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2020 Best Colleges & Universities for Animation

On a tabletop, a laptop is open with the screen showing a drawn face, likely male. Around the laptop are an array of drawing tools, including a cream-colored canvas pencil bag that says "TOOL KIT," a USB drive, a page of color swatches, tracing sheets for shapes, a few white pages of paper with the same sketched face that's on the laptop screen, a wooden case for drawing pens and pencils, a pencil sharpener, and a glass of water.

 

With the debut of Frozen II, The Walt Disney Company reaches 58 feature animated films. Pixar is currently at 21, and we haven’t even gotten into smaller studios, animated TV shows, commercials, medical and architectural visualization, games, and wearable tech. It takes a small, very artistic army to create every animated masterpiece on the market — and we have the list of colleges and universities that can definitely help you get there. 

From the movie "Frozen," Elsa is seen creating an intricate set of stairs using her snowy powers. She ascends the stairs as they're being sculpted from ice.
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Should I Major in Animation? 

I mean, if it strangely delights you to say that you spent weeks animating a reindeer named Sven trying to lick a snowflake out of the air, I'd say this is the perfect profession for you. 

Sven, the Reindeer from Frozen, attempts to lick a snowflake out of the air comically.
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All joking aside, animation is largely about storytelling. It's just as much about emotionally or intellectually moving an audience as it is about artistic talent. It's the long con that results in everyone whooping when Anna punching Hans right in his stupid, lying face. 

Anna from the movie "Frozen" is on a boat with Hans. Anna says "The only frozen heart around here is yours," and turns to walk away before suddenly whirling back around and punching Hans clear in the face, knocking him off the side of the boat and into the water.
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It's designing costumes, studying body movement, and toiling day in and day out to the hair movement just right. If all of that sounds enticing, then Animation might be the right major for you. If you're not totally sure, though, you can take our Careers & Majors quiz to help you out! 

Bachelor’s in Animation

Thanks to the large growth in the industry, there are a ton of colleges and universities offering animation programs. In general, they’ll all cover the skills of animation, as well as any software and tools needed in the field. 

If you’re questioning whether you need to gain a bachelor’s degree in this field or not, it worth considering that most studios won’t hire animators who don’t have a degree and subsequent portfolio. 

That small artistic army mentioned above, these studios need to know that you can work as a part of it. Animating simply isn’t a lone wolf profession, and one of the things earning a bachelor’s degree means is that you’ve figured out how to work in a team, whether you particularly like it or not. All artistic fields are fraught with criticism, too, and future employers need to know that you can both take good criticism as well as return it. 

A BFA in Animation or a BA in Animation

Before we delve into this list, let’s talk about some of what you should expect, especially since there are so many programs to consider. Different colleges and universities will provide two distinct degree options, BFA and BA, and while on paper it’s just a single letter difference, in real life, the difference is a little bit bigger. 

From the movie, "Frozen," Anna side-eyes a frozen Kristoff in the Convenience Store. Kristoff is standing very close to her covered in a thick layer of snow from the storm outside.
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If you just looked at us the way that Anna looks at frozen Kristoff, it’s okay — we can help. The simplest way to explain the difference between a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Fine Arts is by weighing how much time is spent in general liberal arts courses versus major courses. 

In a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree, your time will be split 60/40, with 60% of your time on liberal arts courses and 40% of your time in animation classes. The BFA inverses that and students spend 60% of their time in major-related (in this case, Animation) courses, and 40% in general liberal arts course. Both have their merits and are worth investigating! 

What If The Program Isn’t Called “Animation?”

Yeah, that feels concerning. I can see how that might be a hang-up. In this field, sometimes institutions like to get fancy with naming and some of the most highly-ranked programs in the field aren’t called Animation. 

Take Ohio State University, for instance. In 2015, Animation Career Review named OHU’s program the number 1 place in the Midwest for Animation majors. Its “animation” program is technically a BFA in Art with an emphasis in Art and Technology. The same can be said for Texas A&M, whose BS in Visualization was ranked #1 in Texas, #2 in the South, and #1 among public schools for animation by the Animation Career Review as recently as 2018. 

Basically, if you see an institution you're interested in, don’t write them off immediately because the title of the program isn’t “animation”—make a call. Email the admissions office. Ask questions. 

 

2020 Best Colleges & Universities for Animation 

We’ve given the basics up front and gotten you thinking. There’s so much more to think about when choosing a college or university to get your bachelor’s degree but you’ve waited long enough! Without further ado, here’s the list of the best colleges and universities for animation in 2020. 

Brigham Young University

Degree: BFA in Animation

Brigham Young University’s BFA in Animation has a limited enrollment. Students are accepted into the pre-major, must fulfill the requirements, and apply at the end of 1st term Fall or Winter semesters. Once accepted, students have access to everything the BYU Center of Animation has to offer both artistically and technologically for the animation, live-action, special effects, and game industries. 

California College of the Arts

Degree: BA in Animation 

Designed to educate students on how to animate for both TV and film, the Animation program at the California College of the Arts teaches 2D animation, 3D animation, animation for video games, stop-motion animation, and more. CCA offers an open-lab environment where students can work on state-of-the-art equipment, including 24-inch Cintiq monitors, a Foley room, sound studio, and more. 

California Institute of the Arts

Degree BFA in Character Animation; BFA in Experimental Animation

The California Institute of the Arts offers two Animation BFAs, one in Character Animation and one in Experimental Animation. The first one, Character Animation, focuses on the art of storytelling and character performance. Working in both traditional and computer graphic (CG) animation environments, students in this intensive four year program will develop a professional-caliber portfolio. The program in Experimental Animation is designed for innovative artists and will ask its students to develop aesthetically progressive concepts. 

Cleveland Institute of Art 

Degree: BFA in Animation

The Cleveland Institute of Art’s Animation Department is driven by the goal to produce professional content and puts an emphasis on storytelling. Students will take courses in 2D Animation and 3D Animation, as well as in Acting, Human and Animal Anatomy, and many more. All animation students work with a client or community partner, or intern prior to graduation. 

Columbia College of Chicago

Degree: BFA and BA in both Traditional and Computer Animation; BA in Animation

Offering programs in both Traditional and Computer Animation, Columbia College of Chicago also offers both BA and BFA degree options. Whether you want to work in stop-motion and hand-drawn animation, 3D animation, or some combination of the two, Columbia has a program you’ll be interested in. Students have access to a number of Animation Production Spaces, including a Cintiq Lab, Stop-Motion Labs, Camera Labs, and more. 

DePaul University

Degree: BFA and BA in Animation

The College of Computing and Digital Media at DePaul University offers both a BA and BFA in Animation. The BA program emphasizes the art of animation, creativity, and critical thinking within a broad liberal arts curriculum. The BFA gets more in-depth, providing a thorough foundation in art of animation along with its history. Students will work in traditional as well as 3D computer animation and modeling. Students can opt to concentrate in Cinema Animation, Game Art, Storyboarding and Character Design, Motion Graphics, or 3D Animation. 

Florida State University

Degree: BFA in Motion Picture Arts with an Animation and Digital Arts Concentration

Home to the College of Motion Picture Arts, Florida State University has a 3-year program the 4-year degree focused on Animation and Digital Arts. Students learn the development and production of 3D Animation, as well as visual effects in live-action filmmaking. 

Laguna College of Art and Design, California

Degree: Animation dedicated to training exceptional storytellers

The BFA Program at Laguna College of Art and Design in California is designed to prepare students to become storytellers who understand the process of animation from start to finish. Every year, the college hosts the LCAD Animation Film Festival, which showcases the best student work from all levels. 

Loyola Marymount University

Degree: BFA in Animation

Loyola Marymount University’s Animation program has a goal to help each student develop their own unique, personal artistic vision. LMU was the first school to build a motion-capture lab and teach methods used in James Cameron’s Avatar. Using state-of-the-art networked computer workstations, students will learn visual effects, stop-motion, experimental animation, 2D and 3D, game design, and more in small classes. 

Maryland Institute College of Art

Degree: BFA in Animation

The Animation Department at the Maryland Institute College of Art offers a BFA in Animation using the surrounding Baltimore community as a way for students to gain real hands-on experience. Students will graduate with knowledge in 2D, Stop-Motion, and 3D animation. 

Massachusetts College of Art and Design

Degree: Animation Program

The BFA in Animation at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design wants artistic students looking for a challenge. Students will come out of the program with a firm grasp on Technology and Workflow, the Creative Process, Critique and Assessment, and Research & Context. MassArt gives students access to 6 individual animation studios, Multi-Modal labs, an Editing & Sound Studio, and more. 

Minneapolis College of Art and Design

Degree: BFA in Animation

Offering education in illustrated, stop-motion, and computer generated approaches to animation, the Minneapolis College of Art and Design’s BFA in Animation gives a broad historical perspective on animation as both an applied and fine art. Students are required to gain real-world experience through an internship and are encouraged to study abroad during their third year, before delving deep into senior year projects.

Montclair State University

Degree: BFA in Animation/Illustration

Montclair State University’s BFA in Animation/Illustration is considered a pre-professional degree where students will study digital illustration, 2D and 3D animation, cartooning, character design, screenwriting for animation, texture mapping, and much much more. Students have access to a wide variety of studios, including a Product/Design Studio and Drawing Studio. 

New York University

Degree: BS and BFA in Film & Television, Concentration in Animation

The Animation Area at the New York University Tisch School of Arts is designed to fulfill the needs of all Film and TV students for both animation and live-action. The curriculum covers 2D and 3D animation, storyboarding, optical and digital effects, as well as titles, life drawing, history, and criticism classes. 

Ohio State University

Degree: BFA in Art, Emphasis in Art & Technology

It may not specifically say “Animation,” but the BFA in Art with an Emphasis in Art & Technology major at Ohio State University has some animation accolades under its belt. The curriculum is primarily filled with project-based learning and students will create interactive installations, produce moving image and 3D animations, work in virtual reality, 3D modeling, art games, holography, and more. 

Purdue University

Degree: BA in Animation

The Animation major at Purdue University focuses on six areas of animation: 3D modeling, texturing, lighting, rendering, character rigging, and motion. Housed in the Polytechnic Institute, students learn by doing in teams as well as with professionals. 

Pratt Institute

Degree: BFA in Digital Arts and Animation

Students in the BFA in Digital Arts and Animation program at Pratt Institute learn through the theory, practice, and history of new media. They can choose between one of three Digital Arts Concentrations: 3D Animation and Motion Arts, 2D Animation, and Interactive Arts. Myrtle Hall, home to the Animation program, features digital studio/classrooms, 2D and 3D printers, a dedicated green screen facility, high-speed Fibre Channel network, traditional animation facilities, and more. 

Rhode Island School of Design

Degree: BFA in Film, Animation, and Video

The Rhode Island School of Design offers a BFA in Film, Animation, and Video, affectionately called FAV, which educates students in both live-action and animation, as well as hybrids of the two. Students have access to Animation stand studios, stop-action animation studios, and a variety of equipment and programs. 

Ringling College of Art and Design

Degree: BFA in Computer Animation

The Ringling College of Art and Design offers a BFA in Computer Animation with a focus on producing original work that affects the audience emotionally, visually, and intellectually. RCAD brings in visiting artists from big names in the industry and provides eight state-of-the-art computer labs for students to work in, along with a render farm. 

Rochester Institute of Technology

Degree: BFA in Film and Animation

The School of Film and Animation at the Rochester Institute of Technology offers a BFA option in animation that gives students three tracks to choose from: 2D, 3D, and stop-motion animation. Students have access to a variety of facilities to start making movies from day one, including a Mixdown Room, SOFA Cage, and Animation Crane Rooms. 

Savannah College of Art and Design

Degree: BFA in Animation

Savannah College of Art and Design offers a BFA, MA, and MFA in Animation, as well as maintains the offers in Atlanta, Hong Kong, Savannah, and online via e-Learning. SCAD provides the education and resources to work in film, TV, video games, AR/VR, and more. Students have access to high-performance digital workstations, state-of-the-art motion capture systems, and more. 

Syracuse University

Degree: BFA in Computer Art & Animation

Syracuse University is home to the Department of Transmedia which offers a BFA in Computer Art & Animation. The curriculum begins with a focus on creating a strong foundation and provides the opportunity to travel for an immersive experience in animation and film in Los Angeles. 

Texas A&M University

Degree: BS in Visualization

Another program without the word “Animation” in it, but graduates from Texas A&M University’s BS in Visualization program have gone on to contribute to big-name Animation flicks such as Toy Story 4 and Zootopia. Visualization Aggies are are trained to engage and develop both scientifically and aesthetically in all areas of visual communication—including animation. Junior year, students are required to study away for a semester before delving deep into studio time and a capstone project their senior year. 

University of Pennsylvania

Degree: Digital Media Design Program

Designed for students with an interest in computer graphics, animation, games, and more, the  Digital Media Design Program at the University of Pennsylvania is a Bachelor of Engineering and Science (BSE) degree. Created in 1998, this program was created to combine fine arts with computer science — while students will be using their artistic skills, they will also be expected to work on the programming, mathematics, and technologies that make computer graphics. 

University of Southern California

Degree: BA in Animation and Digital Arts

The John C. Hench Division of Animation at the University of Southern California curriculum includes classic character animation, 2D and 3D storytelling, performance capture, visual effect, motion graphics, stop-motion, and more. USC Animation students have the opportunity to study abroad at Studio Art Centers International (SACI) in Florence, Italy. 

Woodbury University

Degree: BFA in Animation

Taught in a studio environment, Woodbury University’s BFA in Animation program is hands-on from the start. Woodbury’s animation program has students developing characters and worlds to star in their own films, whether the mode of art be hand-drawn, stop-motion, or computer graphics. Students are required to fulfill an internship before graduating, but with Woodbury’s primo location within 20 minutes of 15 different animation studios, there are plenty of choices. 
 

From the movie "Frozen," Elsa closes the door to her ice palace with a glorious flick of her cape to reveal a beautiful snowflake carved into the door.
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