such as The Lion King, Robot Chicken, Brave, Frozen, Pocahontas, UP, The Lego Batman Movie, Coco, Finding Dory, and many others.

Columbia graduates have been hired at studios such as Cartoon Network, Disney, DreamWorks, Nickelodeon, Pixar, Warner Bros. Animation, and Weta FX, among others.

Founded in 1890 as the Columbia School of Oratory, Columbia College Chicago serves 7,000 students enrolled in more than 150 majors, minors, and graduate programs. In addition to offering programs in creative areas such as communication and writing, media and digital, and music and sound, Columbia offers business management programs. Columbia College Chicago is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA).

4. University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, Illinois
University of Illinois at Chicago

The College of Architecture, Design, and the Arts at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) houses the School of Art & Art History, which offers BFA degrees in Moving Image and New Media Arts, a Minor in Art, and an MFA in Art. All programs provide opportunities to study animation.

The 16 credit hour Minor offers courses such as Moving Image, Motion Graphics, Film, New Media Arts, and Painting and Color.

The BFA in Moving Image Program explores experimental and documentary filmmaking. Emphasis is placed on production coursework, independent study, and seminars in Digital Animation and Film & Video. Students will complete at least 129 credit hours of study, with 61 credits in the major and up to a dozen credit hours of electives. Course examples include 3D Space: Animation, Introduction to Filmmaking, Introduction to Creative Coding in New Media Arts, and Topics in Drawing. Advanced Critique and the BFA Thesis Project are also part of the program.

The UIC BFA in New Media Arts is interdisciplinary, allowing students to focus in areas such as animation. The curriculum for the program covers 3D Animation, Physical Computing, and Mobile Application Design, to name a few. Course examples include Topics in New Media Arts: Intermediate Game Play, 3D Space: Animation, Creative Coding, and Information Aesthetics.

The University of Illinois at Chicago provides private studio spaces for all MFA students. This highly interdisciplinary program is a combination of collaborative projects, seminars, individual projects, research, advanced critique courses, and coursework from other Departments at UIC. Course options run the gamut from Drawing and Painting to New Media Arts and Moving Image.

All MFA students will present a public exhibition and complete a thesis or final project. The UIC MFA in Art requires 64 credit hours to graduate.

University of Illinois at Chicago serves more than 33,500 students, making it the largest university in the Chicago area. With roots dating back to 1859 when the Chicago College of Pharmacy was founded, UIC offers more than 250 degree programs and 85 minors across 16 colleges and schools. The University of Illinois at Chicago is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA).

5. American Academy of Art College, Chicago, Illinois
American Academy of Art College

American Academy of Art College (American Academy of Art) offers a BFA in 3-D Modeling and Animation. The program requires 122 credit hours of study to graduate. All American Academy of Art students will begin their respective programs with foundation coursework, which covers rendering, composition, and figure drawing, among other areas. A number of class projects during the first year of the program will help prepare students for entry into their major.

Upon completion of foundation coursework, 3-D Modeling and Animation students move into courses such as Advanced Character Animation, 2-D Computer Animation and Digital Video, Environmental Modeling, Storyboarding, Materials and Lighting for the 3-D Artist, Web Design., and Advanced Projects in 3-D Modeling and Animation. Students will produce a demo reel during the final year of the program.

Graduates of the American Academy of Art College Animation Program hold titles such as 2D or 3D Animator, VFX Artist, Motion Graphics Designer, Background Artist, Game Artist, Film/Video Editor, and Art Director, among others.

The American Academy of Art College was founded in 1923. The school serves approximately 169 students enrolled in six programs leading to a BFA degree. The American Academy of Art College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA).