What are the top animation school programs in Texas for 2021?
|Texas A&M University
|University of Texas at Dallas
|Sam Houston State University
|University of the Incarnate Word
Our 2021 ranking, our tenth annual, of the top animation school programs in Texas. For an explanation of the ranking criteria, click here.
1. Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas
Established in 1876, Texas A&M University (TAMU) is the state’s first public institution of higher learning. With the College Station campus covering more than 5,200 acres and serving more than 69,000 students, Texas A&M is also among the nation’s largest universities. The school serves an additional 5,200 students at branch campuses in Galveston and Qatar and at the School of Law, Higher Education Center at McAllen, and Health Science Center locations across Texas.
Texas A&M offers 133 undergraduate degree programs, 175 master's degree programs, 92 doctoral degree programs and five first professional degrees in 17 colleges and schools. The College of Architecture’s Department of Visualization, which broadly defines animation within “Visualization,” offers several programs for aspiring animators. Options include BS, MS, and MFA degrees in Visualization.
The Visualization program started one year after the Texas A&M University Visualization Laboratory was established in 1988. The Lab and Program were created “in response to clear indications that digital visualization was going to play a highly important role in digital communication,” says the school. Today, “the visualization academic programs produce leaders in the fields where art and science merge.”
The BS in Visualization is a 120 credit hour studio-based program that integrates aspects of fine arts, 3D design, and digital technology into the studio experience. The program focuses on “the processes of creation, design and development of the visual experience.”
The MFA in Visualization (MFA-V) is one of the few programs of its kind in the U.S. This 60 credit hour, interdisciplinary program “is a technology infused visual arts oriented degree,” that helps students “master the use of artistic visual communication and expression through the combined use of digital and analog mediums.” Course highlights include 3D Modeling and Animation, Computer Animation, Digital Compositing, Facial Modeling and Animation, Form, Installation and Environment, Physical Computing for Art and Design, Rendering and Shading, and Visual Storytelling.
The MFA is a non-thesis program that also includes two Contemporary Art Studio Seminars, four hours of Professional Practice, 20 hours of Professional Study, and a Professional Internship worth three credit hours.
The MS in Visualization has thesis and non-thesis options. The thesis option requires 32 hours of study and the non-thesis option requires 36 hours, including a Capstone Project and Graduate Seminar. Course highlights for the programs include 3D Modeling & Animation, Design Communications, Digital Image, Image Synthesis, and Time Based Media.
Visualization graduates, also known as “Vizzers,” can be found working as creative talent for Hollywood’s leading animation and special effects studios. Just a few include Blue Sky Studios, DreamWorks Animation, Industrial Light & Magic, Pixar, Reel FX, Rhythm & Hues Studios, and Walt Disney Animation Studios.
2. University of Texas at Dallas, Dallas, Texas
The University of Texas at Dallas (UT Dallas) traces its roots back to 1961 when the founders of technology company Texas Instruments established the Graduate Research Center of the Southwest (GRCSW). In 1967, the Center changed its name to the Southwest Center for Advanced Studies and to University of Texas at Dallas in 1969.
An official member of the University of Texas System, today UT Dallas serves more than 28,000 students enrolled in more than 140 academic degrees in eight schools. The School of Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communication (ATEC) offers programs that blend science, technology, engineering, art, & management (STEAM). Four options are available for aspiring animators: 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).
The ATEC curriculum “provides exposure to arts, science, technology, history, design, criticism, new knowledge creation, and complex understandings,” says the school. 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, applied and experimental research, and guest speakers from industry giants such as Blue Sky Studios, Disney, DreamWorks, and Pixar.
Graduates of the ATEC programs at UT Dallas are prepared to seek careers in animation and other areas of entertainment, as well as new and emerging fields such as medical and scientific visualization.
3. Sam Houston State University, Huntsville, Texas
Sam Houston State University (SHSU) was founded in 1879 as the Sam Houston Normal Institute, which trained teachers for the public schools of Texas. Today, SHSU serves more than 21,500 students, making it one of the largest universities in Texas. The school offers over 90 bachelor's degree programs, more than 60 master’s degree programs, and 10 doctoral programs, including the nation’s first PhD in Forensic Science.
Programs at SHSU are in eight colleges, including the College of Fine Arts and Mass Communication—home to the Department of Art. Here, aspiring animators can earn a BFA in Computer Animation.
One of the most popular programs in the Department of Art, the Computer Animation program offers a highly collaborative experience in 2D and 3D animated storytelling to a diverse student body. Students in the program take courses such as 2D Animation, 3D Animation for Interactive Games, 3D Computer Animation, Character Animation, 3D Modeling, the History of Animation, and Pre-Visualization.
In addition, all art majors will spend a semester in the W.A.S.H. (Workshop in Art Studio and History) program, which emphasizes contemporary and collaborative art practices. Graduates of the program are prepared to pursue careers in advertising, film and television animation, game development, internet media, and publishing.
4. University of the Incarnate Word, San Antonio, Texas
With campuses in San Antonio and Mexico serving 10,000 students, University of the Incarnate Word (UIW) is the largest Catholic University in Texas. Founded in 1881, the school offers more than 90 undergraduate majors, minors, and concentrations, and over 20 graduate and doctoral programs in 11 colleges and schools.
The 3D Animation and Game Design Department is one of five housed within the School of Media and Design and offers a BFA in 3D Animation and Game Design with Concentrations in Animation, Modeling, Programming, or Production Management.
Incoming Freshmen take a core of four courses: Hard Surface Modeling, Organic Modeling, Principles of Animation, and Game Engines to find where their interests and superpowers lie. The next three years are focused on “getting each student the best demo reel possible in their specialization area.”
Animation course highlights include Anatomy of Animators, Animation I-IV, Business of Animation and Game Design, Elements of Game Design, Motion Capture for Animators, Performance for Animators, Previsualization and Storytelling, Rigging, Stage Movement, and Visual Narrative Conventions. Students will complete several Animation Industry Seminar courses, Senior Thesis Production, and Senior Portfolio. Study abroad experiences and internship opportunities are available.
Graduates of the program “have gone on to work in film and television and at such major companies as Sony and their subsidiaries. 3D Animation and Game Design graduates have also found success in media, consulting, information technology, and video game production companies, as well as with government agencies.”