Our 2017 list of the Top 50 Animation School Programs in the US. For an explanation of ranking criteria, click here.
1. California Institute of the Arts, Valencia, California (top 1% of schools considered)
California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) is the nation's first postsecondary institution to offer graduate and undergraduate degrees in both the visual and performing arts. Established in 1961 by Walt and Roy Disney, the school is home to 1,449 students enrolled in more than 70 programs across six schools including the School of Critical Studies, The Sharon Disney Lund School of Dance, the School of Art, the School of Film/Video, The Herb Alpert School of Music at CalArts, and the School of Theater. The School of Film/Video is the largest school at CalArts, accounting for nearly 30% of the student population. Programs offered include a BFA in Character Animation and BFA and MFA degrees in Experimental Animation.
Crowned the “Harvard Business School of Animation” by the Los Angeles Times, CalArts has produced hundreds of successful alumni who have generated billions at the box office worldwide. The school lists Tim Burton, Mark Andrews (director and screenwriter of Pixar’s Oscar winning animated feature Brave), Eric Darnell (co-director of Antz, Madagascar, Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa and Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted, and Mark Osborne (director of Kung Fu Panda) among its most famous alumni.
2. University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California (top 1% of schools considered)
University of Southern California (USC) was established in 1880 and it is home to 44,000 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 offered through The John C. Hench Division of Animation and Digital Arts (Hench DADA) of the School of Cinematic Arts (USC Cinematic Arts), and a BFA in Cinematic Arts, Film & Television Production with Animation and Interactive Media electives offered through the Division of Film and Television Production, USC Cinematic Arts.
Graduate offerings include MFA degrees in Animation and Digital Arts and Interactive Media with heavy Animation electives. Minors in Animation & Digital Arts and Game Animation are also on the menu. Graduates of both the undergraduate and graduate 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.
3. Ringling College of Art and Design, Sarasota, Florida (top 1% of schools considered)
Ringling College of Art and Design (RCAD) was established in 1931 by circus baron, art collector, and real estate developer John Ringling. The school opened with just 75 students and 111 course offerings. Today, RCAD is home to 1,300 students and it offers BFA degrees in eleven disciplines and BA degrees in two. Just a few majors include Computer Animation, Film, Game Art, Motion Design, and Visual Studies.
The Computer Animation program is one of the most popular programs at RCAD, accounting for around 20% of the student population. The program was established in 1990 and it leads to a BFA. Graduates of the program have gone on to work at Blue Sky Studios, Cartoon Network, DreamWorks Animation, Electronic Arts, Lucasfilm, Nickelodeon, Pixar, Sony Pictures Imageworks, Walt Disney Animation, and many others.
4. University of California Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California (top 2% of schools considered)
Founded in 1919 as the Southern Branch of the University of California, University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) is home to nearly 45,000 students from all 50 states and more than 100 foreign countries. 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 landed positions at Pixar, they have worked with directors such as Tim Burton, and on films such as The Simpsons Movie and Monster House.
5. School of Visual Arts, New York, New York (top 2% of schools considered)
The School of Visual Arts (SVA) was founded in 1947 as “Cartoonists and Illustrators School.” The school is home to more than 6,000 students enrolled in more than 30 programs. Offerings for aspiring animators include BFA degrees in Animation, Computer Art, and Computer Animation and Visual Effects. An MFA in Computer Art is also on the menu as well as a BFA in Cartooning and Continuing Education (CE) Animation courses. Animation students have opportunities to intern or work part-time at alumni-owned studios such as Titmouse, Augenblick Studios, and Plympton, as well as with numerous independent animation studios in 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.
6. Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, Rhode Island (top 3% of schools considered)
Founded in 1877, Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) is home to nearly 2,500 students from across the U.S. and 57 other countries. This private art school offers 16 undergraduate and 16 graduate art and design programs, with Film/Animation/Video, Illustration, Graphic Design, Painting, and Industrial Design leading the pack. The school’s popular Film/Animation/Video Department (FAV) offers a BFA in Film/Animation/Video (BFA FAV). Famous RISD alumni include Seth Macfarlane, creator of Family Guy, Daniel Sousa, animator and director of the Oscar-nominated film Feral, and Lance Wilder, animator for The Simpsons.
7. Savannah College of Art and Design, Savannah, Georgia (top 3% of schools considered)
Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) was founded in 1978. With campuses in Savannah, Atlanta, Hong Kong, and Lacoste, France, SCAD is home to nearly 13,000 students from nearly 50 states and 115 countries. The school offers more than 40 majors and 60-plus minors, including animation, which was one of the top five majors in Fall 2014. Offered through the School of Digital Media, four options are available for aspiring animators including a BFA in Animation (Atlanta, Hong Kong, Savannah), an MA in Animation (Savannah, eLearning), an MFA in Animation (Atlanta, Savannah, eLearning) Animation, and a Minor in Animation.
Graduates of SCAD’s animation programs have landed positions at major studios such as Walt Disney Animation Studios, Digital Domain, and Bento Box Entertainment.
8. Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, New York (top 4% of schools considered)
Founded in 1887, Pratt institute is home to 4,659 students enrolled in 22 undergraduate degree programs, 26 graduate degree programs, and a variety of Certificate and Minor programs across five schools and The Center for Continuing and Professional Studies. The Pratt Institute School of Art offers a BFA in Digital Arts and Animation with an Emphasis in Digital Animation and Motion Arts or Interactive Arts. Concentrations include 2-D, 3-D, and Interactive Arts. The School also offers an MFA in Digital Arts with Concentrations in Digital Animation and Motion Arts Animation and Interactive Arts.
School of Art alumni can be found working at major studios such as Digital Domain, Cartoon Network Studios, DreamWorks Studios, Rhythm and Hues, Walt Disney Animation Studios, Curious Pictures, Sony Imageworks, and many others.
9. Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (top 4% of schools considered)
Founded in 1900, Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) is home to 13,650 students enrolled in more than 100 programs across seven colleges. The College of Fine Art, School of Art offers a BFA in Electronic and Time-Based Media with a Focus in Animation and a Bachelor’s in Integrative Design, Arts & Technology (IDeATe) with a Concentration in Animation & Special Effects. According to CMU, “the Integrative Design, Arts and Technology Network connects students and faculty from across the university through coursework and collaborative studio experiences.” It allows students from every college to take minors or concentrations in Animation, Special Effects, Game Design, and more.
In addition to the programs listed, the School of Art 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. The school’s interdisciplinary programs combine art school and computer science.
10. New York University (NYU), New York, New York (top 5% of schools considered)
Founded in 1965, Tisch School of the Arts is part of New York University (NYU) and it is home to the Maurice Kanbar Institute of Film and Television. The Institute offers a BA in Film and Television with an Animation Core in Production. An MFA in Animation and Digital Arts is also on the menu, and it is offered at Tisch Asia.
The animation program, which was established in 1979, began with three classes: Art & Design, Animation I, and Animation II. For the 1980-1981 academic year, the program was home to 80 students enrolled in five classes. In 2013, the program enrolled 461 students, and the current Animation curriculum consists of nearly twenty different classes. Graduates of the Animation program at Tisch have landed jobs at Pixar, DreamWorks, Walt Disney Animation Studios and many others.