Our 2017 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 (top 1% of schools considered)
University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) is home to nearly 45,000 students from all 50 states and more than 100 foreign countries. Founded in 1919 as the Southern Branch of the University of California, 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 Animation Workshop is a three-year MFA program that accepts just 12 new students each year. Before applying to the program, students typically earn a BA in Film and Television or a BFA with a Concentration in Animation at UCLA. The BA program gives future MFA students the opportunity to study all facets of digital media, film, and television, as well as a full year of animation studies, followed by an internship.
Once in the program, students have access to the exclusive Summer Institute Symposium, which provides the opportunity to “meet and listen to some of Hollywood’s most accomplished professionals.” Past guests have included Simon Kinberg (writer-producer, X-Men: First Class, Mr. & Mrs. Smith), Meg LeFauve (writer, Inside Out), Zak Penn (writer, The Incredible Hulk), Chris Gorak (director, The Darkest Hour), John Hegeman (chief marketing officer, New Regency Productions), and many others.
Graduates of UCLA’s animation programs have worked with directors such as Tim Burton and on films such as The Simpsons Movie and Monster House. Many graduates have also landed positions at major studios such as Pixar, DreamWorks, and Nickelodeon.
2. The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio (top 2% of schools considered)
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 our many special labs, including the world class Advanced Computing Center for the Arts and Design (ACCAD).
3. Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas (top 4% of schools considered)
Established in 1876 and home to more than 60,000 students, Texas A&M University is the state’s first public institution of higher learning and one of the largest. The school offers nearly 400 degree programs across 16 colleges and schools, including the College of Architecture, which offers programs for animators at all degree levels. The College, which broadly defines animation within “Visualization,” offers 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 Washington, Seattle, Washington (top 5% of schools considered)
University of Washington (UW) is home to 58,819 students across three campuses located in Bothell, Seattle, and Tacoma. Established in 1861, the school offers more than 579 degree options across 16 colleges and schools. Programs for aspiring animators are offered through the Computer Science & Engineering Department (UW CSE). Options include BS degrees in Computer Science or Engineering and a PhD or Professional Master’s Program (PMP) in Computer Science & Engineering (CSE). All programs offer heavy animation coursework and access to the department’s three main labs dedicated to research in the areas of Animation, Computer Graphics, Game Science, Vision, and Visualization.
Labs include the Graphics and Imaging Lab (GRAIL), the Animation Research Labs, and the Center for Game Science. According to the Department, “The GRAIL group is known for ground-breaking 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.” 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.”
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.”
5. University of Central Florida, Orlando, Florida (top 10% of schools considered)
University of Central Florida (UCF) is home to more than 64,000 students, making it the nation’s second largest university. Established in 1963, UCF is also one of the nation’s youngest universities. Though young, the school 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 including a BFA in Art with an Emerging Media Track/Character Animation Specialization and an Emerging Media Track/Experimental Animation Specialization.
With four campuses across Orlando and Daytona Beach, UCF also has several offerings at the graduate level. Options include an MFA in Emerging Media with Tracks in Digital Media, Entrepreneurial Digital Cinema, and “Studio Art and the Computer.”
6. San Jose State University, San Jose, California (top 10% of schools considered)
San Jose State University (SJSU) is home to more than 32,000 students. Founded in 1857, SJSU consists of eight colleges that offer 145 areas of study, with an additional 108 concentrations.
The College of Humanities and the Arts, Department of Design offers a BFA in Animation/Illustration. Graduates of this program have worked on films such as A Bug’s Life, Finding Nemo, 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 Animation Mentor, Blizzard Entertainment, Blue Sky Studios, Cartoon Network, Cogswell Institute, Disney Interactive Studios, Electronic Arts, Lucasfilm Animation, NBCUniversal Studios, Nickelodeon, Pixar, Sony/Columbia, The Art Institute of Las Vegas, 20th Century Fox, Walt Disney Animation Studios, and Zynga.
7. Massachusetts College of Art and Design, Boston, Massachusetts (top 10% of schools considered)
Founded in 1873, Massachusetts College of Art and Design (MassArt) is home to nearly 2,000 students enrolled in more than 20 undergraduate art programs, nearly a dozen graduate programs, and around seven certificate programs across a number of departments. The Animation Department offers a BFA in Animation that gives students the opportunity to engage in a variety of conventional and experimental techniques. Students will study Documentary Animation, Digitally Generated Animation, Character Animation, Stop Motion, Experimental Video, and Emerging Technologies.
Other highlights include “Squealing Pegs” (an annual screening of recent animated short films), visiting artists and lectures, and the Animation Senior Showcase.
8. California State University-Long Beach, Long Beach, California (top 10% of schools considered)
California State University Long Beach (CSULB) is one of the 23 campuses of the California State University System. The school was established in 1949 and it is home to 37,430 students enrolled in more than 300 programs across eight colleges. The College of the Arts, School of Art 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. An MFA/MA degree is also available.
This advanced degree 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 the Arts is the Department of Film & Electronic Arts, which offers a BA in Film and Electronic Arts. The program features heavy animation coursework including courses such as 3D Computer Animation, History of Animation, Digital Arts Production (Visual Effects, Computer Animation, Interactive Media), and many others.
9. California State University-Fullerton, Fullerton, California (top 15% of schools considered)
California State University Fullerton (Cal State Fullerton) is home to more than 40,000 students enrolled in more than 100 degree 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 Art with a Concentration in Entertainment Art/Animation.
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. Students have also worked on productions such as Superman Returns, Avatar, Spiderman 3, SpongeBob Squarepants, Alvin and The Chipmunks, Ice Age 2, and The Simpsons.
10. University of Texas at Dallas, Dallas, Texas (top 15% of schools considered)
The University of Texas-Dallas (UT Dallas) was established in 1969. A member of the University of Texas System and home to approximately 26,797 students, UT Dallas offers 130 academic programs across seven schools. The School of Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communication (ATEC) offers a variety of programs for aspiring animators including a BA in Arts and Technology (BA ATEC), an MFA in Arts and Technology (MFA ATEC), an MA in Arts and Technology (MA ATEC), and a PhD in Arts and Technology (PhD ATEC).
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. Topics courses such as Topics in Animation, Topics in Game Development and Topics in ATEC are also on the menu.