Our 2017 rankings of the top 5 animation school programs in California. For an explanation of ranking criteria, click here.
1. California Institute of the Arts, Valencia, California
Crowned the “Harvard Business School of Animation” by the Los Angeles Times, California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) has produced hundreds of successful alumni who have generated billions at the box office worldwide. The school lists Mark Andrews (director and screenwriter of Pixar’s Oscar winning animated feature Brave), Eric Darnell (co-director of Antz, Madagascar, Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa and Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted, Mark Osborne (director of Kung Fu Panda) and none other than Tim Burton among its most famous alumni.
The School of Film/Video is the largest school at CalArts, accounting for nearly 30% of the student population. Programs offered include a BFA in Character Animation and BFA and MFA degrees in Experimental Animation.
About CalArts: Established in 1961 by Walt and Roy Disney, CalArts is the nation’s first postsecondary institution to offer graduate and undergraduate degrees in both the visual and performing arts. The school is home to 1,449 students enrolled in more than 70 programs across six schools including the School of Critical Studies, The Sharon Disney Lund School of Dance, the School of Art, the School of Film/Video, The Herb Alpert School of Music at CalArts, and the School of Theater.
2. University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California
University of Southern California (USC) is home to The John C. Hench Division of Animation and Digital Arts (Hench DADA) of the School of Cinematic Arts (USC Cinematic Arts). The School also houses the Division of Film and Television Production. Hench DADA offers a BA in Animation and Digital Arts, MFA degrees in Animation and Digital Arts and Interactive Media with heavy Animation electives, and Minors in Animation & Digital Arts and Game Animation. The Division of Film and Television Production offers a BFA in Cinematic Arts, Film & Television Production with Animation and Interactive Media electives.
Graduates of USC Cinematic Arts have been hired at DreamWorks Animation, Sony Pictures, Nickelodeon Animation Studios, Pixar, Rhythm and Hues, Industrial Light & Magic, Digital Idea, Illumination Entertainment, Digital Domain and many others.
About USC: Established in 1880, USC is home to 44,000 students enrolled in more than 200 undergraduate programs, 300-plus graduate programs, and more than 150 minors.
3. University of California Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California
The University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) is home to The Animation Workshop. Founded in 1948 by Disney animator William Shull, The Animation Workshop is a three-year MFA program that accepts just 12 new students each year. Before applying to the program, students typically earn a BA in Film and Television or a BFA with a Concentration in Animation at UCLA. The BA program gives future MFA students the opportunity to study all facets of digital media, film, and television, as well as a full year of animation studies, followed by an internship.
Once in the program, students have access to the exclusive Summer Institute Symposium, which provides the opportunity to “meet and listen to some of Hollywood’s most accomplished professionals.” Past guests have included Simon Kinberg (writer-producer, X-Men: First Class, Mr. & Mrs. Smith), Meg LeFauve (writer, Inside Out); Zak Penn (writer, The Incredible Hulk), Chris Gorak (director, The Darkest Hour), John Hegeman (chief marketing officer, New Regency Productions), and many others.
Graduates of UCLA’s animation programs have landed positions at Pixar; they have worked with directors such as Tim Burton, and on films such as The Simpsons Movie and Monster House.
About UCLA: Founded in 1919 as the Southern Branch of the University of California, University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) is home to nearly 45,000 students from all 50 states and more than 100 foreign countries. The school offers 125+ undergraduate majors across 109 academic departments, and more than 40 graduate programs.
4. ArtCenter College of Design, Pasadena, California
ArtCenter College of Design offers a BS in Entertainment Design. Two Tracks are available including Character Animation and Concept Design. According to the school, Concept Design “focuses on the skills and creative ability required of entertainment industry concept designers” and Character Animation “emphasizes the nuances of designing, modeling and bringing to life appealing characters through 3D and 2D animation.” Both Tracks prepare students for career opportunities as performance and action animators with companies such as Pixar, Disney, DreamWorks, ILM, Sony, Blur, 343 and Riot.”
About ArtCenter: Founded in 1930, ArtCenter College of Design is home to 2,133 students enrolled in 11 undergraduate and seven graduate degree programs in a variety of Industrial Design, Visual, and Applied Arts Disciplines. A joint MS/MBA program with the Drucker-Ito School of Management is also available. ArtCenter campuses include two campuses in Pasadena and satellite studios in Los Angeles (at the Peterson Automotive Museum), and Berlin.
5. California College of the Arts, San Francisco and Oakland, California
The BFA in Animation is the fourth largest program at California College of the Arts. Offered through the Animation Department, the BFA program provides students the opportunity to learn from “the best animators in the industry” from Pixar, DreamWorks Animation, and Tippett Studio, among others. Students in the program “receive feedback and visual storytelling advice from actual industry animators and directors of such animated films as Toy Story, Star Wars, and Brave.”
Graduates of CCA’s Animation program have landed positions at major studios such as Walt Disney Animation Studios and Pixar, as well as award-winning studios such as Bento Box Entertainment.
About CCA: CCA was founded in 1907. The school is home to nearly 2,000 students enrolled in 22 undergraduate and 12 graduate degree programs, and two Minors. Besides a BFA in Animation, CCA offers BFA degrees in areas such as Film, Illustration, Interaction Design, and Graphic Design, as well as MFA degrees in Comics, Film, Design, and Interaction Design (MDes), to name a few.