What are the top animation school programs in Indiana for 2021?

Top 5 Animation School Programs in Indiana - 2021 College Rankings
1Purdue University West Lafayette
2Ball State UniversityMuncie
3Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis Indianapolis
4Huntington UniversityHuntington
5University of Saint FrancisFort Wayne

Our 2021 ranking -our tenth annual- of the top animation school programs in Indiana. For an explanation of the ranking criteria, click here.

1. Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana
Purdue University – Purdue Polytechnic Institute

Purdue Polytechnic Institute is one of the 10 academic colleges at Purdue University (est. 1869). Founded in 1964 as Purdue University’s School of Technology, Purdue Polytechnic Institute enrolls around 12% of Purdue’s students (around 4,910) at the West Lafayette campus.

The Institute houses eight departments and schools offering a variety of high-demand technology disciplines leading to the bachelor's, master’s, and PhD degrees. Seventy academic options are available in six subject areas in seven departments. The Department of Computer Graphics Technology (CGT) houses the Computer Graphics Technology Program, which offers a BS in CGT with a Major in Animation or Visual Effects Compositing.

Graduate options are available through the Department of Computer and Information Technology (CIT) and include an MS in CGT and a PhD in Technology.

The BS in CGT with a Major in Animation focuses on six areas of animation including 3D Modeling, Texturing, Lighting, Rendering, Character Rigging (creating a digital skeleton) and Motion. Graduates of the BS program have found employment at DreamWorks, Walt Disney Company, and Rhythm & Hues and eight of the school’s alumni were part of the creative teams behind 2014 Oscar winner Big Hero 6 and 2014 Golden Globe winner How to Train Your Dragon 2.

The BS in CGT with a Major in Visual Effects Compositing combines Animation, Visual Effects, and Video to create “highly graphical” videos for episodic television and films, says the school. Graduates of the program have been hired at DreamWorks, Walt Disney Company, and Rhythm & Hues.

The MS in CGT offers four primary focus areas: Animation, Games, Information Visualization, and UX Design. Students may specialize in any area through a range of courses such as Animation History, Technology and Technique, Current Topics in 3D Animation, Computer Graphics Programming, Game Development, Interactive Multimedia Development and Research, and Virtual Environments. Additionally, “real-world projects and research opportunities help students put theory into practice, building a foundation for future growth in their chosen discipline.”

Animation students will experience all key areas of the digital animation process, “preparing them for a growing range of technical and creative positions in the global animation industry, or as research scholars in the animation technology area.” Potential job titles include (but are not limited to) Animator, Digital Lighting Specialist, Rigger, Simulation and Visualization Specialist, Technical Director, and Technical Artist.

Note that students may earn a BS CGT/MS Technology with a Specialization in CGT, which may be completed in just five years instead of six years or more, if pursued separately.

The PhD Program allows students to create a CGT Specialization that covers Animation, Data Visualization, Game Studies, Human Centered Design and Development, Virtual Product Integration and Web Programming and Design. Graduates of the program will know how to envision, plan and conduct research and development activities; identify, comprehend, analyze, evaluate and synthesize research; evaluate technologies and technology-related programs;  assess individual performance with, and understanding of, technology; communicate effectively and employ constructive professional and interpersonal skills; and function in one or more of the technology disciplines.

Graduates of the program pursue careers in the academic sector, entertainment, government, technology, and many other areas.

2. Ball State University, Muncie, Indiana
Ball State University

Ball State University (BSU or Ball State) was established in 1918 as the Indiana State Normal School Eastern Division. The school became Ball State University in 1965 to “acknowledge phenomena; growth.” Today, Ball State offers more than 300 programs in nine colleges to more than 22,000 students from across the U.S. and more than 50 other countries.

The College of Fine Arts at Ball State houses the School of Art, which offers 12 undergraduate programs and two master’s degrees. A BFA in Visual Arts/Animation is available for aspiring animators.

The program explores 2D, 3D, stop-motion, and traditional animation as well as character design, lighting, modeling, storyboarding, texturing visual effects, and a wide range of other topics. Students will learn “up-to-date animation techniques,” says the school, “and how to use industry-standard animation software,” such as Adobe Illustrator, Maya, Photoshop, Toon Boom, and Toon Boom Harmony.

In every animation course, students “will gain valuable experience with leading animation industry software.” Toon Boom, Toon Boom Harmony, Maya, Photoshop, and Adobe Illustrator are just a few. Students will also have opportunities to participate in hands-on, collaborative projects with students and faculty in other courses of study.

During the final years of the program, students will create a demo reel or portfolio, and they will “learn how to market” themselves “in relation to today’s jobs.”

Graduates of the program are prepared for opportunities such as 3D animation for the film industry, 3D animator or modeler for the video game industry, 3D modeler for advertising, engineering or entertainment, animation web design, architectural rendering, medical animation, multimedia art, product visualization, and storyboard artist for the film industry.

3. Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), Indianapolis, Indiana
Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis

Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) dates back to 1891, when Indiana University offered classes in Indianapolis for the very first time. In 1969, Indiana University (IU) and Purdue University Indianapolis (PUI) merged to create IUPUI, becoming Indiana’s premier urban research university. Today, the school serves 29,390 students enrolled in more than 450 undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs in 17 schools.

The School of Informatics and Computing offers a several programs for aspiring animators including a BS in Media Arts and Sciences (BS MAS) and an MS in MAS with a Specialization in 3D Graphics and Animation. A 3D Graphics and Animation Minor is also available.  

The BS MAS helps students develop the skills they need to work across many visualization platforms. Students will “use the most current equipment and technology to develop games, advertising, and scientific illustrations,” says the school. In addition, students in the program will learn how to translate their skills “for emerging mediums such as virtual reality, augmented reality, and 3D printing.” Course highlights for the program include 3D Animation, 3D Production, Compositing and Visual Effects, Organic Modeling and texturing, and Prototyping for Visualization and Abstraction.

The BS MAS Program also has Digital Storytelling and Game Design and Development Specializations. The Digital Storytelling Specialization includes animation coursework, while Game Design and Development includes hands-on projects that cover digital animation and sound.

The MS MAS provides the opportunity for students to work on research and collaborative projects in their specialty area. MS students work with the same tools and media that professionals utilize, including video and sound, web design, 3D printing, gaming, and digital animation hardware and software. Students seeking a faster path to a graduate degree have the option to enroll in the accelerated five-year Media Arts and Science BS + MS. Students in all programs may focus in 3D Graphics and Animation.

The 3D Graphics and Animation Minor “immerses” students “in the processes of 3D film, games, virtual reality, augmented reality, and 3D printing.” Students in the program will “design, model, texture, animate, light, and render 3D computer animated products, creatures, characters, props, scenery, and artifacts.”

Graduates will leave the MAS programs at IUPUI with a polished portfolio and experience gained during the internship period. Alumni have landed positions at places such as Digital Domain, EA Sports, FME Studios, NBC Universal, Pixar, Sanctum Studios Los Angeles, and Sony Pictures Imageworks.

4. Huntington University, Huntington, Indiana
Huntington University

Founded in 1897 as Central College, Huntington University (HU) serves around 1,400 students enrolled in more than 70 programs of study. Pathways are offered through several departments, including the Department of Digital Media Arts (DMA), which has four BS degree options: Animation, Film Production, Film Studies, and Television Production.

The Animation BS focuses on image, motion, character, and story. The school says, “through a studio environment, students work closely under the mentorship of award-winning faculty, learn industry standard equipment, and explore both the craft and art of their chosen field.” Students will learn 2D hand-drawn and stop-motion animation, motion graphics, the most complex 3D computer technology, “and everything in between.”

The Department is located in a “state-of-the-art facility,” known as the Martin Center for Digital Media Arts, which consists of labs and studios outfitted with “top-of-the-line equipment.” The Center includes open access to computer, traditional, and stop motion labs, a green screen, editing labs, a sound stage, a Foley pit, and a screening theater. Students will work with professional workstations, VR equipment, 3D printing technology, and industry standard software.

Other program highlights include the opportunity for students to showcase their animated films in festivals around the world, the opportunity to work on projects for businesses and nonprofits, and the world on a variety of animation-related trips over J-term and Spring Break.

5. University of Saint Francis, Fort Wayne, Indiana
University of Saint Francis

University of Saint Francis (USF) was founded in 1890 as Saint Francis Normal School by the Sisters of Saint Francis of Perpetual Adoration. The school serves around 2,250 students enrolled in 64 academic programs through Keith Busse School of Business and Entrepreneurial Leadership, and the Schools of Creative Arts, Health Sciences, and Liberal Arts and Sciences. The School of Creative Arts (SOCA) houses the Animation Program, which leads to a BA.

The program is structured to run like a professional animation studio, which means students start animating on day one. Courses include 3D Production, Character Puppeting, Lighting and Rendering, Motion Graphics, Traditional Animation, and Visual Storytelling.

Throughout the program, students will travel to Burbank, California, where they will attend the annual Creative Talent Network Animation Expo — the industry’s top event for animation talent, and meet with professionals (including USF alumni) at Disney, DreamWorks, Pixar, Warner Brothers, & Blizzard. Valuable Workshops & Webinars with professionals are also part of the program and include critiques by Disney feature film animator and USF alum Adam Green ’02 (animator for Frozen and Moana).

Students will create professional quality animations and a final polished portfolio in USF’s Animation Lab and Television Studio, which provides 24-hour, secured access to state-of-the-art facilities and equipment. USF students regularly submit their work to regional, national, & international film festivals.

Graduates of the Animation BA Program at USF have landed positions at Disney Animation Studios, Blizzard Entertainment, Smashbits Animation/DreamWorks TV, Blue Pony Digital Media, Blue Sky Studios, Industrial Light & Magic, and more.