What are the top animation school programs in Tennessee for 2023?

Top Tennessee Animation School Programs - 2023 College Rankings
1East Tennessee State UniversityJohnson City
2Middle Tennessee State UniversityMurfreesboro
Lipscomb UniversityNashville

Our 2023 ranking -our thirteenth annual- of the top animation school programs in Tennessee. For an explanation of the ranking criteria, click here.

1. East Tennessee State University, Johnson City, Tennessee
East Tennessee State University

The Digital Media (DIGM) Department at East Tennessee State University (ETSU) has National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD) accredited program that provides the opportunity to study animation. Housed in the College of Business and Technology, the Department emphasizes hands-on learning and technical skills development. Students in all DIGM programs will learn and work in the Niswonger Digital Media Center and the Millennium Center—a shared space with the ETSU Computing Department.

Specific program options for animators include the Digital Media BS, MFA, and Minor. The 24 credit hour DIGM Minor consists of four required courses (four credits each) and eight credits of approved electives. Required courses include Digital Animation, Visual Effects and Motion Graphics, Digital Game Design, and Visualization. Electives allow students to create an emphasis in a specific area of specialization in Digital Media.

The Digital Media BS has Digital Animation Concentration that consists of 28 credit hours of study out of the 120 required credits for the program. Course examples for the program include Digital Animation, Visual Effects and Motion Graphics, Digital Game Design, 3D Animation, Effects Animation, Character Animation, Technical Direction, High-Fidelity Modeling for Entertainment, Visual Effects Compositing, and Raster-Based Imaging. DIGM BS students will also complete several projects and a professional portfolio of their work during the final course in the program—Portfolio Development for Digital Media.

Graduates of the ETSU BS Digital Media/Digital Animation are well-positioned for careers in 2D or 3D animation, technical direction, motion graphics, and character animation, among others. Graduates are also prepared to pursue an advanced degree at ETSU or other university.

The Digital Media MFA at East Tennessee State University is a terminal degree designed for Animators, Visual Effects Artists, Cinematographers, Coders, UI/UX Designers, 3D Designers, Creature Artists, Character Animators, and other related professionals with a bachelor’s degree. This non-thesis degree program allows students to complete 12 credit hours of study in any area. An additional 12 credit hours are dedicated to team projects for both internal and external clients, and another six credits are dedicated to experimental media.

The culminating experience for the ETSU DIGM MFA allows students to develop and finalize a body of work for peer and faculty review.

Graduates of the DIGM Programs at East Tennessee State University have worked on productions and games such as Kung Fu Panda, World of Warcraft, The Last Jedi, The Walking Dead, Thor: Ragnarok, Halo, and Charlie Brown. Program alumni are Animators, Technical Directors, Modelers, Advertising Designers, Level Designers, Game Artists, VFX Artists, 3D Artists, and Compositors. They work at studios big and small such as Ubisoft Red Storm, Luma Pictures, Idol Minds, and Volition.

East Tennessee State University was established in 1911 as East Tennessee State Normal School. The school serves approximately 13,740 students enrolled in more than 140 academic programs leading to degrees at all levels. ETSU programs are housed across eleven colleges and schools, and two campuses.

2. Middle Tennessee State University, Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Middle Tennessee State University

The Animation Program at Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) is accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). Housed in the College of Media and Entertainment’s Department of Media Arts, the program is designed for artists seeking a career in character animation, visual effects, motion graphics, virtual production, video games, or visualization. Students may enroll in the Animation BS Program or the 18 credit hour Animation Minor.

Consisting of 120 credit hours, the Animation BS includes courses such as 2D Animation, History of Animation, Visual Effects, Texturing, Lighting, and Rendering, Motion Graphics, Animation Mechanics, Character Modeling and Rigging, Bodies in Motion, and Animation Preproduction. Professional Practices in Animation and Animation Capstone I &II are also part of the program curriculum. The Capstone consists of an original animated short film that will be submitted to film and animation festivals locally, nationally, and around the world.

Middle Tennessee State University was established in 1909 as Middle Tennessee State Normal School. The school opened with 125 students on September 11, 1911. Today, MTSU serves more than 20,000 students enrolled in 300+ programs across eight undergraduate colleges and the College of Graduate Studies. Middle Tennessee State University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

3. Lipscomb University, Nashville, Tennessee

George Shinn College of Entertainment & The Arts at Lipscomb University offers BA, BFA, in Animation and an MFA in Film and Creative Media with a focus in Animation. An Animation Minor consisting of 18 credit hours of study is available.

Lipscomb University is the only institution in the world with five former Disney Animators on faculty. Their works include: Lion King, Mulan, Aladdin, Pocohantas, Beauty and the Beast, Winnie the Pooh and Tiger Too, Lilo and Stitch and many others. Course examples across all animation programs include 2D Character Animation, Character Design, Animation Tools Storyboarding for Animation, CG Modeling and Lighting, and Computer Animation.

BA students will complete 52 credit hours in the major, and BFA students will complete 64. Students in the BFA program must complete the Animation Capstone to graduate. The 62-hour MFA is a terminal degree allowing for a college appointment.

Animation students will also attend classes with Film students, which provides multiple opportunities to train in many areas of film production. Students in all programs have opportunities to travel to places such as Los Angeles to attend animation events or complete an internship. In addition, each semester, Lipscomb University welcomes industry experts to speaking events designed to help students get an idea of what it’s like to work in some of the world’s top animation studios.

The MFA offers a range of advanced courses. Examples include Directing Animation, Advanced Film Business, Sound & Voice Performance, Digital Entertainment Law, Film Direction, 2D/CG Animation Pipeline, AD & Set Management, and CEA Studios Internship.

MFA students will complete a short film or TV pilot, to be screened at the end of the final semester before graduation.

Lipscomb University was founded in 1891 by ministers David Lipscomb and James A. Harding as Nashville Bible School. The school serves nearly 5,000 students enrolled in more than 240 undergraduate majors and minors, master’s degrees, and doctoral programs in 10 colleges. Lipscomb University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).