What Are the Best Schools for 3D Computer Animation?

These 3D animation schools deliver superior and challenging programs

Whatever type of visual art you're interested in learning, it's critical that you find the right school for your interests, needs, and budget. The schools on this list all have fantastic 3D computer animation programs, and they're well connected with professionals and animation studios.

Read as much as you possibly can before applying or making a decision. Websites such as ConceptArt.org and CGTalk have dozens of forums discussing the pros and cons of different university and continuing education programs.

Here's a look at the schools that dominate 3D computer animation in the U.S., Canada, Europe, and online.

East Coast: School of Visual Arts

School of Visual Arts

The School of Visual Arts in New York is an excellent choice if you lean more toward motion graphics, advertising, or visual effects animation.

The school is smack dab in the middle of one of the best places in the world for someone interested in advertising and commercial design. If those are your professional leanings, SVA is likely a better place to be than a school like CalArts or Ringling, which lean more toward the film industry.

West Coast: California Institute of the Arts

California Institute of the Arts

The California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, California, has been called the Harvard of the animation world—prestigious, difficult to get into, and very well connected. You'll probably see CalArts on just about every “best of” list for animation.

The school's strength has always been their traditional 2D animation program. However, it has made huge inroads in the CG era. The places a strong emphasis on turning out well-rounded artists with valuable skills beyond their immediate discipline.

South: Ringling College of Art and Design

Ringling College of Art + Design

The Ringling College of Art and Design in Sarasota, Florida, has a reputation that is the envy of the 3D animation world. Students all over the world watch the short films of Ringling students. That's how good they are. When you hear someone mention Ringling, it's usually followed by the statement, "Oh yeah, that's where Pixar likes to recruit."

Pixar emphasizes storytelling, and Ringling's goal, first and foremost, is to create good storytellers. The culminating experience in their computer animation program is an entire year devoted to the production of an animated short. Ringling is truly one of the best places in the world for a young animator to become acquainted with narrative filmmaking.

 

Online: Animation Mentor

Animation Mentor

Animation Mentor has enough buzz to fill a beehive, but the online 3D animation program is more than capable of living up to the hype. Animation Mentor cuts right to the chase. You're not studying to become a generalist. You're not learning how to make an independent short film. You're training to become a character animator.

Animation Mentor's focus has proven wildly successful, and in just a few short years, the school has built a reputation as one of the best places in the world to learn 3D character animation.

Canada: Sheridan College

Sheridan College

What can you say about Sheridan in Brompton, Ontario, that hasn't already been said? The reputation of its 3D character animation program is one of the strongest in North America. If CalArts is the Harvard of animation, then Sheridan is Yale or Oxford. 

The program is incredibly rigorous, but if you give it your undivided attention, you'll come out with an enviable portfolio, a well-rounded skill set, and access to some of the best industry connections available to recent graduates.

Europe: Bournemouth, Supinfocom, and Gobelins

Gobbelins

Bournemouth: Bournemouth is intimately tied to the red-hot London animation scene, which means if you come out of Bournemouth with a solid reel, you have a better than average shot at landing a gig at one of the top London studios, such as Double Negative or MPC.

Supinfocom and Gobelins: Unless you're French, you're probably not considering either of these, but they both need to be mentioned. Along with Ringling, these are some of the best places in the world to get experience working on a team-based 3D animated short film production. Student works from Supinfocom and Gobelins are a mainstay at animation festivals.