What Are the Best Schools for 3d Computer Animation?

These 3D animation schools deliver superior and challenging programs

Picking a school is a huge decision. It's probably one of the most important decisions that most people are faced with in their young lives. The schools on this list all have fantastic 3D computer animation programs, and they're all well connected with professionals and animation studios. However, at the end of the day, the best 3D animation school for you is the one that provides the best fit based on your interests, needs, and learning style.

Read as much as you possibly can before making a final decision. Websites such as ConceptArt.org and CGTalk have dozens of forum threads discussing the pros and cons of different university programs in the arts. Take advantage of this knowledge and don't be afraid to ask questions.

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

A building of the School of Visual Arts at 214 East 21st Street in Manhattan, New York City.
A building of the School of Visual Arts at 214 East 21st Street in Manhattan, New York City. Beyond My Ken/Wikimedia Commons

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 design as it pertains to advertising and commercial work. If this is where your interests lie, SVA is a better place to be than a school like CalArts or Ringling, where the film industry is emphasized.

The California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, California, has been called the Harvard of the animation world—absurdly prestigious, massively difficult to get into, and super 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, but the school has done an admirable job transitioning into the CG era and places a strong emphasis on turning out well-rounded artists with valuable skills beyond their immediate discipline.

The Ringling College of Art and Design in Sarasota, Florida, has a 3D animation reputation that anyone in the field envies. Students all over the world watch the short films from Ringling students repeatedly. 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 is a studio that has always emphasized 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.

 

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.

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

Bournemouth – Bournemouth is intricately connected 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 London studios like 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 because, 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.