Our 2016 list of the Top 50 Public Animation School Programs in the US.
For an explanation of ranking criteria, click here.
1. University of California Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California
The University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) is home to the Animation Workshop of the School of Theater, Film and Television. Founded in 1948 by William Shull, a Disney animator, the UCLA Animation Workshop is a three-year MFA program (MFA in Film, Television, and Digital Media) that accepts just 12 new students each year.
Students applying to the MFA program come from a variety of backgrounds; some have earned a BA or BFA in art or film studies, applicants also come from English, engineering, architecture, psychology, communications, and more. Animation graduates have landed positions at Pixar Animation Studios, and every major animation studio in Southern California; they have gone on to direct features such as The Simpsons Movie and Monster House and have directed with Tim Burton producing (the feature film 9).
UCLA also offers a BA in Film Television and Digital Media with a Concentration in Animation for senior students. The BA program gives 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.
Founded in 1919 as the Southern Branch of the University of California, UCLA is home to 43,239 students from all 50 states and more than 100 foreign countries. The school offers 323 degree programs and majors through the College of Letters and Science, the university’s 11 professional schools, and more than 109 academic departments.
2. The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio
With a population of 65,184 students, the Ohio State University (OSU) is one of America’s largest universities. Established in 1870, the school offers over 200 majors, specializations and minors across more than a dozen colleges and schools. The Department of Art, which is part of the College of Arts and Sciences, offers an interdisciplinary three-year MFA and a four-year BFA program in Art with an Emphasis Art and Technology. The Art and Technology emphasis allows students to study areas such as 3D Modeling and Animation, Art Games, Digital Imaging, Internet Art, and many others.
3. Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas
Established in 1876, Texas A&M University is the state’s first public institution of higher learning. The school is home 59,000 students, which also makes it one of America’s largest universities. The school offers nearly 400 bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees, and doctoral and first professional degree programs across 16 colleges and schools. The College of Architecture offers programs for animators at all degree levels and broadly defines animation within “Visualization.” Options include BS, MS, and MFA degrees in Visualization. These interdisciplinary programs prepare students to work in animation, technical animation, illustration, and other areas.
4. University of Central Florida, Orlando, Florida
With a population of approximately 60,810 students, the University of Central Florida (UCF) is the nation’s second-largest university. Established in 1963, UCF is also one of the nation’s youngest universities. The school offers more than 200 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.
Offerings for undergraduates include a BFA in Art with an Emerging Media Track/Character Animation Specialization and an Emerging Media Track/Experimental Animation Specialization. Programs for graduate students include an MFA degree in Emerging Media with a Digital Media, Entrepreneurial Digital Cinema, or “Studio Art and the Computer” Track.
5. California State University-Long Beach, Long Beach, California
Established in 1949, California State University Long Beach (CSULB) is home to 37,430 students enrolled in more than 300 programs across eight colleges. The School of Art, which is part of CSLUB’s College of the Arts, offers a BFA in Studio with an Animation or Illustration Track. According to the School of Art, “students are able to take courses in both tracks, and work together in (the schools) digital lab, in addition to learning traditional skills.” An MFA/MA degree is also on the menu. It is "designed with a dual emphasis on tailoring programs of study to individual students while fostering shared experience among a community of students.”
Also part of the College of Arts is the Department of Film & Electronic Arts. The Department offers another option for aspiring animators—a BA in Film and Electronic Arts. The program
features heavy animation coursework including 3D Computer Animation, History of Animation, Digital Arts Production (Visual Effects, Computer Animation, Interactive Media), and others.
6. Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, Ohio
Bowling Green State University (BGSU) is home 19,000 students, including 2,500 at BGSU Firelands in Huron, Ohio. Founded in 1910, the school offers more than 200 undergraduate majors and programs on the main campus and 22 at BGSU Firelands. Among the school’s nine colleges is the College of Arts and Sciences, home of the School of Art. The School houses the BGSU Digital Arts program, which offers more than 150 majors.
Undergraduate programs for aspiring animators include a BFA in Digital Arts and a BA in Art with a Digital Arts Specialization with three Focus Areas—Computer Animation & Video, Imaging, and Interactive Multimedia. Graduate programs include an MFA in Art with a Major in Digital Arts (Computer Animation, Digital Imaging, and Interactive Media). According to the School of Art, the MFA program is an “intensive, 60-credit studio degree designed to prepare students to become both professional artists in industry and university-level instructors while developing their own studio practice.
7. Clemson University, Clemson, South Carolina
Established in 1889 as Clemson Agricultural College, Clemson University is home to 22,104 students enrolled in more than 80 undergraduate majors and 110-plus graduate degree programs across five colleges and a graduate school. The College of Engineering and Science offers several programs for aspiring animators including an MFA in Digital Production Arts (MFA DPA) and a Minor in DPA. The DPA program highlights Animation, 3D Modeling, Compositing, FX, Lighting, Rigging, and Simulation.
Graduates of Clemson’s DPA programs have worked on films such as Frozen, Hobbit, Rio, How to Train Your Dragon, and The Croods. Many have been hired by Blue Sky Studios, DreamWorks, EA, Pixar, Walt Disney Animation Studios, NVIDIA, RedStorm, ReelFX, and Sony Pictures Imageworks.
8. San Jose State University, San Jose, California
Founded in 1857, San Jose State University (SJSU) is home to more than 30,000 students enrolled in 145 areas of study and 108 concentrations across right colleges. The Department of Design, which is part of the College of Humanities and the Arts, offers a BFA in Animation/Illustration. Graduates of the program have worked on films from A Bug’s Life and Finding Nemo to Monsters, Inc. and Shrek. Graduates have also 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, NBC-Universal Studios, Nickelodeon, Pixar, Sony/Columbia, The Art Institute of Las Vegas, Walt Disney Animation, and Zynga.
9. California State University-Fullerton, Fullerton, California
California State University Fullerton (Cal State Fullerton) was established in 1957. It is home to nearly 39,000 students enrolled in 107 degree programs across eight colleges. The College of Arts, Department of Visual Arts offers more than a dozen graduate and undergraduate programs for artists. Programs for aspiring animators include a BFA in Art with an Entertainment Art/Animation Concentration.
The Entertainment Art/Animation area has a partnership with Nickelodeon Animation Studios to develop educational opportunities to further the career goals of its students. In addition to Nickelodeon, graduates of the program are working or animating for Cartoon Network, Disney Feature Animation, Disney TV Animation, Electronic Arts, Lucas Films, Sony Pictures Imageworks, and Sony Games, to name a few. Students have worked on productions such as Spiderman 3, Superman Returns, Alvin and The Chipmunks, Ice Age 2, The Simpsons, Avatar, SpongeBob Squarepants, and many others.
10. California State University-Northridge, Northridge, California
Founded in 1958, California State University Northridge (CSUN) is home to 40,131 students enrolled in more than 140 programs across nine colleges. The Mike Curb College of Arts, Media, and Communication, Department of Art, offers several programs for aspiring animators. Program offerings include BA and MA degrees in Visual Arts. Both programs offer a Concentration in Animation and the opportunity to intern with Disney, DreamWorks, Warner Bros., Nickelodeon, Film Roman, and other major studios.