Our 2016 rankings of the top 20 animation school programs on the West Coast.
We define the West Coast as California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, and Hawaii.
For an explanation of ranking criteria, click here.
1. California Institute of the Arts, Valencia, California
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 has a population of 1,489 students enrolled in more than 70 programs at all degree levels. Around 26.9% of the student body is enrolled in the School of Film/Video, which offers BFA degrees in Character Animation and Experimental Animation. An MFA in Experimental Animation is also available.
Called the “Harvard Business School of Animation” by the Los Angeles Times, CalArts has produced hundreds of successful alumni who have generated more than $26 billion in box office grosses since 1985.
2. University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California
The University of Southern California (USC) was established in 1880 and it is home to 43,000 students enrolled in more 500 programs and more than 150 minors. Program offerings for aspiring animators include a BA in Animation and Digital Arts and a BFA in Film and Television Production with heavy Animation and Interactive Media electives. The BA program is offered through The John C. Hench Division of Animation and Digital Arts at the School of Cinematic Arts. The BFA is offered through the Division of Film and Television Production of the School of Cinematic Arts.
USC also offers a Minor in Animation and Digital Arts along with several graduate programs for animators including an MFA in Animation and Digital Arts and an MFA in Interactive Media with heavy Animation electives. Graduates of the Animation programs at USC have been hired at Pixar Animation Studios, Rhythm and Hues, Industrial Light & Magic, DreamWorks Animation, Nickelodeon Animation Studios, Sony Pictures, Digital Idea, Illumination Entertainment, Digital Domain and many others.
3. University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), Los Angeles, California
The University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) is home to the Animation Workshop of the School of Theater, Film and Television. Founded in 1948 by William Shull, a Disney animator, the UCLA Animation Workshop is a three-year MFA program (MFA in Film, Television, and Digital Media) that accepts just 12 new students each year.
Students applying to the MFA program come from a variety of backgrounds; some have earned a BA or BFA in art or film studies, applicants also come from English, engineering, architecture, psychology, communications, and more. Animation graduates have landed positions at Pixar Animation Studios, and every major animation studio in Southern California; they have gone on to direct features such as The Simpsons Movie and Monster House and have directed with Tim Burton, producing the feature film 9.
UCLA also offers a BA in Film Television and Digital Media with a Concentration in Animation for senior students. The BA program gives 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.
Founded in 1919 as the Southern Branch of the University of California, UCLA is home to 43,239 students from all 50 states and more than 100 foreign countries. The school offers 323 degree programs and majors through the College of Letters and Science, the university’s 11 professional schools, and more than 109 academic departments.
4. Gnomon School of Visual Effects, Hollywood, California
Gnomon School of Visual Effects was established in 1997 and it is home to more than 100 students enrolled in variety of computer graphics classes and programs. Offerings for aspiring animators include several intensive training programs leading to a Certificate. Programs include Entertainment Design (One-Year Track), Digital Production for Entertainment (Two-Year Program), Entertainment Design and Digital Production (Three-Year Program), and Maya Fast Track (10-Week Program). Gnomon also offers a variety of online courses ranging from Character Animation to Games Tools and Techniques.
Many Gnomon graduates have landed positions at some of the world’s top studios. A few include 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.
5. Academy of Art University, San Francisco, California
Established in 1929, Academy of Art University had a 2015 Fall enrollment of 8,813 students. The school offers 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 Department of Animation and Visual effects offers BFA and MFA degrees in Animation and Visual Effects. BFA emphasis areas include Storyboarding, 3D Animation, 3D Modeling, Traditional Animation, and Visual Effects. The Department also offers an Online Award of Completion (OAC) and a Certificate in Animation and Visual Effects.
Graduates of Academy of Art University have landed positions at Blizzard Entertainment, Disney Interactive, DreamWorks Animation, Electronic Arts, Lucasfilm, Pixar Animation Studios, and Sony Computer Entertainment America, NBCUniversal, Google, and CBS Interactive.
6. Digipen Institute of Technology, Redmond, Washington
Founded in 1988, DigiPen Institute of Technology is home to 1,072 students from all 50 states and 45 countries. Digipen offers 10 graduate and undergraduate programs in the areas of Art, Design, and Computer Science. Offerings for aspiring animators include a BFA in Digital Art and Animation. This program is also available at DigiPen Institute of Technology Europe – Bilbao, which was established in 2011.
Graduates of Digipen can be found working at studios such as Blizzard Entertainment, Sony Online Entertainment, Microsoft, Disney Online, Activision, Electronic Arts, and Snowblind Studios.
7. Art Center College of Design, Pasadena, California
ArtCenter College of Design was founded in 1930. It is home to approximately 1,900 students enrolled in 11 undergraduate and seven graduate degrees in the areas of Visual and Applied Arts and Industrial Design. The school also offers a joint MS/MBA program with the Drucker-Ito School of Management. Programs for aspiring animators include Fine Arts (Entertainment Design) with a Track in Character Animation. The program, which also offers a Track in Concept Design, leads to a BS in Entertainment Design.
ArtCenter faculty consists of professionals working at major studios such as Walt Disney Animation Studios, DreamWorks, and Blur. According to the school, these instructors help prepare students for “career opportunities as performance and action animators with companies such as Pixar, Disney, DreamWorks, ILM, Sony, Blur, 343 and Riot.”
8. California College of the Arts, San Francisco and Oakland, California
California College of the Arts (CCA) was founded in founded in 1907 and it is home to nearly 2,000 students enrolled in 21 undergraduate and 13 graduate degree programs. The Animation Department is home to the fourth largest major at the school—the BFA in Animation. Graduates of the program have landed positions at Walt Disney Animation Studios, Pixar, and many others.
9. Laguna College of Art and Design, Laguna Beach, California
Established in 1961 as the “Laguna Beach School of Art,” Laguna College of Art and Design is just under 500 students and it offers five undergraduate majors and three graduate programs. The school’s BFA in Animation program offers students the opportunity to participate in master class workshops each summer, where they learn from leaders in the field. Each year, LCAD also hosts the LCAD Animation Film Festival which “showcases the best work from all levels of (the schools) animation artists.”
LCAD Animation graduates have worked for a number of major studios including Cartoon Network, Disney, DreamWorks, Fox, Nickelodeon, Obsidian Entertainment, Pixar, Renegade Animation, Sony, South Park Studios, Titmouse, and Zynga.
10. Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles, California
Loyola Marymount University (LMU) was established in 1911 and it is home to 9,295 students enrolled in more than 160 programs across seven colleges and schools. The School of Film and Television is home to LMUs Animation Program. In addition to liberal arts courses, the cross-disciplinary BA in Animation highlights coursework in 2D and 3D, Visual Effects, Stop-Motion, Experimental Animation, and Game Design. The School of Film and Television also offers an Animation Minor that is available to all students.