Best Animation Schools in America

Best animation schools in america : Animation has allowed storytellers to tell stories in unique ways. The visceral fantastical worlds in animated films can reignite inspiration and the magic of stories no matter what age. So if you’re a storyteller, or want to be, the animation is a great place to start. So what is animation? And what are the types of animation cartoonists and artists use? Let’s jump in.

ANIMATION DEFINITION

What is animation?

Animation is a method of photographing successive drawings, models, or even puppets, to create an illusion of movement in a sequence. Because our eyes can only retain an image for approx. 1/10 of a second, when multiple images appear in fast succession, the brain blends them into a single moving image. In traditional animation, pictures are drawn or painted on transparent celluloid sheets to be photographed. Early cartoons are examples of this, but today, most animated movies are made with computer-generated imagery or CGI.

To create the appearance of smooth motion from these drawn, painted, or computer-generated images, frame rate, or the number of consecutive images that are displayed each second, is considered. Moving characters are usually shot “on twos” which just means one image is shown for two frames, totaling in at 12 drawings per second. 12 frames per second allows for motion but may look choppy. In the film, a frame rate of 24 frames per second is often used for smooth motion. 

Different Types of Animation:

  • Traditional Animation
  • 2D Animation (Vector-based)
  • 3D Animation
  • Motion Graphics
  • Stop Motion

Animation plays a much bigger role in daily life than most people realize. In addition to being used in television and entertainment, animation is used in advertising, science, travel, video games, and healthcare, making it an important part of our daily lives. 

The rapid growth of technology means that future career options in animation will only grow with time. From creating website graphics in After Effects to recreating a crime scene from iPhone photos, successful animators bring images to life in real time. 

They must have strong attention to detail, must be able to master the art of movement, and must be able to transfer what they see in the world into their animation.

Featured Animation School Programs

As animation continues to grow across industries, many animation schools offer degrees in the field. However, not all animation degrees provide the same level of knowledge. The following top animation programs all have the following criteria:

  • Highest rate of job placement
  • Up-to-date video editing and animation software
  • Training in 3D animation
  • Training in motion capture
  • Training in storyboarding and scriptwriting
  • Access to and high-end drawing tools.

What are Best Animation Schools in America?

Top 20 Animation Schools in the U.S. – 2020 College Rankings

RankingSchoolState%
1Ringling College of Art and DesignFloridaTop 1%
2California Institute of the ArtsCalifornia1%
3Savannah College of Art and DesignGeorgia2%
4University of California, Los AngelesCalifornia3%
5University of Southern CaliforniaCalifornia3%
6School of Visual ArtsNew York4%
7New York UniversityNew York4%
8Rhode Island School of DesignRhode Island5%
9Gnomon School of Visual EffectsCalifornia5%
10School of the Art Institute of ChicagoIllinois6%
11Rochester Institute of TechnologyNew York6%
12Pratt InstituteNew York7%
13Otis College of Art and DesignCalifornia7%
14Carnegie Mellon UniversityPennsylvania8%
15Academy of Art UniversityCalifornia8%

1. Ringling College of Art and Design ( Best Animation Schools in America )

The BFA in Computer Animation at Ringling College of Art and Design allows students to learn to create characters and tell stories using animation created through computers. The major allows students to focus on learning to combine technical skills with conceptual ideas that are designed to affect an audience emotionally, visually, and intellectually. 

Josiah Haworth, an associate animator at Blizzard Entertainment, graduated from the school in 2013. Patrick Osborne is the founder of Paid Time Off and is a 2003 graduate. Eric Prah graduated in 2012 and is an animator at Blue Sky Studios. Other graduates are employed at JibJab, WB Games, Pixar, and Luma Pictures.

Ringling College of Art and Design is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges as well as the National Association of Schools of Art and Design. It is one of the best animation schools in the world.

Best Animation Schools in America

2. California Institute of the Arts

California Institute of the Arts offers both a Character Animation and Experimental Animation program through the School of Film and Video. The Character Animation program is a BFA degree that provides students an understanding of the art of storytelling and character performance as it relates to animation.

Students may work toward a BFA or an MFA in Experimental Animation. The degrees are designed for students who wish to develop personal visions with the ever-changing parameters of animation.

The college was established by Walt and Roy Disney and was the first higher education in the country to offer undergraduate and graduate degrees in visual and performing arts. The school works to help students find employment after graduation with their “Curating Your Own Life: Transitioning to a Career after CalArts.” 

The course allows students to participate in career-related courses and internships. The college is accredited by the Senior College and University Commission of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

Best Animation Schools in America

3. Savannah College of Art and Design ( Best Animation Schools in America )

Savannah College of Art and Design offers BFA, MA, and MFA degrees in animation. Students are provided instruction in 2D, 3D, stop-motion, digital modeling, rigging, lighting, and look development. 

Students will also learn essential animation skills like onion skinning and SVG animation, and how to make graphics for macOS, Windows, and Android. Animation students are able to collaborate on projects, learning the importance of teamwork in the animation industry. 

Graduates have found positions at Disney, Pixar, 20th Century Fox, Cartoon Network, and Nickelodeon. Students have access to professional-grade technology, allowing them to master industry technology that they will use in their career.

SCAD is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. A stunning 98% of graduates of this top animation school in the United States reported that they were employed within 10 months of graduation.

Best Animation Schools in America

4. University of California, Los Angeles ( Best Animation Schools in America )

The University of California, Los Angeles offers one of the most highly ranked animation programs in the United States. 

The program strikes a balance between technology and creativity, providing knowledge in scriptwriting, editing, and storytelling. Students work in the Walter Lantz Digital Animation Studio, gaining real-world experience in an industry where technology changes rapidly. Upon completion, students are provided the opportunity for a full year of animation studies as well as an internship.

Students must be pursuing the BA in Film and Television when they apply to the Animation Workshop. Erick Oh, a 2010 graduate, is an animator at Pixar and has worked on such films as “Cars,” “Brave,” “Monsters University,” and “Inside Out.” Shane Acker, who graduated from the program in 2004, expanded an Academy Award-winning short film, “9,” into a feature film for producer Tim Burton. UCLA is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

Best Animation Schools in America

5. University of Southern California ( Best Animation Schools in America )

Established in 1880, University of Southern California (USC) serves 47,500 students enrolled in more than 200 undergraduate programs, 300-plus graduate programs, and more than 150 minors. Undergraduate offerings for aspiring animators include a BA in Animation and Digital Arts and a BFA in Cinematic Arts, Film & Television Production with Animation and Interactive Media electives. Graduate offerings include MFA degrees in Animation and Digital Arts and Interactive Media with heavy Animation electives.

Minors in Animation & Digital Arts, 3D Animation in Cinematic Arts, and Game Animation are also available. Course highlights for the programs include Animation Design and Production, Basic Animation Production Technologies, Contemporary Topics in Animation and Digital Arts, Digital Narrative Design, Directed Studies in Animation, Expanded Animation, Expanded Concepts in 2D/3D Animation, Fundamentals of Animation, Storytelling for Animation, The Digital Actor, and 3D Character Performance Animation.

Animation and Digital Arts programs are offered through The John C. Hench Division of Animation and Digital Arts (Hench DADA) of the School of Cinematic Arts (USC Cinematic Arts). The BFA in Cinematic Arts, Film & Television Production with Animation and Interactive Media electives is offered through the Division of Film and Television Production, USC Cinematic Arts.

Graduates of the animation programs at USC Cinematic Arts have landed positions at DreamWorks Animation, Sony Pictures, Nickelodeon Animation Studios, Pixar, Rhythm and Hues, Industrial Light & Magic, Digital Idea, Illumination Entertainment, Digital Domain and many others.

Best Animation Schools in America

6. The School of Visual Arts ( Best Animation Schools in America )

The School of Visual Arts (SVA) was founded in 1947 as Cartoonists and Illustrators School. The school serves more than 3,700 students enrolled in over 30 programs. With nearly 400 students, 50 faculty and 40 courses Animation is the largest program at SVA. Students have a range of degree options to choose from including BFA degrees in Animation, Computer Art, Computer Animation and Visual Effects, and Cartooning. An MFA in Computer Art (Focus Animation, Motion Graphics or Fine Art) is also available as well as Continuing Education (CE) Animation courses.

The school says all animation students “learn the fundamentals of drawing, storytelling, character development, and professional animation software, as well as the history of animation, all for the purpose of bringing their creations to life.” The curriculum “covers the entire spectrum of animation professions, from traditional animation to stop motion to digital; and access to faculty- and alumni-operated studios provides numerous opportunities for hands-on learning, internships and employment.”

Students have studied and worked at studios such as Titmouse, Augenblick Studios, and Plympton, as well as numerous independent animation studios across New York. SVA animation graduates have gone on to work at major studios such as Blue Sky Studios, Disney Animation Studios, DreamWorks Animation, Lucasfilm Animation, Nickelodeon, Sony Pictures Animation, Warner Bros. Animation, and independent animation studios across the globe.

Best Animation Schools in America

7. New York University ( Best Animation Schools in America )

Through the Tisch School of Arts, New York University offers both a BS and a BFA in Film & Television that includes a concentration in animation. Notable alumni include Alex Woo and Andrew Coats of Pixar Animation. 

Tisch, one of the top animation programs in New York, includes studies of many different aspects of film and television, giving students knowledge and skills outside the realm of animation while also preparing them for a career in their chosen field. It also helps students master animation software tools like Adobe Flash and Moho (formerly Anime Studio).

It is a five-year degree and also includes courses designed to provide knowledge into the business side of the arts world. NYU is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Best Animation Schools in America

8. Rhode Island School of Design ( Best Animation Schools in America )

Rhode Island School of Design is ranked as the top art school in the country by many different publications and organizations. The school offers a BFA in film, animation, and video. Students work with the live action, animation, or a combination of both — and can produce films in a wide range of genres. 

The facilities at RISD offer state-of-the-art technology with digital editing, sound mixing and puppet animation technology that is used throughout the industry. Not only are students provided training in how to use the tools common to the industry, but they are also taught how to use concepts, critical thinking, and content development.

RISD is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges and the National Association of Schools of Art and Design. Notable alumni include Michael Dante DiMartino, an animator on “Avatar: The Last Airbender” and “Family Guy,” who graduated from RISD in 1996. Seth MacFarlane, creator of “Family Guy,” “American Dad,” and “The Cleveland Show” also graduated from RISD as did Lance Wilder, animator for “The Simpsons” and “The Critic.”

Best Animation Schools in America

9. Gnomon School of Visual Effects ( Best Animation Schools in America )

Gnomon School of Visual Effects was established in 1997. Called the “MIT of Visual Effects” by Fast Company, “Gnomon offers a variety of educational options to help students reach their goals in the entertainment industry, with both degree and vocational certificate programs, specialized courses for high school students and over 100 individual courses for professional enrichment,” says the school. Gnomon, which has 600 graduates to date, offers a BFA and a Certificate in Digital Production.

Individual animation courses are available and may be “mixed and matched” to suit students’ career goals. Options include Acting for Animators, Introduction to 3D with Maya, Character Sculpture, Color Theory and Light, History and Principles of Animation, History of Visual Effects, Animation and Visual Effects, Character Animation, Modeling, Motion Graphics, Storyboarding, Texturing and Shading, Timing for Animation, Animation for Games, Character Design, Character Modeling and Sculpting, Previsualization and Animatics, Stylized Character Creation, and Creature Animation.

Gnomon graduates have landed positions at some of the world’s top studios. Walt Disney Animation Studios, Industrial Light & Magic, DreamWorks, Digital Domain, Blizzard Entertainment, Reel FX, Electronic Arts, Sony Pictures Imageworks, Nickelodeon Animation, Rhythm & Hues, and Marvel Entertainment are just a few.

Best Animation Schools in America

10. School of the Art Institute of Chicago( Best Animation Schools in America )

The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) is one of the oldest accredited independent schools of art and design in the country. Founded in 1866 and serving nearly 3,700 students from 78 countries, SAIC offers more than 50 areas of study from Animation and Costume Design to Visual Communication Design and Writing. The Film, Video, New Media, and Animation Department (FVNMA) offers several programs for aspiring animators including BFA and MFA in Studio degrees with a Concentration Animation, and a Certificate in Studio.

The school says that the FVNMA Department at SAIC “endorses and encourages experimentation with radical form and content.” The Department says that it is “open to many approaches to and understandings of experimental media art” and it is “dedicated” to helping students develop their “art practice in a variety of forms and contexts including the use of high definition video, new media art, experimental 3D animation, hand drawn animation, and filmmaking.” The Department also says that it supports “individual and collaborative forms of making media art in these expanded contexts.”

SAIC FVNMA instructors are “award-winning pioneers,”  “revolutionaries,’ and working professionals in the fields of experimental film, video, animation, nonfiction, narrative, installation, glitch, interactivity, art games, curating, archiving, and web-based art projects. Students will also learn from “internationally renowned artists, critics, historians, and curators who regularly visit through the department and SAIC’s Visiting Artists Program.”

Other FVNMA Department highlights include graduate projects and fall and spring critique weeks for MFA students, access to world-class resources such as the Art Institute of Chicago Museum, on-campus galleries, and state-of-the-art facilities. Specifics include The Video Data Bank (the leading resource in the United States for videos by and about contemporary artists, The Gene Siskel Film Center), one of the country’s premiere screening venues dedicated to promoting alumni, student, and faculty work, and The Donna and Howard Stone Gallery for Film, Video, and New Media in the Art Institute of Chicago’s Modern Wing.

Famous SAIC alumni include David Sedaris, Georgia O’Keeffe, Elizabeth Murray, Richard Hunt, Michelle Grabner, Cynthia Rowley, Nick Cave, Jeff Koons, and LeRoy Neiman.

Best Animation Schools in America

11. Rochester Institute of Technology ( Best Animation Schools in America )

Rochester Institute of Technology offers a BFA in film and animation which focuses on production. Students begin work on 16mm film, digital video, and animation from the first year of study and build on their production work throughout the program. 

Students may choose an animation concentration. The program uses lectures, laboratories, and guest speakers to help students develop their animation skills. Students at this top animation college in New York produce several animations throughout the program, working through all phases of production, including scripting, budgeting, shooting, and editing. 

RIT is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. Over 87% of the school’s graduates are employed in their field of study. Elan Lee, an alternate reality game designer, graduated from the Rochester Institute of Technology in 1998.

Best Animation Schools in America

12. Pratt Institute ( Best Animation Schools in America )

The Pratt Institute of New York offers a BFA in Digital Arts and Animation. Students are given instruction in 2D and 3D animation as they develop skills and learn the history of new media. 

The college has nine state-of-the-art animation studio classrooms and a high-speed fiber channel network. There are audio recording studios and dedicated green screen facilities. 

Graduates of this top animation bachelors will develop both skill and expertise ready to make a contribution to the animation field. Notable alumni include Joseph Barbera, animator and co-creator of “Tom and Jerry,” and Eric Goldberg, animator for Walt Disney and Warner Brothers. Pratt Institute is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education as well as the National Association of Schools of Art and Design.

Best Animation Schools in America

13. Otis College of Art and Design ( Best Animation Schools in America )

Otis College of Art and Design (OTIS) was established in 1918 by founder and publisher of the Los Angeles Times, General Harrison Gray Otis. The school serves approximately 1,100 full-time students enrolled in 11 BFA degree programs ranging from Digital Media (Animation, Game and Entertainment Design, and Motion Design) to Toy Design. The school also offers MFA degrees in Fine Arts, Graphic Design, Public Practice, and Writing, as well as a variety of minors and certificate programs.

Specific programs for aspiring animators are offered in the Digital Media Department. Options include a BFA in Digital Media with an Animation Major, a Digital Media Minor, and a Digital Media Arts Certificate with a Specialization Track in Animation. OTIS Digital Media students will “acquire real-world skills in industry-standard technology, as well as concept development, from leading designers, artists, and entrepreneurs,” says the school.

The programs begin with training in “fundamentals of digital tools and their creative applications.” Along the way, students will have the opportunity to find their own visual style. Animation students “bring characters and stories to life through the magic of computer animation. Using a wide variety of techniques, from traditional 2D animation to 3D computer-generated imagery (CGI), students learn to develop narratives that evoke emotion and create the illusion of movement. Special emphasis is placed on storytelling, character design, and acting, as well as traditional drawing skills and business acumen.”

Course highlights include Storytelling for Digital Artists, 3D Animation, The Visual Language of Film, Games and Design, Creative Action Studio, and Animation Explorations.

“By graduation,” says the school, students will be able to “meet the demands of a diverse and expanding job market in visual storytelling for film, television, video games, apps, and the web.

Just a few recent employers of OTIS graduates include Pixar, Disney, DreamWorks, Sony Imageworks, Nickelodeon, Electronic Arts, ILM, Sony Online Entertainment, and Blizzard Entertainment.

Best Animation Schools in America

14. Carnegie Mellon University ( Best Animation Schools in America )

Founded in 1900, Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) serves more than 14,500 students representing over 100 countries. The school offers more than 100 programs across seven colleges, including the College of Fine Art, home of the School of Art. The CFA SA offers a BFA in Electronic and Time-Based Media with a Focus in Animation and a BFA in Integrative Design, Arts & Technology (IDeATe) with a Concentration in Animation & Special Effects. A Minor in Animation & Special Effects is also available.

The Electronic and Time-Based Media BFA “explores the creative potential of emerging technologies and the critical impact they have on contemporary culture,” says the school. The curriculum “implicitly encourages cross-disciplinary study.” As such, “many students merge fine art and computer science based interests either within the BFA program or through the unique BCSA degree program.” Besides Animation, students may focus in unique areas such as Bioart, Computational and Interactive Art, Tactical Media, and Tangible Media, as well as Game Arts and Video and Performance. “Students particularly interested in the intersection of art and technology can take advantage of expanded course offerings through the IDeATe Program.”

Students in the BFA in IDeATe with Animation & Special Effects “will study the interconnected components of performance capture, rendering, 3D and 2D animation, and special effects. They will merge arts and technology perspectives in all courses to explore each of these components and the area of digital animation as a whole. Through common repositories across courses and collaborative projects, students will explore how the different components and types of expertise come together to create a convincing computer animated experience.”

Students in this program will also be able to “connect to other IDeATe courses to explore applications of digital animation in different contexts (games, interactive environments etc.) and to integrate other key areas of knowledge (narrative, sound) into digital animation projects.”

The School of Art at CMU also offers supportive courses that “serve to enrich the student experience in IDeATe.” Offerings include Advanced ETB: 2D Animation, Advanced ETB: Animation, Advanced ETB: Moving Image Magic: Visual Effects and Motion Graphics, and Animation, Art, and Technology.

Best Animation Schools in America

15. Academy of Art University ( Best Animation Schools in America )

Academy of Art University was established in 1929. The school serves more than 7,200 students from 112 countries enrolled in dozens of Art, Design, Fashion, and Architecture programs. Degrees are offered at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, and many programs are available entirely online. The School of Animation and Visual Effects offers AA, BFA, MA and MFA degrees in Animation and Visual Effects. A Certificate in Animation and Visual Effects is also available and programs are available on campus and online.

Undergraduate students take classes specializing in one main area of the industry. Emphasis is placed on creating a professional demo reel and/or portfolio in tune with the latest industry trends. Specialization areas include 3D Animation, 3D Modeling, Rigging, Animation Generalist, Animation Producing, Storyboarding, 2D Animation, Puppet Fabrication, Stop Motion Animation, Compositing, Dynamics, Lighting, and Matte Painting. Course highlights include Cinematics for Animation & VFX, Computer Animation Production, Producing for Animation & Visual Effects, Sketching for Communication, and 3D Animation.

Students will also complete Senior Portfolio for Animation & VFX, Collaborative Project, and Internship in Animation.

The MA program provides students an opportunity to work in 2D Animation & Stop Motion, 3D Animation, 3D Modeling, or Visual Effects, while focusing on storytelling with an emphasis on exhibiting technical skills and eliciting emotional responses. Students can expect to take courses such as Advanced Character Animation, Feature Animation, Gesture & Quick Sketch for Animators, Storyboarding, and 3D Animation Physics and Mechanics. Students will also complete a portfolio.

The MFA in Animation & Visual Effects program focuses on developing skills in any one of the many areas of expertise within the animation and visual effects industry. The program educates students in all aspects of animation and visual effects, from ideation to post production. Course highlights include Acting for Animators, Perspective for Characters & Environment, Storyboarding for Thesis, 3D Modeling & Animation (Maya), Traditional Animation, and Visual Effects for Animation. MFA students will also take several Directed Study courses and Special Topics, as well as Animation: Thesis Completion, Final Portfolio Preparation and ANM 900: Internship.

Graduates of the animation programs at Academy of Art University have landed positions at Blizzard Entertainment, CBS Interactive, Disney Interactive, DreamWorks Animation, Electronic Arts, Lucasfilm, NBCUniversal, Pixar, and Sony Computer Entertainment America.

Best Animation Schools in America

Consider These Top Animation Programs

Whether you dream of becoming a video editor for your favorite cartoon or creating a best-selling video game, a degree in animation can take you far. 

When searching the best animation programs available, consider what type of animation you want to learn and what software tools and skills are most important to you. This will help you choose the best animation school for your goals. Find more tips and expert rankings on the best degree programs at College Rank.