|1||California Institute of the Arts||California||1%|
|2||Ringling College of Art and Design||Florida||1%|
|3||University of Southern California||California||2%|
|4||University of California Los Angeles||California||2%|
|5||Rhode Island School of Design||Rhode Island||3%|
|6||School of Visual Arts||New York||3%|
|7||Savannah College of Art and Design||Georgia||4%|
|8||New York University||New York||4%|
|9||Carnegie Mellon University||Pennsylvania||5%|
|10||Rochester Institute of Technology||New York||5%|
|11||Pratt Institute||New York||6%|
|12||Gnomon School of Visual Effects||California||6%|
|13||The Ohio State University||Ohio||7%|
|14||School of the Art Institute of Chicago||Illinois||7%|
|15||ArtCenter College of Design||California||8%|
|16||Brigham Young University||Utah||8%|
|17||California State University-Long Beach||California||9%|
|19||San Jose State University||California||10%|
|20||University of Central Florida||Florida||10%|
|21||Academy of Art University||California||15%|
|22||Digipen Institute of Technology||Washington||15%|
|23||California College of the Arts||California||15%|
|24||Massachusetts College of Art and Design||Massachusetts||15%|
|25||The University of the Arts||Pennsylvania||15%|
|26||Otis College of Art and Design||California||15%|
|27||Full Sail University||Florida||15%|
|28||Texas A&M University||Texas||15%|
|30||Clemson University||South Carolina||15%|
|31||Columbia College Chicago||Illinois||15%|
|32||Columbus College of Art and Design||Ohio||20%|
|33||Maryland Institute College of Art||Maryland||20%|
|34||California State University-Fullerton||California||20%|
|36||Laguna College of Art and Design||California||20%|
|37||University of Texas at Dallas||Texas||20%|
|38||The Digital Animation & Visual Effects School||Florida||20%|
|39||Loyola Marymount University||California||20%|
|40||College for Creative Studies||Michigan||20%|
|42||Minneapolis College of Art and Design||Minnesota||25%|
|43||Florida State University||Florida||25%|
|44||University of Washington||Washington||25%|
|45||University of Pennsylvania||Pennsylvania||25%|
|46||Bowling Green State University||Ohio||25%|
|47||Ball State University||Indiana||25%|
|48||Syracuse University||New York||25%|
|49||Kansas City Art Institute||Missouri||25%|
|50||California State University-Northridge||California||25%|
Our 2019 list of the Top 50 Animation School Programs in the US. For an explanation of ranking criteria, click here.
1. California Institute of the Arts, Valencia, California (Top 1% of colleges considered)
In 1961, California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) became the nation's first postsecondary institution to offer graduate and undergraduate degrees in both the visual and performing arts. Established by Walt and Roy Disney, the school serves around 1,500 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.
The School of Film/Video is the largest school at CalArts, accounting for nearly 30% of the student population. Programs offered here include a BFA in Character Animation and BFA and MFA degrees in Experimental Animation. The BFA in Character Animation is a four-year program that the school says is “designed for students who seek an understanding of the art of character performance and storytelling in animation.” Courses for the program are taught by “experienced professionals who work at the forefront of traditional, CG and independent animation.”
Course highlights include Advanced Life Drawing, Animation Layout, CG Foundation I-II, Character Animation I-IV, Digital Methods I and Digital Methods II: Sound, Film Workshop I-IV, Story I and Story II: Storyboarding, and 2D Character Animation I-II. In addition, all Character Animation students are required to take Acting for Animators once during their BFA degree.
The Experimental Animation program emphasizes “the creative development of a personal aesthetic in an artist-centered environment. A broad range of animation approaches, processes, and techniques are covered in lecture courses, seminars, workshops, visiting artist lectures, internships, and independent studies.”
Students in the programs will also “work closely with a mentor in developing skills, course schedules, and projects, and also benefit from working among artistic peers in a studio environment.” Sample BFA courses include Animation Production, Cinematic Voices: In Person, Concept Development, Hybrid Imaging, Motion and Meaning, and Sound Image. A Senior Project is also part of the program.
The MFA program covers history, styles, techniques, and technology of animation arts. Students can expect to take courses such as Drawn Techniques for the Experimental Animator, Hybrid Imaging, History of Experimental Animation, Interactive Media, and Stop Motion Basics. “As a culminating project” students will “conceive, design, and produce a thesis that reflects the student’s personal artistic sensibilities.”
In addition, all students are required to take production courses in other Schools at CalArts (Art, Dance, Theater, Music), in order to develop interdisciplinary approaches. Study abroad opportunities are also offered. Crowned the “Harvard Business School of Animation” by the Los Angeles Times, CalArts has produced hundreds of successful alumni who have generated billions at the box office worldwide. The school lists Tim Burton, Mark Andrews (director and screenwriter of Pixar’s Oscar winning animated feature Brave), Eric Darnell (co-director of Antz, Madagascar, Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa and Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted, and Mark Osborne (director of Kung Fu Panda) among its most famous alumni.
2. Ringling College of Art and Design, Sarasota, Florida (Top 1% of colleges considered)
Ringling College of Art and Design (RCAD) was established in 1931 by circus baron, art collector, and real estate developer John Ringling. The school opened with just 75 students and 111 course offerings. Today, RCAD serves 1,400 students enrolled in BFA degrees in eleven disciplines and BA degrees in two. Computer Animation, Film, Game Art, Motion Design, and Visual Studies are just a few majors.
The Computer Animation program is one of the most popular programs at RCAD, accounting for around 20% of the student population. Established in 1990, the BFA in Computer Animation allows students to do it all. Students learn to create characters and tell their stories, as well as design, paint, model, texture, animate, light, composite, and edit original films. The program also focuses on teaching students how to combine essential technical skills with conceptually original ideas that affect an audience emotionally, visually, and intellectually.
Course highlights include Computer Animation I-VI, Development of Art & Ideas, Drawing I-II, Figure Drawing I-II, Film & Narrative, Story Development I-III, Traditional Animation I-II, Visual Development for Computer Animation I-II, and Writing Studio
A BFA in Motion Design is also available. Students in the program study animation, concept design, storyboard art, videography, composition, sound design, and art direction. Course highlights include Animation, Animation Techniques, Contemporary Design Culture, Development of Art and Ideas, Drawing and 2D Design, Drawing and 3D Design, 4D Design, Motion Design, Professional Writing for Designers, and Writing Studio.
Students in the program will have the opportunity to work across many different fields with students of other majors and with actual, professional clients.
RCAD graduates have worked on every Oscar-winning animated feature since 2003, with 14 alumni working on 2016 Oscar winner, Inside Out and 21 working on 2017 Oscar winner Zootopia. Graduates have also gone on to work at Blue Sky Studios, Cartoon Network, DreamWorks Animation, Electronic Arts, Lucasfilm, Nickelodeon, Pixar, Sony Pictures Imageworks, Walt Disney Animation, and many others.
3. University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California (Top 2% of colleges considered)
Established in 1880, University of Southern California (USC) serves 47,500 students enrolled in more than 200 undergraduate programs, 300-plus graduate programs, and more than 150 minors. Undergraduate offerings for aspiring animators include a BA in Animation and Digital Arts and a BFA in Cinematic Arts, Film & Television Production with Animation and Interactive Media electives. Graduate offerings include MFA degrees in Animation and Digital Arts and Interactive Media with heavy Animation electives.
Minors in Animation & Digital Arts, 3-D Animation in Cinematic Arts, and Game Animation are also available. Course highlights for the programs include Animation Design and Production, Basic Animation Production Technologies, Contemporary Topics in Animation and Digital Arts, Digital Narrative Design, Directed Studies in Animation, Expanded Animation, Expanded Concepts in 2-D/3-D Animation, Fundamentals of Animation, Storytelling for Animation, The Digital Actor, and 3-D Character Performance Animation.
Animation and Digital Arts programs are offered through The John C. Hench Division of Animation and Digital Arts (Hench DADA) of the School of Cinematic Arts (USC Cinematic Arts). The BFA in Cinematic Arts, Film & Television Production with Animation and Interactive Media electives is offered through the Division of Film and Television Production, USC Cinematic Arts.
Graduates of the animation programs at USC Cinematic Arts have landed positions at DreamWorks Animation, Sony Pictures, Nickelodeon Animation Studios, Pixar, Rhythm and Hues, Industrial Light & Magic, Digital Idea, Illumination Entertainment, Digital Domain and many others.
4. University of California Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California (Top 2% of colleges considered)
Founded in 1919 as the Southern Branch of the University of California, University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) serves nearly 45,500 students from all 50 states and more than 100 foreign countries. The school offers 125+ undergraduate majors across 109 academic departments, and more than 40 graduate programs including the Animation Workshop of the School of Theater, Film and Television.
Founded in 1948 by Disney animator William Shull, the UCLA Animation Workshop is a three-year MFA program that accepts just 12 new students each year. Per the school, "the first year of the program is devoted to learning the principles of making a traditional hand-done, animated film and the second year is devoted to creating computer animation; the film may be 2D, 3D, or a combination.” The third year of the program “begins with the creation of an interactive animation project or game. Electives and outstanding requirements are completed. Most significantly, the student forms a Thesis Committee and begins production on their thesis film.”
Before applying to the UCLA Animation Workshop, students typically earn a BA in Film and Television or a BFA with a Concentration in Animation at UCLA. The BA program gives future Workshop/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 MFA 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.
5. Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, Rhode Island (Top 3% of colleges considered)
Founded in 1877, Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) serves approximately 2,480 students from across the U.S. and 57 other countries. Students choose from 19 studio majors and earn bachelor’s or master’s degrees in the Fine Arts, Architecture, Design or Art Education. Among the schools most popular programs are Film/Animation/Video (FAV), Illustration, Graphic Design, Painting, and Industrial Design.
The Film/Animation/Video Department offers a BFA in in FAV. Course highlights for the program include Animation Integration/Installation, Computer Animation: Integrated Techniques, Computer Generated Imagery 3d, Digital Effects and Compositing for the Screen, Directing, Film and Video Installation, Film Explorations, Game Development & Programming, Lighting for the Moving Image, Sound for the Screen, Stop-Motion Animation, Time, Light and Sound, and Writing for the Screen.
Students in the program can expect to take a range of studio courses such as Animation, Live Action, and Open Media, as well as several Collaborative Study courses and a Professional Internship.
Per the school, RISD alumni can be found working as “entrepreneurs or through studios such as Pixar, DreamWorks or Harmonix, or for networks like Fox, HBO and PBS, where they write, direct, produce, serve as animators, cinematographers, character designers, game designers, lighting specialists, sound artists and much more.”
Famous RISD alumni include Gus Van Sant, director of films such as Good Will Hunting, Finding Forrester, and Milk; Seth Macfarlane, creator of Family Guy, Daniel Sousa, animator and director of the Oscar-nominated film Feral, and Lance Wilder, animator for The Simpsons.
6. School of Visual Arts, New York, New York (Top 3% of colleges considered)
School of Visual Arts (SVA) was founded in 1947 as the Cartoonists and Illustrators School. The College now serves more than 4,300 students enrolled in over 30 graduate and undergraduate degree programs. Programs for aspiring animators include BFA Animation, and BFA Computer Art, Computer Animation and Visual Effects. An MFA in Computer Arts (with concentrations in animation, motion graphics and fine art) is also available as well as a BFA Cartooning and Continuing Education (CE) animation courses.
Per the College, all animation students “learn the fundamentals of drawing, storytelling, character development, and professional animation software, as well as the history of animation, all for the purpose of bringing their creations to life.” The curriculum “covers the entire spectrum of animation professions, from traditional animation to stop-motion to digital; and access to faculty- and alumni-operated studios provides numerous opportunities for hands-on learning, internships and employment.”
Students have learned and worked at companies around New York including Titmouse, Framestore, MPC, The Mill, Method, Molecule, and Plymptoons Studio. SVA graduates have also gone on to work at Blue Sky Studios, Disney Feature Animation, Pixar, ILM, DreamWorks Animation, Lucasfilm, Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, Sony Pictures Animation, Warner Bros. Animation, and independent animation studios across the globe.
7. Savannah College of Art and Design, Savannah, Georgia (Top 4% of colleges considered)
Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) was founded in 1978. With campuses in Savannah, Atlanta, Hong Kong, and Lacoste, France, SCAD is home to nearly 13,000 students from nearly 50 states and 115 countries. The school offers more than 40 majors and 60-plus minors, including animation, one of the school’s top majors. Offered through the School of Digital Media, five options are available for aspiring animators including a BFA in Animation (Atlanta, Hong Kong, Savannah), an MA in Animation (Savannah, eLearning), an MFA in Animation (Atlanta, Savannah, eLearning), and Minors in Animation or Animated Illustration and Publication Design. Both Minor options require 25 credit hours of study.
The BFA in Animation teaches students to master 2-D, 3-D, Stop-motion, Digital Modeling, Rigging, Lighting, Look Development, and more. Per the school, students in the program will “collaborate with and take electives in other majors, such as visual effects, motion media, interactive design and game development, sound design, film and television, and sequential art.” Students will graduate from the program as “dynamic, multifaceted” animators, who are “extremely marketable and ready to take the industry by storm.”
The MA is a 45 credit hour program that consists of courses such as Animation Aesthetics and Practice, Art Criticism, Computer-Generated Modeling and Design, Environment Look Development, and 3D Cartoon Character Animation. Students will also complete a Collaborative Project and the Final Animation MA Project, provides students the opportunity to synthesize their learning into a cohesive project piece. Students propose, develop and execute a project that is then cut into their reel.
The MFA requires 90 credit hours of study, with many of the same courses as the MA program. Additional courses include Media Theory and Application, and Storyboarding and Previsualization. MFA students will also complete Animation MFA Thesis Exploration and Research, Animation MFA Thesis Visual Component Production, and Animation MFA Thesis Completion. A Graduate Internship is also part of the program.
Graduates of SCAD’s animation programs have landed positions at major studios such as Walt Disney Animation Studios, Digital Domain, and Bento Box Entertainment.
8. New York University (NYU) Tisch School of the Arts, New York, New York (Top 4% of colleges considered)
Founded in 1965, Tisch School of the Arts is part of New York University (NYU). Founded in 1831 and serving more than 60,500 students, NYU is the largest private university in the U.S. The school has degree-granting campuses in New York, Abu Dhabi, and Shanghai and operates 11 global academic centers and research programs in more than 25 countries. With more than 19,000 employees, NYU is also one of the largest employer’s in New York.
Tisch School of the Arts houses the Maurice Kanbar Institute of Film and Television. The Institute’s Department of Animation and Digital Arts offers a BFA in Film and Television with an Animation Core in Production and an MFA in Animation and New Media. The two-year MFA program is also offered at Tisch Asia.
The Animation Area of the Kanbar Institute of Undergraduate Film & Television at NYU Tisch School of the Arts began in 1979. The program had just three classes: Art & Design, Animation I, and Animation II. For the 1980-1981 academic year, the program was home to 80 students enrolled in five classes. In 2013, the program enrolled 461 students. Today, the program serves hundreds of students from 48 states and 39 countries.
Per the school, the Animation Area at NYU Tisch “serves the needs of all Film and TV students for both animation and live-action projects.” The current curriculum “is varied and integrated with both traditional animation and 2D and 3D animation courses at fundamentals, intermediate and advanced levels, as well as storyboarding, titles, optical and digital effects, life drawing and history and criticism classes.” Nearly 20 courses are offered as part of the program. Highlights include Action Analysis, Animation: From Pitching to Pipeline to Production, Drawing and Design for Animation, Experimental Animation, Life Drawing: Anatomy, Motion Design & Titles, Special Topics in 3D Computer Animation, Stop Motion Animation, Storyboarding, Visual Effects and Compositing, and Writing for Animation.
Other program highlights include internship opportunities, study abroad experiences, and guest speakers. Past guests have included Frank Thomas, Chuck Jones, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Roy E. Disney, George Griffin, David Polonski, Ed Catmull, Amid Amidi, and Willis Pyle, among others.
Graduates of the Animation program at Tisch have landed jobs at Pixar, DreamWorks, Walt Disney Animation Studios and many others.
9. Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (Top 5% of colleges considered)
Founded in 1900, Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) serves 14,000 students representing 109 countries. The school has more than 100 programs across seven colleges. The College of Fine Art, School of Art offers a BFA in Electronic and Time-Based Media with a Focus in Animation and a BFA in Integrative Design, Arts & Technology (IDeATe) with a Concentration in Animation & Special Effects. A Minor in Animation & Special Effects is also available.
The Electronic and Time-Based Media BFA “explores the creative potential of emerging technologies and the critical impact they have on contemporary culture,” says the school. The curriculum “implicitly encourages cross-disciplinary study.” As such, “many students merge fine art and computer science based interests either within the BFA program or through the unique BCSA degree program.” Besides Animation, students may focus in unique areas such as Bioart, Computational and Interactive Art, Tactical Media, and Tangible Media, as well as Game Arts and Video and Performance. “Students particularly interested in the intersection of art and technology can take advantage of expanded course offerings through the IDeATe Program.”
Students in the BFA in IDeATe with Animation & Special Effects “will study the interconnected components of performance capture, rendering, 3D and 2D animation, and special effects. They will merge arts and technology perspectives in all courses to explore each of these components and the area of digital animation as a whole. Through common repositories across courses and collaborative projects, students will explore how the different components and types of expertise come together to create a convincing computer animated experience.”
Students in this program will also be able to “connect to other IDeATe courses to explore applications of digital animation in different contexts (games, interactive environments etc.) and to integrate other key areas of knowledge (narrative, sound) into digital animation projects.”
The School of Art at CMU also offers supportive courses that “serve to enrich the student experience in IDeATe.” Offerings include Advanced ETB: 2D Animation, Advanced ETB: Animation, Advanced ETB: Moving Image Magic: Visual Effects and Motion Graphics, and Animation, Art, and Technology.
10. Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, New York (Top 5% of colleges considered)
Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) was founded in 1885 as Mechanics Institute. When it opened, the school offered mechanical drawing, which eventually attracted more than 400 students. Today, RIT is home to nearly 19,000 students majoring in everything from Art and Design to Urban Community Studies. RIT’s College of Imaging Arts and Sciences (CIAS) is home to the nation’s first PhD in Imaging Science and the School of Film and Animation (SOFA). SOFA offers BFA and MFA degrees in Film and Animation.
The BFA in Film and Animation is one of the most selective majors at RIT. Per the school, “all undergraduates share the same first semester, where they immediately begin production in both film and animation, ensuring each student is exposed to each form. “This also gives BFA students time to explore before deciding which to pursue.” Three options are available: 2D Animation, 3D Animation, and Stop-Motion.
The 2D Animation Option “begins with character design and progresses through dynamics and sequences. Hand drawing on paper or acetate, using a traditional layering technique, or creating elements originally in 2D software applications are the common options. Then shooting on a crane, bulk scanning the drawings into a computer or animating directly in a software application are the usual production techniques.”
The 3D Animation Option covers all aspects of computer animation. “Modeling in Polygons, NURBs and Subdivision surfaces is taught with an emphasis placed on the need to strike a balance between heavy detail and economy of animation. Other areas covered include, character rigging, set construction, dynamics, character animation, particles, and compositing.
Stop Motion “takes student through all aspects involved in creating stop motion films. Students are taught animating technique, wire armature construction and set construction.”
The MFA in Film and Animation is a three-year program “designed to educate complete filmmakers.” Students will “learn the artistic, narrative, technical, historical, and business aspects” of whatever form they choose during the first two years, and then create a thesis project in the third year that can be completed on or off campus. Like BFA students, MFA Animation students will concentrate in either 2D, 3D, or Stop Motion, “but be able to explore the other types of animation.”
The MFA is a terminal degree that prepares students for professional careers in the industry or “teach filmmaking in other higher education programs of merit.” Top careers for MFA graduates include Director, Documentary Filmmaker, Experimental Artist, Producer, and Visual Effects Supervisor. Top careers for BFA graduates include Character Animator, Effects Animator, 3D Modeling and Character Designer, Art Director, and Experimental Film Artist.
Graduates of RIT’s BFA and MFA Film and Animation programs have landed positions at top studios such as Disney Animation Studios, Electronic Arts, DreamWorks, Blue Sky Studios, Nickelodeon, Lucas Films, Industrial Light and Magic, Paramount, HBO, Rhythm and Hues Studios, and many others.
11. Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, New York (Top 6% of colleges considered)
Founded in 1887, Pratt institute is home to 4,600 students enrolled in 22 undergraduate degree programs, 26 graduate degree programs, and a variety of Certificate and Minor programs across five schools and The Center for Continuing and Professional Studies. The Pratt Institute School of Art offers a BFA in Digital Arts and Animation with an Emphasis in Digital Animation and Motion Arts or Interactive Arts. Concentrations include 2-D Animation, 3-D Animation and Motion Arts, and Interactive Arts. An MFA in Digital Animation and Motion Arts is also available.
Per the school, students in the BFA programs will “develop aesthetic finesse, technological skill, conceptual sophistication related to digital media, and thorough comprehension of the potential of art and technology.” Students also learn to create professional documentation and presentation. Graduates of the program “demonstrate an expertise in their discipline, a unique voice in their medium and knowledge of historical works in art and technology.”
Students will create animated films at Myrtle Hall, a LEED Certified Green Building that includes nine state of the art digital studio/classrooms, the Digital Arts Resource Center and Digital Commons flex-space, a High Speed Fibre Channel Network, and Traditional Animation Facilities. An Audio Recording Studio, a Dedicated Green Screen facility, Graduate Studio spaces, 2-D/3-D Printers and production facility, and the Mediated Digital Arts Gallery are also housed in the building.
Students in the 60 credit hour MFA in Digital Animation and Motion Arts program will have the opportunity to create narrative and non-narrative films using 2-D and 3-D digital animation techniques, live action and motion graphics. Electives include Storyboarding and Storytelling, Lighting and Rendering, Motion Dynamics, Compositing and Special Effects, Character Design, Character Animation, Matte Painting, and more. Students will complete one year of work on a thesis, which culminates in an exhibition or screening of the completed work and a thesis paper. The MFA in Digital Animation and Motion Arts can be completed in two years.
Pratt School of Art alumni have landed positions at major studios such as Augenblick, Blue Sky, Digital Domain, Cartoon Network Studios, DreamWorks Studios, Curious Pictures, Industrial Light & Magic, Walt Disney Animation Studios, Rhythm and Hues Studios, Walt Disney Animation Studios, Curious Pictures, Gameloft, Sony Imageworks, NBC Universal, Titmouse, and many others.
12. Gnomon School of Visual Effects, Hollywood, California (Top 6% of colleges considered)
Gnomon School of Visual Effects was established in 1997. Called “the MIT of visual effects” by Fast Company, “Gnomon offers a variety of educational options to help students reach their goals in the entertainment industry, with both degree and vocational certificate programs, specialized courses for high school students and over 100 individual courses for professional enrichment.” The school, which has 600 graduates to date, offers a BFA and a Certificate in Digital Production.
Individual animation courses are available and may be “mixed and matched” to suit students’ career goals. Options include Acting for Animators, Introduction to 3D with Maya, Character Sculpture, Color Theory and Light, History and Principles of Animation, History of Visual Effects, Animation and Visual Effects, Character Animation, Modeling, Motion Graphics, Storyboarding, Texturing and Shading, Timing for Animation, Animation for Games, Character Design, Character Modeling and Sculpting, Previsualization and Animatics, Stylized Character Creation, and Creature Animation.
Gnomon graduates have landed positions at some of the world’s top studios. Walt Disney Animation Studios, Industrial Light & Magic, DreamWorks, Digital Domain, Blizzard Entertainment, Reel FX, Electronic Arts, Sony Pictures Imageworks, Nickelodeon Animation, Rhythm & Hues, and Marvel Entertainment are just a few.
13. The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio (Top 7% of colleges considered)
Established in 1870 as Ohio Agricultural and Mechanical College, The Ohio State University offers over 200 majors, minors and specializations from which more than 66,000 students can choose multiple paths to focus on animation in both the College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Engineering. Paths in animation encourage students to explore courses in 3D modeling, 2D/3D animation, video game production, augmented and virtual reality, digital imaging, digital video, interactive visualization, interactive art, game art and design, Art Games, motion capture, procedural content generation for games, real-time rendering, photogrammetry and more at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Students in all programs can work on individually defined or team-based projects.
The Department of Art offers BFA and MFA degrees in Art with an emphasis in Art and Technology. It emphasizes the creation of animation, interactive art and experimental forms in the context of art making.
The Department of Design offers an MFA degree in Design focusing on Digital Animation and Interactive Media. This program emphasizes the production of creative research-based projects in the user-centered context of design.
The Department of Computer Science and Engineering (CSE) offers BS, MS and PhD degrees in Computer Science with a specialization in Computer Graphics and Game Design.
Ohio State introduced an interdisciplinary BA program in Moving Image Production in Autumn, 2017.
Students utilize state of the art facilities, equipment, and interdisciplinary expertise in the school’s many special labs, including the world class Advanced Computing Center for the Arts and Design (ACCAD).
14. School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois (Top 7% of colleges considered)
Founded in 1866, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) is one of the oldest accredited independent schools of art and design in the country. Serving 3,640 students from 67 countries, SAIC offers more than 50 areas of study from Animation and Costume Design to Visual Communication Design and Writing, through 18 departments. The Film, Video, New Media, and Animation Department (FVNMA) offers several programs for aspiring animators including BFA and MFA in Studio degrees with a Concentration Animation, and a Certificate in Studio.
Per the school, the FVNMA Department at SAIC “endorses and encourages experimentation with radical form and content.” The Department says that it is “open to many approaches to and understandings of experimental media art” and it is “dedicated” to helping students develop their “art practice in a variety of forms and contexts including the use of high definition video, new media art, experimental 3D animation, hand-drawn animation, and filmmaking.” The Department also says that it supports “individual and collaborative forms of making media art in these expanded contexts.”
SAIC FVNMA instructors are "award-winning pioneers, revolutionaries," and working professionals in the fields of experimental film, video, animation, nonfiction, narrative, installation, glitch, interactivity, art games, curating, archiving, and web-based art projects. Students will also learn from “internationally renowned artists, critics, historians, and curators who regularly visit through the department and SAIC's Visiting Artists Program.”
Other FVNMA Department highlights include graduate projects and fall and spring critique weeks for MFA students, access to world-class resources such as the Art Institute of Chicago Museum, on-campus galleries, and state-of-the-art facilities. Specifics include The Video Data Bank—the leading resource in the United States for videos by and about contemporary artists, The Gene Siskel Film Center—one of the country's premiere screening venues dedicated to promoting alumni, student, and faculty work, and The Donna and Howard Stone Gallery for Film, Video, and New Media in the Art Institute of Chicago's Modern Wing.
Famous SAIC alumni include David Sedaris, Georgia O’Keeffe, Elizabeth Murray, Richard Hunt, Michelle Grabner, Cynthia Rowley, Nick Cave, Jeff Koons, and LeRoy Neiman.
15. ArtCenter College of Design, Pasadena, California (Top 8% of colleges considered)
Founded in 1930, ArtCenter College of Design serves approximately 2,100 students enrolled in 11 undergraduate and seven graduate degree programs in a variety of Industrial Design, Visual, and Applied Arts Disciplines. The school, which also offers a joint MS/MBA program with the Drucker-Ito School of Management, has two campuses in Pasadena and satellite studios in Los Angeles (at the Peterson Automotive Museum), and Berlin. Programs for aspiring animators include Entertainment Design with a Track in Animation or Concept.
The Animation Track develops students in the disciplines of character animation, storyboarding, modeling, art direction, and lighting for 3D and 2D animation, while the Concept Track focuses on the skills and creative ability required of entertainment industry concept designers. Both programs lead to a BS in Entertainment Design.
Entertainment Design graduates from both Tracks are prepared for career opportunities as performance and action animators with companies such as Pixar, Disney, DreamWorks, ILM, Sony, Blur, 343 and Riot.
16. Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah (Top 8% of colleges considered)
Founded in 1875 by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), Brigham Young University (BYU) is home to around 33,500 students enrolled in 178 undergraduate majors, 109 undergraduate minors, 68 master's programs, and 26 doctorate programs across dozens of colleges and departments. The College of Fine Arts and Communications, Department of Design offers a BFA in Animation and the College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences, Department of Computer Science offers a BS in Computer Science with an Animation Emphasis.
Students in both programs have the opportunity to gain entrance to the BYU Center for Animation (est. 2010), which operates under the direction of three colleges—the Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering and Technology, the College of Fine Arts and Communications, and the College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences. Accepting just 20-25 students each year through the BFA or BS program, the BYU Center for Animation is a competitive, highly dynamic, hands-on program structured to provide students with the skill sets necessary for success in the animation, live-action, special effects, and game industries.
The program attracts faculty members from major studios such as Disney, Pixar, DreamWorks, and Warner Bros.
17. California State University-Long Beach, Long Beach, California (Top 9% of colleges considered)
California State University Long Beach (CSULB) was established in 1949. One of the 23 campuses of the California State University System, CSULB serves 37,500 students enrolled in more than 300 programs across eight colleges. The College of the Arts houses the School of Art, which offers a BFA with an Option in Illustration/Animation. Students may choose the Animation or Illustration Track, but they may take courses in both tracks and work with students in both tracks in the digital lab.
Other program highlights include internship and study abroad opportunities, as well as visiting artists that present workshops and presentations in collaboration with faculty.
Per the school, graduates of the program “work in a variety of fields such as film and entertainment (gaming, animation and live action film), advertising, textiles, biomedical illustration, the gift market, educational illustration, architectural illustration, print publications (newspapers, magazines, graphic novels and books) and more.” Many alumni have also “distinguished themselves in visual journalism, in storyboarding for film and television, and in all aspects of editorial art as well as gallery exhibition.”
In addition to the BFA, CSULB has a graduate program (MFA/MA) that it says is “individualized and dependent on the student’s preparation, interests and talents.” The program “centers on each student developing a strong personal and independent creative vision.” Students will “create a focused body of work in the form of an exhibition as the culminating experience of the degree.”
Also part of the College of the Arts is the Department of Film & Electronic Arts, which offers a BA in Film and Electronic Arts. Although the program does not have a formal animation specialization, the program highlights heavy animation coursework including 3D Computer Animation, History of Animation, Digital Arts Production (Visual Effects, Computer Animation, Interactive Media), and others.
18. DePaul University, Chicago, Illinois (Top 9% of colleges considered)
Established in 1898, DePaul University serves nearly 22,500 students from across the U.S. and about 70 countries. The school offers 300 programs of study across 10 colleges and schools and two campuses in Chicago. The College of Computing and Digital Media (CDM) houses the School of Cinematic Arts, home of the animation program. With thirteen full-time animation professors, the School has one of the largest full-time Animation faculties in the US.
Program options for aspiring animators include BA, BFA, MA, and MFA degrees in Animation. Several concentrations are available including Game Art, Traditional Animation (hand-drawn and stop motion), 3D Animation, Storyboarding and Character Design, Technical Artist, and Motion Graphics. A VFX Concentration is also available within the Film and Television BFA and the school also offers a Game, Cinema and Animation Summer Academy for high school students interested in animation, with tracks in Hand-Drawn, Stop Motion, and 3D Animation for Games.
The BA in Animation “emphasizes the art of animation, creativity, and critical thinking—while encouraging experimentation in form, content and medium—within a broad Liberal Arts context.” To develop their animation skills, students will produce live action videos, draw web-based shorts inspired by Hollywood or anime, or design motion graphics for film titles and commercials.
Designed for students who are serious about careers as animation artists, character animators, game artists, CGI effects animators, and motion graphics animators, the BFA in Animation provides a “thorough foundation in the art of animation and its history, combined with intense practice in traditional animation (hand-drawn, stop motion, and hybrid), and 3D computer animation and modeling.
The MA in Animation “provides a combination of artistic and technical training that prepares students for a future in 3D character animation, traditional animation, computer game art, or visual effects.” The MFA in Animation is the “premier degree” of the graduate program. It’s designed for students who are interested in “creating original animated films and artwork as their main vocation, and is the terminal degree in the field.”
DePaul Animation students can apply to participate in the Animation Summer LA Quarter. This ten-week immersion program is structured around living in student housing, taking classes on a historic studio lot, and interning at high profile animation studios. The experience teaches students how to navigate the studio system and helps them build a network of professional contacts. Past participants have interned at Warner Brothers, DreamWorks Animation, Sony Studios, Disney, Nickelodeon, The Mill, The Jim Henson Company, Titmouse Animation, Bix Pix Animation, and others. Back at home, students will also benefit from CDMs relationship with Chicago’s largest game development and animation studios.
Graduates of the Animation programs at DePaul have been hired in animation roles at companies such as DreamWorks Animation, Laika Studios, Google, Blizzard Entertainment, Phosphor Studios, Wargaming, Nickelodeon, Electronic Arts, and Synapse Games, to name a few.
19. San Jose State University, San Jose, California (Top 10% of colleges considered)
Founded in 1857, San Jose State University (SJSU) serves nearly 33,000 students enrolled in 145 areas of study, with an additional 108 concentrations, across eight colleges. The College of Humanities and the Arts houses the Department of Design, which offers a BFA in Animation/Illustration. Per the school, the core curriculum for the 120 credit hour program “combines both traditional and innovative educational strategies.”
“Rigorous drawing classes and intensive study of color theory, design, perspective, and conventional and digital painting are required, as well as the study of the principles of both traditional and 3-D animation, physics of motion, modeling, storyboarding, character design, and visual development.” The program’s upper-division courses “further define these disciplines offering students an opportunity to specialize in their area of choice.”
Graduates of the BFA in Animation/Illustration program have worked on films such as A Bug’s Life, Finding Nemo, Monsters, Inc. and Shrek and they have been hired at more than 135 animation studios, game design companies, film studios, and academic institutions. Just a few include 20th Century Fox, Animation Mentor, Blue Sky Studios, Blizzard Entertainment, Cartoon Network, Cogswell Institute, Disney Interactive, Electronic Arts, Lucasfilm Animation, NBCUniversal Studios, Nickelodeon, Pixar, Sony/Columbia, The Art Institute of Las Vegas, Disney Animation, and Zynga.
For BFA graduates seeking an advanced degree, the Department of Design at SJSU offers an MFA in Digital Media Art. The program is offered at the CADRE Institute, which “reflects the innovative atmosphere in Silicon Valley.” Academic programs emphasize artistic experimentation within a context of historical, cultural, and theoretical study. The program is intended for students with interest in contemporary research. CADRE's diverse community of faculty and graduate students produce artworks involving visualization, simulation, hypertextuality, information, mapping, telepresence, networks, and interactive systems.
Technical facilities include a wide range of computing resources. Students work across the boundaries of computer visualization, animation, digital video, multimedia, electronic sculpture, sound and virtual reality. CADRE supports its own networking environment and offers excellent opportunities to produce internet-based artworks.
20. University of Central Florida, Orlando, Florida (Top 10% of colleges considered)
Established in 1963 and serving approximately 68,571 students across four campuses, the University of Central Florida (UCF) is the nation’s second-largest university and Florida’s largest by enrollment. One of the nation’s youngest universities, UCF offers around 230 degree programs across 13 colleges. The College of Arts and Humanities is home to the School of Visual Arts & Design (SVAD), which offers a number of degree programs for aspiring animators.
Options include a BFA in Art with an Emerging Media Track/Character Animation Specialization and an Emerging Media Track/Experimental Animation Specialization. Per the school, Character Animation “allows students to integrate the multiple domains of art, storytelling, and technology.” The program is “designed to provide a solid foundation in techniques and theory in one focused area of competence, as well as a broad understanding of related disciplines including arts, humanities, and technology.” The program also offers, “extended experience in working in multidisciplinary teams on realistic problems.”
Graduates of the program are prepared to seek careers as animators, modelers, riggers, or texture artists in the film or computer game industries.
The Experimental Animation Specialization “offers students the opportunity to explore expression through innovative and hybrid analog and digital methodology.” Students in the program will “engage in classic, current, and widely varied techniques and mediums making moving images, which may be narrative or non-narrative.” Students will have the opportunity to “develop a unique creative vision which culminates in the completion of a BFA thesis project and exhibition/screening.”
All animation students will use industry-leading software on Mac and PC-based platforms to create projects, works and portfolios.
For students looking to continue on to a graduate program, UCF SVAD offers an MA in Visual Language and Interactive Media, and an MFA in Emerging Media with an Animation and Visual Effects, Entrepreneurial Digital Cinema, or Studio Art and the Computer Track. The MA focuses on the development of advanced skills for digital media professionals, while the MFA is a terminal scholarly and creative degree suitable for students wishing to pursue careers as professors in higher education or as creative leaders in industry. The graduate programs are designed to “emulate the professional studio environment, providing each student with an opportunity to assume an artistic leadership role. The principal emphasis is placed on narrative film structure and the entrepreneurial aspect of animation as related to studio and job creation.” Courses for the programs are designed to give students the “ability to understand the collaborative function of a commercial studio.” Labs and studios are equipped with the same industry-standard software and hardware used in professional studios.
Graduates of SVAD’s Emerging Media Program work in creating simulations for the U.S. Navy, NASA, DISTI, Lockheed Martin and other local and regional companies. In addition, SVAD alumni are currently working nationally and internationally for major animation and gaming companies such as Walt Disney Animation Studios, Reel EFX, Nickelodeon Animation Studios, Electronic Arts, Riot Games, and Blizzard Entertainment.
21. Academy of Art University, San Francisco, California (Top 15% of colleges considered)
Academy of Art University was established in 1929. The school serves more than 7,200 students enrolled in dozens of Art, Design, Fashion, and Architecture programs. Degrees are offered at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, and many programs are available entirely online. The School of Animation and Visual Effects offers AA, BFA, MA and MFA degrees in Animation and Visual Effects. A Certificate in Animation and Visual Effects is also available and programs are available on campus and online.
Undergraduate students take classes specializing in one main area of the industry. Emphasis is placed on creating a professional demo reel and/or portfolio in tune with the latest industry trends. Specialization areas include 3D Animation, 3D Modeling, Rigging, Animation Generalist, Animation Producing, Storyboarding, 2D Animation, Puppet Fabrication, Stop Motion Animation, Compositing, Dynamics, Lighting, and Matte Painting. Course highlights include Cinematics for Animation & VFX, Computer Animation Production, Producing for Animation & Visual Effects, Sketching for Communication, and 3D Animation.
Students will also complete Senior Portfolio for Animation & VFX, Collaborative Project, and Internship in Animation.
The MA program provides students an opportunity to work in 2D Animation & Stop Motion, 3D Animation, 3D Modeling, or Visual Effects, while focusing on storytelling with an emphasis on exhibiting technical skills and eliciting emotional responses. Students can expect to take courses such as Advanced Character Animation, Feature Animation, Gesture & Quick Sketch for Animators, Storyboarding, and 3D Animation Physics and Mechanics. Students will also complete a portfolio.
The MFA in Animation & Visual Effects program focuses on developing skills in any one of the many areas of expertise within the animation and visual effects industry. The program educates students in all aspects of animation and visual effects, from ideation to post production. Course highlights include Acting for Animators, Perspective for Characters & Environment, Storyboarding for Thesis, 3D Modeling & Animation (Maya), Traditional Animation, and Visual Effects for Animation. MFA students will also take several Directed Study courses and Special Topics, as well as Animation: Thesis Completion, Final Portfolio Preparation and ANM 900: Internship.
Graduates of the animation programs at Academy of Art University have landed positions at Blizzard Entertainment, CBS Interactive, Disney Interactive, DreamWorks Animation, Electronic Arts, Lucasfilm, NBCUniversal, Pixar, and Sony Computer Entertainment America.
22. Digipen Institute of Technology, Redmond, Washington (Top 15% of colleges considered)
Founded in 1988, DigiPen Institute of Technology serves around 1,100 students from all 50 states and close to 50 countries. Ten graduate and undergraduate program options are available in the areas of Art, Design, and Computer Science. Offerings for aspiring animators include a BFA in Digital Art and Animation and an MFA in Digital Arts.
The BFA program is designed to prepare students to create artwork at the professional level. In addition to excellent drawing skills, students will gain production experience, familiarity with modern studio processes, and storytelling abilities. Sample courses for the program include Animation, Human Anatomy, Art and Technology, Storytelling, Storyboards, 2D & 3D Animation, Cinematography, and Conceptual Illustration and Visual Development.
A core component of the BFA curriculum is Multidisciplinary Team Projects, which the school says provides the opportunity for students to “contribute on collaborative endeavors in student games, animated films, and more.” The semester- and year-long projects give students the opportunity to “see a project through from the concept stage to final, polished product.” Potential careers for graduates include Animator, Character Artist, Environmental/Asset Artist, Producer, Simulation and Effects Animator, UI Designer, and many others.
In addition to the Redmond campus, the BFA in Digital Art and Animation is available at the school’s international branch campuses including Digipen Europe-Bilbao and Digipen Singapore.
The MFA is a terminal degree program that allows students to build on their foundation and “expand beyond traditional arts.” Students will hone their craft in digital media and build proficiency in subjects such as digital sculpting, digital painting, character design, and other specializations within the digital media industries.
Per the school, the MFA culminates with an advanced thesis project that allows students to develop and showcase an original body of work that is both personal and reflective of their strongest capabilities as a digital artist. Graduates of the program are prepared to seek careers in both academia and production. Possible roles include Animator, 3D Modeler, Character Artist, Senior Animator, Senior Character Artist, Texture Artist, and Professor of Fine Arts.
Graduates of the Digital Art Programs at Digipen have been hired at companies such as Activision, Blizzard Entertainment, Disney Online, Electronic Arts, Microsoft, and more.
23. California College of the Arts, San Francisco and Oakland, California (Top 15% of colleges considered)
Founded in 1907, California College of the Arts (CCA) is home to more than 1,500 undergraduates and 455 graduate students enrolled more than 30 degree programs. The Animation Department is home to the third largest major at CCA—the BFA in Animation. Students in the program receive guidance from “the best animators in the industry” from Pixar, DreamWorks Animation, and Tippett Studio, among others. Students in the program also receive feedback and visual storytelling advice from actual industry animators and directors of such animated films as Toy Story, Star Wars, and Brave.
With guidance from experienced faculty and industry professionals, students will learn how to make 2D animation, 3D animation, and visual effects for video games, as well as stop-motion animation, and more. Course highlights for the program include Animation, Animation: Visual Storytelling, and Drawing for Animation as well as Character Modeling, Character Rigging, Experimental Animation, Intro to Virtual Reality, and Maya for Game and Anima Workshops. Students will also take advanced courses such as Advanced Animation 3D Tips & Tricks, Advanced Rigging, Advanced Sculpture for Animation, and Advanced Visual Storytelling. Junior and Senior projects are also part of the program.
Graduates of CCA’s Animation programs have landed positions at major animation studios such as Walt Disney Feature Animation, Sony Pictures Animation, Pixar, Nickelodeon Animation Studios, DreamWorks Animation, and Cartoon Network. They can also be found at game studios such as Electronic Arts, Phosphor Games, Vigil Games, and many others.
24. Massachusetts College of Art and Design, Boston, Massachusetts (Top 15% of colleges considered)
Massachusetts College of Art and Design (MassArt) was founded in 1873 as a training institution for aspiring drawing teachers, architects, artists, and designers. Today, the school offers more than 20 undergraduate art programs, nearly a dozen graduate programs, and around seven certificate programs to a population of nearly 2,100 students. Programs are offered through dozens of departments.
The Animation Department at MassArt offers a BFA in Animation that gives students the opportunity to engage in a variety of conventional and experimental techniques. With access to Students in the program study Documentary Animation, Digitally Generated Animation, Character Animation, Stop Motion, Experimental Video, and Emerging Technologies. In addition, students will complete an Independent Study course, a course assistantship, and an internship.
Per the school, “coursework for the program culminates in a degree project consisting of a sustained film as well as a portfolio and reel highlighting students' professional and creative objectives.”
Other program highlights include “classrooms, labs, and studios that facilitate and enhance the work of animation majors,” the Animation Senior Showcase, visiting artists and lectures, and “Squealing Pegs”—an annual screening of recent animated short films.
25. The University of the Arts, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (Top 15% of colleges considered)
The University of the Arts (UArts) is the nation’s only comprehensive arts university. Founded in 1876, the school is home to 1,900 students enrolled in 47 undergraduate and graduate programs, and more than 30 minors, through the College of Art, Media & Design, the College of Performing Arts, the Division of Liberal Art, and the Division of Continuing Studies (Grad Programs).
The College of Art, Media & Design houses the School of Film, which offers several programs for aspiring animators. Offerings include a BFA in Animation, a BFA in Film + Animation, and a Minor in Animation. Per the school, the BFA program “supports traditional hand-drawn, 3D computer, stop motion and any animation techniques that can be imagined or explored.” Students in the program will explore the variety of techniques available to the current animator, hone traditional skills, and learn how to tell engaging stories as well as create memorable characters, and bring their concepts to life.
Besides taking courses such as Drawn Character Animation, Screenwriting, Special Effects Compositing, Storyboarding, and 2D Computer Character Animation, BFA students will create a Junior and Senior Animation Piece, an Animation Thesis, and an Internship.
The BFA in Film + Animation “allows students to explore the possibilities of both film and animation.” Students in the program will study “film and animation techniques, explore various genres and styles, and create a capstone project that combines film and animation in innovative way.” Other program highlights include hands-on instruction by “award-winning, professional filmmakers and animators,” production workshops, lectures, screenings and critiques, and internship and study abroad opportunities. In addition to study abroad, international opportunities include festivals and workshops in countries such as Canada, France, and South Korea.
UArts animation alumni work on blockbuster special effects films, animated television series, commercials, and video games in a variety of roles–from director to animator to storyboard artist to editor to many other positions.
26. Otis College of Art and Design, Los Angeles, California (Top 15% of colleges considered)
Otis College of Art and Design (OTIS) was established in 1918 by founder and publisher of the Los Angeles Times, General Harrison Gray Otis. The school serves approximately 1,100 full-time students enrolled in 11 BFA degree programs ranging from Digital Media (Animation, Game and Entertainment Design, and Motion Design) to Toy Design. The school also offers MFA degrees in Fine Arts, Graphic Design, Public Practice, and Writing, as well as a variety of minors and certificate programs.
Specific programs for aspiring animators are offered in the Digital Media Department. Options include a BFA in Digital Media with an Animation Major, a Digital Media Minor, and a Digital Media Arts Certificate with a Specialization Track in Animation. Per the school, OTIS Digital Media students will “acquire real-world skills in industry-standard technology, as well as concept development, from leading designers, artists, and entrepreneurs.”
The programs begin with training in “fundamentals of digital tools and their creative applications.” Along the way, students will have the opportunity to find their own visual style. Animation students “bring characters and stories to life through the magic of computer animation. Using a wide variety of techniques, from traditional 2-D animation to 3-D computer-generated imagery (CGI), students learn to develop narratives that evoke emotion and create the illusion of movement. Special emphasis is placed on storytelling, character design, and acting, as well as traditional drawing skills and business acumen.”
Course highlights include Storytelling for Digital Artists, 3D Animation, The Visual Language of Film, Games and Design, Creative Action Studio, and Animation Explorations.
“By graduation,” says the school, students will be able to “meet the demands of a diverse and expanding job market in visual storytelling for film, television, video games, apps, and the web.
Just a few recent employers of OTIS graduates include Pixar, Disney, DreamWorks, Sony Imageworks, Nickelodeon, Electronic Arts, ILM, Sony Online Entertainment, and Blizzard Entertainment.
27. Full Sail University, Winter Park, Florida (Top 15% of colleges considered)
Established in 1979, Full Sail University serves approximately 15,000 students enrolled in a variety of Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Associate degree programs in the areas of Entertainment, Media and the Arts. Graduate Certificates are also available. Options for aspiring animators include a BS in Computer Animation that takes 20 months to complete on-campus, and 32 months to complete online.
Students can expect to take courses such as 2D and 3D Animation, Character Animation, Animation Production, Shading and Lighting, Character Rigging, and Visual Development. A total of seven Project and Portfolio courses must be completed as well. They include Project and Portfolio I & II: 3-D Arts, and Project and Portfolio III-VII: Computer Animation.
These unique Project and Portfolio courses combine “hands-on learning experiences with summative and formative portfolio assessments.” The courses are taken in addition to an internship, which can be pursued after the student has successfully completed 50% of the required credit hours for the BS program.
Graduates of the programs at Full Sail University have been credited on films such as Ant Man and the Wasp, Avengers: Infinity War, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom and Solo: A Star Wars Story, Deadpool 2, Incredibles 2, and many others.
28. Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas (Top 15% of colleges considered)
Texas A&M University (TAMU) is the state’s first public institution of higher learning. Established in 1876, the school serves nearly 69,400 students enrolled in nearly 400 degree programs across 16 colleges and schools. The College of Architecture, which broadly defines animation within “Visualization,” offers several programs for aspiring animators. Options include BS, MS, and MFA degrees in Visualization.
The BS in Visualization is a 120 credit hour studio-based program that includes elements of traditional art, programming, history, theory and digital media. The MFA in Visualization is a 60 credit hour program that the school says is designed for students “seeking a computing technology-infused terminal degree in the visual arts applicable to employment in digital media fields, working as a contemporary artist, and teaching in post-secondary digital arts programs.” This non-thesis degree program requires “a satisfactory presentation of a body of work by the candidate” and “a written document addressing issues pertinent to the final study.
The MS in Visualization requires a minimum of 48 credit hours of study to graduate. The curriculum for the program is designed to “develop new understanding through research and creativity.” Students in this master’s program will pursue a thesis option.
Visualization course highlights include Drawing for Visualization, Graphic Design, Color Theory, Visualization Technology, Programming, Visualization Studio, Digital Painting, and Visual and Performing Arts. The interdisciplinary Visualization programs offered in the College of Architecture prepare students to work in animation, technical animation, illustration, and many other related areas.
29. Purdue University – Purdue Polytechnic Institute, West Lafayette, Indiana (Top 15% of colleges considered)
Established in 1869, Purdue University serves around 43,400 students from all 50 states and nearly 130 countries. Part of Purdue University, Purdue Polytechnic Institute was founded in 1964 as Purdue University College of Technology. Around 12% of Purdue’s students are enrolled in the Polytechnic Institute, which houses eight departments and schools that offer 68 academic options in six subject areas. The Department of Computer Graphics Technology (CGT) offers animation programs at all degree levels.
The BS in CGT with a Major in Animation focuses on six areas of animation including 3-D 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 CGT Department also offers a BS in CGT with a Major in Visual Effects Compositing that combines Animation, Visual Effects, and Video to create “highly graphical” videos for episodic television and films. A BS in Effects Technical Direction is also available and it highlights supplemental coursework in Animation. Graduates of the program have also landed positions at DreamWorks, Walt Disney Company, and Rhythm & Hues.
Graduate offerings include an MS in CGT and a PhD in Technology offered through the Department of Computer and Information Technology (CIT). The MS offers several focus areas for aspiring animators including Computer Animation, Video Production and Visual Effects, Computational Art, and Virtual and Augmented Reality.
The PhD Program offers a CGT Specialization that covers Animation, Game Studies, Human Centered Design and Development, Virtual Product Integration, and Web Programming and Design. Students may also 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.
30. Clemson University, Clemson, South Carolina (Top 15% of colleges considered)
Established in 1889 as Clemson Agricultural College, Clemson University serves around 23,100 students enrolled in 80+ majors, 80+ minors, and 110+ graduate degree programs across seven colleges. The College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences, School of Computing offers several programs for aspiring animators including an MFA in Digital Production Arts (MFA DPA), a new MS in DPA, and a Minor in DPA.
The DPA MFA Program is a professional degree program that offers a unique blend of instruction from art, computer science, computer engineering, graphic communications, performing arts, philosophy, and psychology, together with newly designed courses targeted at production techniques specific to the animation, visual effects, and electronic games industries. Sample courses include Computer Animation, 3D Modeling, Compositing, Computer Games, FX, Lighting, Rigging, Simulation, and Visual Effects, to name a few.
The new MS in DPA focuses on the technical components of visual effects production for the film, electronic games, and commercial video industries. Sample courses include 3D Modeling and Animation, Virtual Reality, 2D Game Engine Design, Character Animation, Physically Based Visual Effects, Visual Foundations for Digital Production, Audio Engineering, Improvisation, and Advanced Animation.
DPA program graduates have worked on films such as Frozen, Hobbit, Rio, How to Train Your Dragon, and The Croods. Many have been hired by major studios such as Pixar, Walt Disney Animation Studios, Blue Sky Studios, DreamWorks, EA, ReelFX, and Sony Pictures Imageworks.
31. Columbia College Chicago, Chicago, Illinois (Top 15% of colleges considered)
Established in 1890, Columbia College serves more than 7,300 students from nearly every state and more than 60 countries. The school has over 100 academic majors or programs across several schools and more than 20 departments. Schools include the School of Media Arts, the School of Fine and Performing Arts, and the School of Liberal Arts and Sciences. The School of Media Arts is home to the Interactive Arts and Media Department, which offers several programs for animators.
Options include a BA in Animation with a Concentration in Computer Animation or Traditional Animation, and BFA degrees in Computer Animation and Traditional Animation. Animation and Motion Graphics Minors are also available. Computer Animation students have the option to focus in Visual Effects or Computer Animation. Traditional Animation students may focus in either Hand-Drawn or Stop-Motion Animation.
Sample courses for the programs include Acting for Animators, Alternative Strategies in Animation, Animation for Comics, Animation Layout, Animation Maquettes, Animation Portfolio Development, Animation Production Studio, Cartooning, Cinematics for Games, Character Design and Modeling, Computer Animation: Visual Effects, Digital Animation Techniques, Drawing for Animation, Environmental Design & Modeling, Figure Drawing, Storyboarding for Animation, and The Business of Animated Content.
Students in the BA programs and the BFA in Traditional Animation have the opportunity to either work collaboratively with peers to create a six-minute animated film over two semesters or take any three Animation electives of their choosing. Computer Animation BFA students will collaborate on a team project and develop their own solo short film.
32. Columbus College of Art and Design, Columbus, Ohio (Top 20% of colleges considered)
Established in 1879, Columbus College of Art and Design (CCAD) is one of the oldest private art and design colleges in the United States. The school serves more than 1,300 students enrolled in 12 bachelor’s degree and two master’s degree programs covering a broad range of subjects and practice areas.
Programs for aspiring animators include an Animation BFA with 2D and 3D Tracks or a Concentration in Animation/Experimental or Animation/Game. Minor options include Animation 2D and Animation 3D. An MFA program is also available. Students in this program have executed individual projects from animation and video to interactive design and illustration.
All students may participate in CCAD’s International Exchange Program, which highlights study at China Academy of Art, Hangzhou, China; Universidad Mayor, Santiago, Chile; Xi’an Fine Arts Academy, Xi’an, China, and Northumbria, Newcastle, England. Students may also study at CCAD-approved programs at Studio Art Centers, Florence, Italy, and University of Arts London, London.
Graduates of the CCAD Animation BFA Program have landed positions at Animal Logic, Pixar, Walt Disney Animation Studios, DreamWorks, Cartoon Network, Electronic Arts, Nickelodeon Animation Studios, Sony Pictures Animation, BET, Time Warner, Twentieth Century Fox, and many others.
33. Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore, Maryland (Top 20% of colleges considered)
Founded in 1826, Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) is the oldest continuously degree-granting college of art and design in the nation. The school serves nearly 3,500 students from 49 states and 65 countries enrolled in more than 80 programs leading to the BFA, MA, MFA, and MPS degrees. Post-baccalaureate certificate programs are also available and programs are offered in the areas of fine arts, design, electronic media, art education, liberal arts, and professional studies.
Programs for aspiring animators include a BFA in Studio with a Concentration in Animation with three pathways including Traditional Narrative/2D, Stop-Motion, and 3D Animation. Students begin with a fundamental understanding of the art of movement. They work in 2D hand-drawn animation, 3D computer imaging, stop-motion, and history of animation and innovative combinations of these processes, culminating in a thesis film in their final year.
MICA also offers and a BFA in Animation + Humanistic Studies. In addition to animation studies, students in this degree program will study philosophy and ethics, social and natural sciences, and social and political history. Sample courses for the program include Character Animation, Elements of Visual Thinking, Digital Tools For Animation, Stop Motion, Electronic Media & Culture, Art Matters, and Drawing.
Graduates of MICA animation programs work for companies like Blue Sky Studio, Disney, DreamWorks, Yahoo, Laika, and MTV. Many graduates have continued their education in graduate programs or have successful careers as freelance artists in the field.
34. California State University-Fullerton, Fullerton, California (Top 20% of colleges considered)
California State University Fullerton (Cal State Fullerton or CSUF) serves around 39,750 students enrolled in more 109 undergraduate, graduate, and doctorate programs. Established in 1957, the school consists of eight colleges, including the College of the Arts (Department of Visual Arts), which offers more than a dozen graduate and undergraduate programs for artists. Programs for aspiring animators include a BFA in Entertainment Art with a Concentration in Animation.
The 132-unit program requires a minimum of 81 units in art: The 12 units of studio art “Admission Requirements” plus 12 units of Art History and 57 units of art. The major is divided into 21 units of lower-division preparation and 48 upper-division units. In addition to the minimum 69-unit requirement for the BFA degree, students must meet the other university requirements for a bachelor’s degree.
Course highlights for the program include Animal and Wildlife Drawing, Animation Preproduction, Animation Production, Cartooning and Caricature, Elements of Sequential Art, Illustration, Life Studies – Drawing, Motion Graphics Design, Special Studies in Entertainment Art/Animation, 3D Computer Animation, Visual Development and Background Painting, and Writing in the Visual Arts. Independent Research (ART 499) and Internship in Art (ART 495) are also part of the program.
Through a partnership with Nickelodeon Studios, the Entertainment Art/Animation area has “developed educational opportunities to further the career goals of its students.” In addition to Nickelodeon, graduates of the program have landed positions at Lucasfilm, Sony Games, Sony Pictures Imageworks, Cartoon Network, Disney Feature Animation, Disney TV Animation, and Electronic Arts, to name a few.
Graduates have worked on productions such as Superman Returns, Avatar, Spiderman 3, SpongeBob Squarepants, Alvin and The Chipmunks, Ice Age 2, and The Simpsons.
35. Drexel University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (Top 20% of colleges considered)
Drexel University was established in 1891. The school serves nearly 29,000 campus and online students enrolled in over 200 degree programs across 15 colleges and schools. The Westphal College of Media Arts & Design is home to the Digital Media Department, which offers a BS and a Minor in Animation & Visual Effects and MS and PhD degrees in Digital Media.
Per the school, the BS in Animation & Visual Effects gives students the “technological, story-telling and design skills to succeed as animators and visual effects artists in the highly competitive entertainment and design worlds. Over the course of their education in the program, students will pursue a foundation of design and technology by taking core courses in all aspects of digital media while delving into coursework covering many areas of specialization.”
The program consists of 51 credits of core courses, 45 hours of general education courses, 27 elective credits, 24 credit hours of art and art history requirements, 18 credits of animation requirements, 15 credits in media and computer science, and six credits of animation electives.
The Animation & Visual Effects program features a six-month co-op, where students will “learn the underlying principles of animation along with industry-standard software technology. The entire creative pipeline from storyboarding through modeling and animation is covered in-depth, allowing students to experience all aspects of production.”
The two-year MS in Digital Media is a hybrid program that offers comprehensive studies in Advanced Digital Design including 3D Modeling, Animation, Interactivity, Gaming and Digital Media History, and Theory and Methods. The curriculum for the two-year program “offers a mix of academic course work and project-related activities. Projects consist of funded grant research opportunities, industry-sponsored projects and independent, student-generated and faculty-approved projects.”
The PhD in Digital Media “focuses on translational research in digital media within an experiential learning environment. It studies the application of digital media towards solving research problems in various disciplines including but not limited to engineering, education, cultural heritage, health or business. This doctoral program is built on a fundamentally interdisciplinary course structure and emphasizes an iterative and design based research philosophy.”
PhD students have the same project opportunities as MS students. Past projects for the programs have included Brain-Computer Interfaces (BCI) for video games, theme park ride and animation design, interactive online non-linear narrative comics, advanced animation production techniques, a multi-media interactive dance performance with body tracking, and multi-touch games for teaching middle-school children.
Graduates of the Westphal Animation and Digital Media programs at Drexel have landed positions at leading companies such as Pixar, DreamWorks, Microsoft XBOX, Disney, NCSoft, and many others.
36. Laguna College of Art and Design, Laguna Beach, California (Top 20% of colleges considered)
Established in 1961 as the Laguna Beach School of Art, Laguna College of Art and Design (LCAD) serves 670 students enrolled in five undergraduate BFA programs and two MFA degrees. Options for aspiring animators include a BFA in Animation.
Per the school, animation students “will become skilled at shaping compelling frame-by-frame performances that inspire viewers to accept that the characters on screen are alive with genuine thoughts and sincere emotions.” The program, says the school is dedicated to ensuring that students become exceptional storytellers who understands the entire process of filmmaking from script to screen.
Students will develop their “abilities in traditional animation with classic artistic skills and then enhance that knowledge with fluency in the latest digital tools.” Taught by “experienced industry professionals,” courses for the program include Animal Drawing, Background Painting, CG Animation, CG Modeling, Character Design, Directing for Animators, Figure Drawing, Layout, Perspective, Professional Studies and Visual Development for Animators. Students will also complete a Thesis.
The Animation BFA provides the opportunity for students to participate in master class workshops each summer where they learn from leaders in the field. Each year, LCAD also hosts the LCAD Animation Film Festival known as LAFF, which showcases the best work from all levels of (the schools) animation artists.
LCAD Animation graduates have landed positions at Cartoon Network, Disney, DreamWorks, Fox, Industrial Light & Magic, Laika, Mattel, Nickelodeon, Obsidian Entertainment, Pixar, Renegade Animation, Sony, South Park Studios, The Jim Henson Company, Titmouse, and Warner Bros.
37. University of Texas at Dallas, Dallas, Texas (Top 20% of colleges considered)
The University of Texas-Dallas (UT Dallas) was established as a member of the University of Texas System in 1969. The school serves 28,755 students enrolled in 130 academic programs across seven schools. The School of Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communication (ATEC) offers a variety of interdisciplinary programs for aspiring animators including a BA in Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communication with an Animation Pathway, (BA ATEC), an MA in Arts and Technology (MA ATEC), an MFA in Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communication (MFA ATEC) with an Animation Pathway, and a PhD in Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communication (PhD ATEC).
Per the school, the “ATEC curriculum provides exposure to arts, science, technology, history, design, criticism, new knowledge creation, and complex understandings.” Undergraduate students “acquire foundational skills in media studies, cultural theory, computer programming, and creative production.” Master’s degree students “deepen their expertise in an area and develop understanding in adjacent topics.” Students in the doctoral program “demonstrate mastery in methods of research, analysis, and creative practice, informed by history, theory, and aesthetics.”
The Animation Pathway “blends creative storytelling with technology to encourage experimentation in form, content, and medium and emphasizes 3D animation, which includes various artistic and technical disciplines such as modeling and texturing, character rigging, lighting and composition, computer programming and scripting, as well as character movement and acting.”
ATEC students have the opportunity to take a total of 15 credit hours/five courses in Animation, Design, Storytelling, and Games, to name a few. Courses such as Topics in Animation, Topics in ATEC, and Topics in Game Development are also available. Other program highlights include seminars and lectures, project and portfolio-based exercises, and applied and experimental research.
In addition to careers in animation and other areas of entertainment, students will learn skills that will prepare them for new and emerging fields such as medical and scientific visualization.
38. The Digital Animation & Visual Effects School (DAVE School), Orlando, Florida (Top 20% of colleges considered)
Founded in 2000, The Digital Animation & Visual Effects School (Dave School) is a 35,000 square foot facility located on the backlot of Universal Studios Florida, Soundstage 25. The school offers intensive and “comprehensive training” in 3D Modeling, 3D Animation, 3D Visual Effects, and Game Production. Programs for aspiring animators include a Bachelor’s degree in Animation or Motion Graphics, and a Diploma and Associate Program in Visual Effects Production or Game Production.
The Bachelor’s in Animation is a 30-month program “provides students with a practical application to the animation process.” Students in the program will learn and understand acting for animators, body and facial animation, character rigging, creature animation, drawing for animators, previsualization, principles of movement, rigging, visual storytelling, and performance using a variety of software.
The 30-month Bachelor’s in Motion Graphics introduces students to 3D Modeling and Animation for Motion Graphics. Students in the program will learn and practice the principles of Animation, Compositing, Composition, and Design. The 12-month Game Production Program covers Fundamentals of Computer Animation, Character, Prop and Environment Modeling, Level Design, Visual Effects, and Digital Modeling and Sculpting.
The 12-month Visual Effects Program covers 3D Animation, Digital Compositing, 2d/3D Tracking, Digital Modeling & Sculpting, Visual Effects, Studio Production, Lighting and Texturing, and Animation Fundamentals. Programs are offered either online, on-campus or in hybrid format.
DAVE school graduates and instructors have worked on major productions such as The Hunger Games, Green Lantern, Game of Thrones, Terminator Genisys, Jurassic World, Captain America, The Hobbit, Godzilla, and many others.
39. Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles, California (Top 20% of colleges considered)
Established in 1911, Loyola Marymount University (LMU) serves 9,695 students enrolled in more than 170 major, minor, master’s degree, and doctoral programs through seven colleges and schools. The School of Film and Television is home to LMUs Animation Program, which leads to a BA. The School of Film and Television offers an Animation Minor that is available to all students, regardless of major.
Per the school, the cross-disciplinary BA in Animation “supports the creative vision of each student, providing a safe space for you to grow as an artist. Fostering the collaborative filmmaking process is essential, too–you can see teamwork in action in the animation labs, with students actively creating their collective projects. And state-of-the-art networked computer workstations allow them to collaborate with ease.” Students in the 120 credit hour program benefit from hands-on experience and small class sizes that “encourage a high degree of student-faculty interaction in coursework including Visual Effects, Stop-Motion, Experimental Animation, 2D and 3D, and Game Design.”
During the student’s junior or senior year, they will complete an Animation Internship that provides the opportunity to gain experience in the field. Also during the senior year of the BA program, students will write, animate and direct a thesis film/project for their portfolio.
The Animation Minor is an 18 credit hour program consisting of History of Animation, Introduction to 3D Computer Animation, Introduction to Interactive Animation, Beginning Animation Workshop, Visual Story Development, and three elective courses (9 semester hours), chosen from 300 and 400 level Animation courses under the direction of the Chairperson.
Graduates of the Animation programs at LMU will “have a unique personal artistic vision and work effectively in a collaborative filmmaking process.” They will also become “active leaders in the new emerging industries, whether it will be in the studio system or as independent artists.”
40. College for Creative Studies, Detroit, Michigan (Top 20% of colleges considered)
Founded in 1906, the College for Creative Studies (CCS) is home to more than 1,400 students enrolled in over a dozen degree programs across 14 academic departments. Serving 285 students, Entertainment Arts is the school’s largest department, and it offers a BFA in Entertainment Art with a Concentration in Animation. Per the school, the Animation Concentration prepares students to “develop character performance within a variety of 2D and 3D applications.”
Students will hone their skills in “traditional and computer-generated (CG) animation and design and gain experience in stop-motion, motion graphics, and experimental media.” Course highlights for the program 3D Techniques, Drawing: Visualization, Gesture Drawing, Computer Character Animation, Lighting and Rendering, Visual Narration, Experimental Animation, Sound Design, Digital filmmaking, and Advanced Story Concepts.
All Entertainment Art students will have the opportunity to customize their curriculum by taking coursework in other concentrations such as Digital Film or Game Design. Students will also complete a Writing Workshop, Senior Production Studio, and an optional internship.
Graduates of the CCS Animation Program work throughout the industry as animators, designers, fabricators, storyboard artists and visual development artists. Graduates have been hired at major studios across the U.S. including Sony Pictures Imageworks, DreamWorks Animation, and Disney ABC Television Group, to name a few.
41. Chapman University, Orange, California (Top 20% of colleges considered)
Founded as Hesperian College in 1861, Chapman University is home to more than 8,500 students from 49 states, two territories, and 82 different countries. Chapman offers more than 100 programs across nine colleges and schools, including the Dodge College of Film & Media Arts. The College offers a BFA in Animation and Visual Effects that offers students the opportunity to pursue studies in 2D or 3D Animation or Visual Effects.
Per the school, this hands-on program is divided into two parts. The first two years are devoted to the fundamental artistic and technical skills that provide the foundation for the student’s development as an animation or VFX artist. During the junior and senior years, students will focus on their chosen area of specialization and the development and production of the senior thesis project.
Other program highlights include access to the state-of-the-art Digital Media Arts Center (DMAC), which provides “24/7 access to an art studio, an animation lab with both traditional animation pegged drawing discs and digital Cintique tablets, a VFX lab with dual monitors and a 4K workflow, individual digital suites with specialized 3D and sound gear.” The “spaces feature the latest industry standard software such as Adobe Creative Suites, Maya, 3DS Max, and an Xsens motion capture suit and software.”
Through field trips to, and internships with major gaming, VFX, and animation studios, students in the program will stay connected with the industry. Students have explored or interned with Pixar, DreamWorks, Blizzard, and Blur. In addition, “major industry players and professionals such as Joyce Cox (The Jungle Book), Chris Buck (Frozen), Don Hahn (Lion King, Beauty and the Beast), Randy Cook (Lord of the Rings), Pete Docter (Inside Out), Rob Liefeld (Deadpool), and many more frequently visit campus.”
Another benefit of the Animation program at Chapman’s Dodge College is the International Program. In the past academic year, Dodge College students traveled abroad to 10 countries, including Laos, Malawi, Ireland, and South Korea. In recent years, students have traveled to more than six continents and 20 countries including Asia: India, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan; Europe: England, France, Iceland, Italy; Africa: Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ghana, Mozambique, Uganda, Tanzania; South America: Peru; Australia, New Zealand and Cuba, as well as several cities in North America.
42. Minneapolis College of Art and Design, Minneapolis, Minnesota (Top 25% of colleges considered)
Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MCAD) was established in 1886. It is home to more than 800 students from 45 states and 15 countries. The school offers more than 20 programs across several departments. The Animation Department offers a BFA in Animation and an MFA in Visual Studies. Per the school, the BFA Program consists of rigorous foundation studies and collaborative projects that allow students to “expand their work” and “move into the world beyond with visual communication skills and up-to-date technical proficiencies.”
Course highlights include Stop-Motion Animation, Character Animation, 3D Animation, 3D Modeling, Filmmaking, Storyboard, Sound, and Drawing. A required internship is also part of the program as well as optional study abroad experiences in Japan, Germany, England, Italy, and other places. MCAD students have interned at Nickelodeon, MTV, Walker Art Center, and Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art.
Housed in an all-MFA studio and gallery space, which includes fifty individual studios, smart classrooms, facilities for creative making, and a large gallery space, the 60 credit hour MFA Program allows students to pursue creative work in areas such as Animation, Comic Arts, Filmmaking, Illustration, Installation Art, and Web and Multimedia. Other program highlights include an internship, study abroad opportunities and the Master’s Trip to NYC. During the trip, students and alumni will visit artist studios, art and design venues, agencies, and more.
43. Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida (Top 25% of colleges considered)
Founded in 1851 and serving 41,900 students from every Florida County and 132 countries, Florida State University (FSU) is one of the largest and oldest of the 11 institutions of higher learning in the State University System of Florida. The school offers more than 275 degree programs through 16 colleges. The College of Motion Picture Arts houses FSU Film School, which offers several programs for aspiring animators. Options include a BFA in Motion Picture Arts – Animation and Digital Arts, and The Torchlight Program.
BFA students will begin with Film History, Screenwriting, Directing, Cinematography, CG and Live Action Production, Editing and Sound. Students will then learn the craft of digital filmmaking through 3D Animation, Character Development, Compositing, Modeling, Stop Motion, Texturing, Rendering, and Visual Effects Cinematography. Other program highlights include the opportunity to collaborate in small cohorts and work alongside industry professionals, and the opportunity to create four major films before graduation, one of which is an area-specific thesis film.
The Torchlight Program gives FSU animation students who would like to freelance or start their own studios the opportunity to learn about “current and emerging business practices of the motion picture industry.” The non-degree-granting academic program “functions as a gateway between school and career by providing instruction in current and emerging business practices of the motion picture industry.” The program offers coursework in key areas such as Distribution, Marketing, and Motion Picture Financing.
The program is located at the Torchlight Center in the studio facilities at FSU’s Critchfield Hall, which includes production offices, conference rooms, post-production facilities, and a sound stage.
44. University of Washington, Seattle, Washington (Top 25% of colleges considered)
Established in 1861, University of Washington (UW) serves nearly 56,780 students across three campuses located in Seattle, Bothell, and Tacoma. The school offers more than 570 degree options across 300+ programs and 16 colleges and schools. The Paul G. Allen School Computer Science & Engineering offers a BS in Computer Science, a BS in Engineering, and a PhD or Professional Master’s Program (PMP) in Computer Science & Engineering (CSE).
In both degrees, students can work with faculty and graduate students on research; collaborate with industry partners; tackle complex design and implementation projects in capstone courses; and tailor their degree to meet their interests and goals. Sample courses include Computer Animation, Computer Graphics, Advanced Digital Design, Digital Sound, Data Visualization, and Artificial Intelligence.
Students in both programs have access to three main labs at UW CSE. All are engaged in research spanning the areas of animation, computer game science, graphics, vision, and visualization. Labs include the Graphics and Imaging Lab (GRAIL), the Center for Game Science, and the Animation Research Labs. Per UW, The GRAIL group is known for “groundbreaking” research in computational photography, games for science and education, 3-D reconstruction, Internet photo collections, object recognition, human shape and motion analysis, information visualization, and animation, while researchers at the Center for Game Science use gaming to solve grand challenges, crowdsource human problem-solving to aid scientific discovery, and improve student interest and achievement in mathematics.
The Animation Research Labs is a multi-disciplinary effort that brings together faculty and students from UW CSE, the Department of Architecture, and the Schools of Art, DXARTS, Drama, and Music. The ARL is focused on advancing the state-of-the-art in animation through teaching, research, and computer-animated production in collaboration with experts from Disney Animation Studios, Bungie, Industrial Light & Magic, Microsoft Game Studios, Pixar, and many others.
In addition to the Computer Science and Engineering Programs, University of Washington offers an undergraduate minor in Digital Arts and Experimental Arts (BFA DXARTS) as well as a PhD in DXARTS. Students in both programs have the opportunity to focus their work in a particular area of experimental arts (computer animation, digital video, digital media art, computer music and sound art, design computing, mechatronics, and so on). Whatever the chosen area, “artists and scholars working at DXARTS engage in teaching, learning, and research within the synergistic, multidisciplinary setting of the center's labs, studios, and classrooms.”
45. University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (Top 25% of colleges considered)
Founded in 1740, the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) serves 25, 860 students enrolled in more than 400 programs across 16 schools. Programs for aspiring animators are offered through both the School of Design-Department of Fine Arts and the School of Engineering and Applied Science. The School of Design-DFA offers a BFA in Fine Arts with an Animation or 3D Modeling Studio. The program combines studio practices, seminar courses, and interactions with visiting artists and professionals in order to provide an open intellectual framework to foster critical awareness and independent methods of artistic research and learning.
The School of Engineering and Applied Science is home to the Digital Media Design Program, which leads to a Bachelor’s in Engineering and Science (BSE) with a Digital Media Design Major (DMD). The School also houses the Center for Human Modeling and Simulation (HMS), which offers a Computer Graphics and Game Technology Program (CGGT), which leads to an MS.
Created in 1998, the interdisciplinary BSE DMD program was designed for students who have an interest in computer graphics, animation, games, and the design of virtual reality environments and interactive technologies. A Digital Media Design (DMD) Minor, and a PhD in Human Modeling and Simulation (HMS PhD) are also available. BSE DMD students go on the work at major studios such as Walt Disney Animation, DreamWorks Animation, Electronic Arts, Microsoft, Pixar, and Zynga Games. These are the largest employers of UPenn DMD graduates.
The Center for HMS established the CGGT program in 2004 with a goal to expose recent graduates, as well as individuals returning from industry, to state-of-the-art graphics and animation technologies, as well as interactive media design principles, product development methodologies and engineering entrepreneurship.
The CGGT program prepares students for positions requiring multidisciplinary skills such as designers, technical animators, technical directors and game programmers. Students in the CGGT program use the equipment and resources available through the SIG Center for Computer Graphics. Opportunities for specialization are provided in such core areas as art and animation, creative design, animation and simulation technology, human/computer interfaces and production management.
46. Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, Ohio (Top 25% of colleges considered)
Founded in 1910, Bowling Green State University (BGSU) serves 19,000 students, including 2,500 at BGSU Firelands in Huron, Ohio. The school offers more than 200 undergraduate majors and programs on the main campus and 22 at BGSU Firelands. The school houses nine colleges, including the College of Arts and Sciences, home of the School of Art. The School houses the BGSU Digital Arts program, which offers a BFA and MFA degrees in Digital Arts, a BA in Art with a Digital Arts Specialization, and a Minor in Digital Art.
The programs offer three Focus Areas including Computer Animation & Video, Imaging, and Interactive Multimedia. Per the school, the Digital Arts program at BGSU is “one of the leading programs in the nation for studying digital arts and animation, focusing on creative expression using digital technology. Students are encouraged to investigate aesthetic and perceptual possibilities as they engage in alternative art discourses. Digital Arts courses investigate the theoretical, aesthetic, and technical aspects of the digital arts while providing hands-on experiences with state-of-the-art equipment.”
Students in the program focus on 3D animation, digital imaging, interactive art, video art, virtual environments and gaming, mobile web app development, digital painting, and hybrid forms of digital art. Other program highlights include diverse study abroad opportunities in more than 40 countries worldwide as well as facilities and faculty that “position students for successful internships and careers with organizations such as Disney Animation, Pixar and the Museum of Modern Art.”
The MFA in Art with a Major in Digital Arts (Computer Animation & Video, Imaging and Interactive Multimedia) is an intensive, 60 credit hour studio degree designed to prepare students to become both professional artists in industry and university-level instructors while developing their own studio practice. Students have the opportunity to explore 3D Modeling and Animation, Interactive Multimedia Development, Digital Video, Digital Imaging, and Hybrid Media forms including 3D printing, Architectural Projection Mapping, Web App Development and Interactive Installation Art. All supported graduate students are provided with studio space and computers.
Though the Digital Arts MFA has three areas of focus, students also have the opportunity to “merge art disciplines and investigate new directions. Students are also encouraged to explore interests in media outside of Digital Arts. For instance, a student may want to explore the integration of drawing, computer programming, sculpture, theater, or film with their Digital Arts work.”
In recent years, BGSU Digital Arts graduates have been hired by companies such as DreamWorks Animation, Blue Sky Studios, Volition, DNA Productions, Rhythm & Hues Studios, Blizzard, Friendly Software (Microsoft games), American Greetings, Epic Games, Apple, Designing Digitally, Root Learning (interactive training), LogicJunction (interactive web) and many more digital art companies.
47. Ball State University, Muncie, Indiana (Top 25% of colleges considered)
Established in 1918, Ball State University enrolls around 22,000 students from every state, two U.S. territories, about 55 countries, and every Indiana county. The school has more than 300 programs across 10 colleges. The College of Fine Art, School of Art offers a BFA in Studio Art with an Emphasis in Animation that explores 3D animation, stop-motion, and traditional 2D animation.
Per the school, in the programs 3-D classes, students “will get into modeling, texturing, lighting, character animation, and visual effects.” They will also have opportunities to participate in hands-on, collaborative projects with faculty and students in other courses of study. Course highlights include Character Design, Drawing for Animation, Animation Production, 3D Modeling and Rendering, Animation Specialty, Character Design, 3D Animation, Narrative Painting, and Storyboarding. A Senior Capstone Experience (Senior Project in Animation) is also part of the program.
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 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 to seek positions in industries such as film, television, video games, medical animation, architectural rendering, advertising, product visualization, and many others.
48. Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York (Top 25% of colleges considered)
Syracuse University (SU) was founded in 1870. The school serves nearly 22,500 students from across the U.S. and 118 countries. The school offers more 200 majors, 100 minors, and 200 advanced degree programs through 13 colleges and schools and a graduate school. The College of Visual and Performing Arts (VPA), Department of Transmedia offers several programs for aspiring animators. Offerings include a BFA in Computer Art and Animation, an MFA in Computer Art, and a Minor in Animation.
The 120 credit hour BFA in Computer Art and Animation “explores the possibilities of digital media within a fine art, exploratory, and culturally aware setting,” says the school. The degree program provides instruction in multiple art media where the computer plays the primary role. These media include computer-generated images, 3D computer animation, physical computing, creative computer programming, computer gaming, computer music, and sonic art. Students are mentored to become highly skilled critical thinkers producing art in individual and collaborative contexts.
The 60 credit hour MFA program “is an artistic research and development program situated in the context of technology where students are encouraged to develop a diverse set of practices within computer art.” The program covers computer generated imagery, 3D computer animation, physical computing, creative computer programming, computer gaming, computer music, visual effects, multi-channel installation, and sonic art.
Students in the program “are expected to develop a strong record of professional practice in a variety of contexts, including exhibition, screenings, public intervention, installation, performance, workshops, gaming events, and viral media, among other forms of public engagement.” Students can expect to complete the MFA program in three years.
Students in both the BFA and MFA programs have access to study abroad programs in 60 countries throughout the world, enabling them “to gain a global perspective as they pursue their studies.”
VPA animation graduates have found employment at major studios such as Pixar, Rhythm and Hues, Industrial Light and Magic, LucasArts, Blizzard Entertainment, Tippett Studios, Moving Picture Company, and Sony Pictures Imageworks. Graduates have also presented their work at galleries and media art festivals around the world.
49. Kansas City Art Institute, Kansas City, Missouri (Top 25% of colleges considered)
Established in 1885, Kansas City Art Institute (KCAI) trained students such as Walt Disney (who took Saturday Classes as a child), and multimedia artist Robert Rauschenberg. Today, the school serves more than 700 students, enrolled in 14 studio majors through several departments. The Department of Converging Media houses the school’s animation program, which leads to a BFA. Double Majors in Art History and Animation and Creative Writing and Animation are also available.
The Animation BFA highlights intensive instruction in classical, experimental and computer animation. Students in the program work in technologically integrated classrooms and studios to produce a significant personal work. The Department of Converging Media houses Filmmaking, Interactive Arts, and Photography, so animation students also work in an environment that facilitates creativity and cross-disciplinary approaches to image making.
Per the school, “sequential classes emphasize the creative process by combining aspects of animation principles, concept modeling, production methods, history, theory and technique into each project.” Course highlights include Creating the Environment, Digital Methods, Drawing for Animators, Explorations in Animation, Ideas in Motion, Intermediate 3D, Principles of Animation, Sound for Screen and Space, and Visual Communication. Students will also complete Professional Practice and Studio I & II.
BFA students will gain experience through internship opportunities at major studios such as Walt Disney Animation Studios, DreamWorks, Digital Domain, Nickelodeon, Hallmark, Bazillion Pictures, Titmouse Inc., and many others.
50. California State University-Northridge, Northridge, California (Top 25% of colleges considered)
Founded in 1958, California State University Northridge (CSUN) serves more than 40,000 students enrolled in more than 140 programs. The school consists of nine colleges, including the Mike Curb College of Arts, Media, and Communication, which houses the Department of Art. Here, aspiring animators can earn a BA Visual Arts with one of three Animation Tracks including 2D Animation Design, 3D Animation, and Game Animation.
Per the school, 2D Animation Design “provides students with a foundation in drawing, design and the essential software skills necessary to thrive in post-graduation careers. Upon completing four lower division foundation courses, students take courses in 2D animation (flash/toonboom), pre-production and visual development, with optional classes in compositing and 3D computer animation classes. Students concentrating in the 2D design track spend their senior year focusing on their portfolios and/or collaborative group projects.”
The program prepares students for an artistic career in 2D animation as storyboard revisionists, in visual development, background design or painting, or as animators with a proficiency in flash and/or toonboom.
The 3D Animation Track offers four core CG animation courses with options in compositing, game animation, and Visual Development. Students concentrating in this track spend their senior year focusing on their portfolios and/or collaborative group projects. Career paths for 3D Animation graduates include Pre-Vis artist, character animator, CG modeler, texture painting and lighting artist, and compositor.
Students in all tracks have the opportunity to participate in industry and studio events, organized studio tours, and ongoing collaborative educational partnering with DreamWorks studios and Seoul Institute of the Arts. Students also participate in industry events and internships with Nickelodeon, Disney, Film Roman, Warner Bros., and others. Students in all programs have access to two award-winning student run animation clubs—the Animation Students League of Northridge and the Game Development Club.
Game Animation “builds on 3D computer animation courses to a two sequence game production classes.” Students who complete the track will take optional animation production, compositing, and character animation courses. Graduates of the program are prepared to seek positions in quality assurance, level design, modeling, texture painting & lighting, and character animation.
Other Schools Worth Mentioning
For the 2019 animation school rankings, we incorporated employment data into our evaluation process for the first time. We examined the educational background of thousands of working animators in the United States. In doing so, the three schools noted below distinguished themselves as being the preferred choices of working animators seeking to enhance their skill set with additional specialized training. As these schools are not formal degree granting programs, it is difficult to rank them alongside traditional college programs, so we choose not to do so. However, these programs merit mentioning as they offer both aspiring animators and working animation professionals an excellent opportunity to affordably develop their skills.
Animation Mentor, Online
Founded in 2005, Animation Mentor serves around 100 students enrolled in a variety of animation courses and workshops. Programs are taught by more than 100 industry professionals and mentor who have worked at DreamWorks Animation, Industrial Light & Magic, Pixar Animation Studios, 2K Games, Double Fine, and many others. Per the school, students enjoy a “one-to-one relationship” with these professionals, “who lead instruction in small, intense classes – no more than 9 students per class.”
Mentors also “provide students with critical, up-to-the-minute insights into the industry, studio best-practices, technology tips and workflows.” Using “cutting-edge, proprietary technology,” Animation Mentors “provide live instruction, offer feedback and build lasting relationships with their students over the internet.”
Character Animation courses include Animation Basics, Body Mechanics, Advanced Body Mechanics, Introduction to Acting, Advanced Acting, and Polishing and Portfolio. Workshops include Creature Animation: Locomotion, Creature Animation: Fight or Flight, Maya: Animation Basics, Game Animation Fundamentals, Game Animation Combat Attacks, Storyboarding Fundamentals, Intermediate Storyboarding, Cartoony Animation for 3D Animators, Visual Development: Principles of Design, Introduction to Digital Painting, and Previsualization Basics for Animators.
Lectures on Demand are also available. Autodesk Maya, Creature Animation, 3D Animation and VFX Fundamentals are available titles.
Founded in 2010, iAnimate offers online training program for aspiring animators. The school says that, “training is specifically designed to target the troublesome areas that even we as professional animators go through on a daily basis.” Workshops are “designed to target” all of the students animation needs, and puts them “in direct contact with veteran animators from the biggest & best studios” in the industry.
Workshops include Creature Animation, Feature Animation, Game Animation, Lighting & Compositing, Maya and Modeling, Motion Capture, Pre-Visualization, Rigging, and Unreal Engine. Courses are live and recorded for later viewing. Live critiques with top professional animators are recorded for later review, which “simulates the real studio "Dailies" environment.” Students are “able to ask questions and get feedback all in real time.”
iAnimate says that it also has an “amazing line up of exclusive & unique character rigs” available to students as well as “top studios” to “view student reels and select them for their production needs.”
Graduates of the program have had the opportunity to work on productions such as War for The Planet of the Apes, How to Train your Dragon, and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2, to name a few.
Animsquad was founded by a group of Disney Animators. Located in Hollywood, California, the school offers in-person workshops, online workshops and On-Site workshops. Per the school, up to 10 students are allowed in each workshop to “ensure a productive environment.” Here’s how the workshops work: each week all the students get together online or in-person with their tutor. Each student will show his or her work in progress and the tutor will critique it live. Students can ask questions while the critique is happening. Other students can watch each other’s critique. Each student will receive an equal amount of critique time (three hours each week). The entire session is recorded and can be downloaded once the workshop ends.
Once tuition is paid and 30 days prior to the workshop date, students receive copyrighted rigs and tools that are the property of Animsquad LLC. Rigs and Tools include the Jack Rig Maya file, Michelle Rig Maya file, Jill Rig Maya file, Orc rig Maya file, ED405 rig Maya file, Body and Facial Pickers and the ANIM SHELF file. All students will also receive lifetime access to Animsquad’s Online Lecture Library.
Available workshops include Beginner Animation II, Expert Animation, Intermediate Animation, and 2D Traditional Animation. The workshops simulate “the kind of interaction professional animators receive when showing their work to directors and supervisors.” The school also says that it “thrives on a nurturing group dynamic” and “this kind of hands-on instruction is the most effective way of getting your reel to a competitive level.”
Workshops are 12 weeks and they are led by tutors who are supervising animators at Walt Disney Animation Studios. Tutors have worked on Disney films such as Tangled, Frozen, Big Hero 6, Paperman, Wreck-It Ralph, Bolt, and more.