OIAF’s Guide to Animation Schools

OIAF’s Guide to Animation Schools

Interested in studying animation? Know someone who is?

Please share this Guide to Animation Schools! OIAF produces this annual webpage guide as a resource for anyone considering studying animation in a post-secondary setting.  

It features artist interviews, career insights, school profiles, and other cool resources directed at newbies and emerging animators alike. 

Guide to Schools 2024 Edition

The full 2024 Guide to Schools is coming soon!

Return to this space in late November for more

School Profiles

The following are leading animation schools in North America and close partners of OIAF.  Read about their animation programs here:

Algonquin College

OCAD University

Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD)

School of Visual Arts (SVA NYC)

Seneca College

Sheridan College

Vancouver Film School (VFS)

Algonquin College

The three-year Animation Ontario College Advanced Diploma program provides you with the skills needed to meet the high standards of the international animation industry. As a student attending one of the best animation programs in Canada (as ranked by Animation Career Review) you learn industry-standard technologies, drawing and animation skills.

Learn more about Algonquin College!

OCAD University

Learn the skills to bring your imagination to life in OCAD University’s new Experimental Animation program.

OCAD U has a long history of graduating successful animators in art and film including George Dunning who directed The Beatles’ Yellow Submarine and Richard Williams who was the animation director for Who Framed Roger Rabbit. More recently, alumni include computer animator Trudy Elmore and emerging VR artist Jawa El Khash. Shary Boyle, who represented Canada at the Venice Biennale, has achieved great success with her mesmerizing performances using hand-animated imagery.

In this program, you’ll develop a personal artistic vision and push the boundaries of animation as a contemporary art form. You’ll mix traditional and digital media using 2D, 3D, stop-motion, digital compositing and augmented/virtual reality.

During the Experimental Animation program, you’ll have a lot of flexibility to take elective art and design courses beyond animation. The program has growing relationships with other schools around the world and many connections with Toronto’s growing animation industry. OCAD U alumni have worked at Industrial Light & Magic, Yowza, Guru, Jam-Filled, Stoopid Buddy, The Stop Motion Department, StereoD and Moment Factory, among others. The program’s full-time faculty are active practitioners in contemporary art and animation and show their work internationally.

 

Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD)

SCAD: The University for Creative Careers

SCAD is a private, nonprofit, accredited university, offering 100 graduate and undergraduate degree programs across locations in Atlanta and Savannah, Georgia; Lacoste, France; and online via SCADnow. SCAD enrolls more than 17,500 undergraduate and graduate students from more than 120 countries.

SCAD School of Animation and Motion students deliver captivating moments across multiple platforms. From illuminating fantastical realms and characters to expertly integrating motion media in virtual studio environments and public spaces, students develop the acumen, creativity, and dexterity necessary to launch their creative careers.

Career success is woven into every fibre of the university, resulting in a superior alumni employment rate. A 2023 study found that 99% of SCAD graduates were employed, pursuing further education, or both within 10 months of graduation. SCAD provides students and alumni with ongoing career support through personal coaching, alumni programs, a professional presentation studio, and more. Visit scad.edu.

 

School of Visual Arts (SVA NYC)

The School of Visual Arts (SVA) in New York City has been a leader in the education of artists, designers and creative professionals for seven decades. With a faculty of distinguished working professionals, a dynamic curriculum and an emphasis on critical thinking, SVA is a catalyst for innovation and social responsibility. SVA Animation is comprised of three programs: BFA Animation; BFA Computer Art, Computer Animation and Visual Effects; and MFA Computer Arts.  Spanning disciplines across the fields of animation and computer-based arts, each program fosters creative experimentation and storytelling ability in its curriculum. Students follow high standards of academic performance and professionalism to become artists recognized worldwide.

 

Seneca College

Seneca Polytechnic is one of the top public post-secondary training institutions in Canada. The School of Creative Arts and Animation is a recognized global training leader in animation, interactive media, documentary filmmaking, graphic design, music, acting, and illustration. It is ranked among Canada’s top training programs for animation, gaming, and visual effects, and has been at the forefront of developing Canadian talent for more than a decade.

Seneca’s success in these areas are a result of an entrepreneurial, agile approach to providing students with hands-on practical experience that break the boundaries of traditional internships and research. In addition to providing top-quality graduates that are employed around the world at high-profile studios, Seneca also partners directly with professional content creation studios to become deeply involved in short film, gaming, interactive media, and public awareness projects.

 

Sheridan College

Sheridan is a world leader in Animation education. Our Honours Bachelor of Animation, and postgraduate certificates in Computer Animation, VFX and Digital Creature Animation are consistently ranked the Top 10 in the world. With over 300 years of industry experience our faculty teach students in state-of-the-art facilities with the same software and hardware used at studios today. Around 95% of graduates are employed in the industry at studios like Guru, Disney, Nelvana, Pipeline, Pixar, House of Cool, ILM, Atomic Cartoons and Jam Filled.

For over 50 years Sheridan has trained Academy, Emmy and Annie Award Winners including Domee Shi, the first female to solo direct a Pixar feature film, Turning Red. Gyimah Gariba creator of children’s show Big Blue. Steve “Spaz” Williams who built the digital dinosaurs in Jurassic Park revolutionizing the VFX Industry. Dean DeBlois writer/director of the How to Train Your Dragon franchise.

Visit https://www.sheridancollege.ca/ to learn more!

 

Vancouver Film School (VFS)

Vancouver Film School’s programs in 3D Animation & Visual Effects, Classical Animation, Concept Art and Digital Design are consistently recognized as among the best in the world.

  • Graduate in just one year with more hands-on, practical knowledge than graduates of many 4-year degree programs.
  • Learn from active creative professionals who bring the latest industry practices right into the classroom.
  • Work in studio environments that prepare you to step seamlessly into the industry.
  • Join an alumni roster that has worked on award-winning titles such as Dune, Across the Spider-verse, Arcane, Guardians of the Galaxy, and many more!
  • Year-round start dates help you start your career at any time of the year.

Artist Features

OIAF is honoured to foster a community of animation fans, aspiring artists, and accomplished creators. Below are a few Artist Features from well-known animators in the community who were kind enough to offer their advice to aspiring animation students.

Interview from Nov 2022

Amanda Forbis

Education: University of Lethbridge (2 years) Emily Carr University of Art and Design (4 years, diploma)

Current Location: Calgary

Current Job Title: Freelance Director

About: With my co-director, Wendy Tilby, I have made short animated films for the National Film Board (When the Day Breaks, Wild Life, and The Flying Sailor) and co-directed numerous commercials for GM, Suntory, and United Airlines, among others.

 

Read the full interview with Amanda
Looking back, what’s the most important or useful thing you learned in animation school?

By far the most valuable part of my education was making three or four films of my own and being responsible for every detail of production, from beginning to end. Make your own film and finish it!

The second most valuable thing I learned was to take (and give!) constructive criticism. There’s no better way to learn what does and doesn’t work in your project, and how to differentiate between valuable comments and those you can reject. (You also have to recognize when you’re being defensive, because that usually means you’re reluctant to give up a pet idea that probably doesn’t work.)

For me, art school was also the ideal low-stakes environment in which to experiment (and fail a lot) and to expand my understanding of the medium and of filmmaking in general.

 

What’s one thing you wish you’d known before starting an animation program?

I wish I’d known that in animation half the battle is being able to discern the forest and from the trees. If you’re someone who engages with details, you have to make sure you routinely lift your head to look at the big picture.

 

What advice do you have for aspiring animators who are considering college programs right now?

Look for a program that fully supports the kind of work you want to do. Look at the work of their graduates and, if possible, talk to students in the program. Make sure you’re where you want to be – but also leave yourself room for growth and change of outlook!

 

Watch recommendations and why:

Dissect the films you love. Watch how they’re edited and how they’re structured. Analyze the animation frame by frame. Listen to the soundtrack – for how each sound is used, but more importantly, how music and effects influence the film overall. (Animators sometimes don’t think hard enough about sound!) There’s a world of creativity  to be explored in every great film.

Follow Amanda on Instagram: @tilbyforbis

Interview from Nov 2021

Angela Stempel

Education: Experimental Animation, CalArts MFA ‘17,
Art History, Tufts University BA ‘11,
School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston BFA ‘11

Current Location: Los Angeles

Current Job Title: Venezuelan-American artist and film director

About: I’m an Artist and Director working in animation. I made the 2021 OIAF Signal Film and designed the poster with my friend Amanda Bonaiuto. I was recently the Animation Supervisor on Pen15’s Animated Special, Jacuzzi (Hulu/Starburns).

 

Read the full interview with Angela
Looking back, what’s the most important or useful thing you learned in animation school?
There’s too many important lessons to list! I’d say the value of community and of just sitting down and doing the work. Your community at school will hopefully be a part of your life well after you graduate, and it’s important to appreciate that and to support each other in your artistic goals, help each other out in projects if possible. Animation outside of school is a really collaborative art form, and every part of that collaboration is essential to making the best work. I’m really grateful for the friends I made at school who continue to inspire me, and with whom I wish I had collaborated more. The second thing is: do the work. Be active about the work. A lot of creativity comes from practice, not just a sudden stroke of lightning. Writing is a practice. Drawing is a practice. Animating is a practice. All of it takes time, and you can only get better at these the more you do it. Also, research! Watch films! Stay inspired by looking at art! There’s too many things to list.

What’s one thing you wish you’d known or considered before starting an animation program?
Physical health. I wish I’d know how taxing Animation is on our bodies. This isn’t something that animation schools tend to address, but I think they should. On a personal level, I wish I had taken steps to look after my posture, to strengthen my body so I could avoid injuring myself with bad work habits (sitting for hours at a desk without taking breaks, holding my arm out at the wrong angle and getting carpel tunnel, etc). A lot of those habits form at school, trying to meet deadlines and working overnight. I wish I had considered the impact of those bad habits and started to correct them by informing myself and doing the necessary stretches and exercises. I encourage animation programs to consider this and build it into their curriculum so that their graduating artists can have longer careers and healthier bodies.

What advice do you have for aspiring animators who are considering college programs right now?
I know that right now there’s a lot of ways to learn and improve your animation skills online, but I’m still very happy that I went to school for it because of the community I made there. I think if you want to do something that is more technically focused or motion graphics, there might be alternatives to 4 year animation programs to consider. I’d recommend that students think about what they like about animation, research the schools, look at who has graduated from those schools and who teaches there. That can be a great indicator of what that specific animation program focuses on. It’s always useful to look at the work of people you admire and see how they got to where they are, what school they went to, or where they might teach now.

Watch recommendations, and why. This can be one of your projects, an artist you admire, a learning resource, YouTube channel, podcast, or animation series or film you think everyone should binge watch.
At the moment, I’m really loving Lisa Hanawalt’s Hot Dog Taste Test. It’s an illustrated [cook]book she published in 2016. I love it because it’s so free and fun, the illustrations are funny and beautiful. It’s really inspiring to see her process and progression from this book to her show Tuca and Bertie. She also introduces those two characters in the book, so if you’re a fan of the show, I highly recommend it!

Follow Angela on Instagram: @angelastempel

Interview from Nov 2021

Amanda Bonaiuto

Education: Experimental Animation, CalArts ‘18

Museum of Fine Arts, BFA, Boston ’12

Current Location: New York

Current Job Title: Independent Animation Director, Artist, and Educator

About: I’ve recently worked for and collaborated with King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, Chet Faker, FX, GIPHY, Viceland and lots more on projects ranging from music videos to short films to TV shows.

 

Read the full interview with Amanda
Looking back, what’s the most important or useful thing you learned in animation school?
I learned that community is everything! Community helps cultivate a healthy relationship to your work, it creates job opportunities, it supports and helps you grow as an artist/animator and as a person. My cohort from animation school has remained really important to me for resources, connection, and friendship. I also learned that the more authentic my work is to me and the more consistent I am with my animation practice, the more opportunities come my way. Worry less, stay interested!

What’s one thing you wish you’d known or considered before starting an animation program?
I wish I were a little more aware that there is no race. Building skills and techniques as an animation director takes time and requires that you stay open to discovering new things within your work. I think I had it in my head that I needed to have it all figured out early on, but it’s so much about the process.

What advice do you have for aspiring animators who are considering college programs right now?
Reach out to artists that inspire you and ask them about their education, ask them what was most important and what helped them in their careers the most. Ask lots and lots of questions, you don’t have to know exactly what you want to do with your career, but hearing about other peoples experiences will help guide you. Spend timing looking into programs that will leave you with the smallest amount of debt, don’t automatically go for the big name schools, really take your time and do your research!

Watch recommendations, and why. This can be one of your projects, an artist you admire, a learning resource, YouTube channel, podcast, or animation series or film you think everyone should binge watch.
I’m very inspired by these channels for animation resources: @24memespersecond on instagram, After Hours Animation Community Skill Share, Boiled Over Animation Podcast.

Follow Amanda on Instagram: @amandabonaiuto

Interview from Nov 2021

Gyimah Gariba

Current Location: Toronto

Education: Bachelor of Applied Arts ‘13, Sheridan College

About: I’m the creator of Big Blue and I’ve worked on Justin Time (Guru Studio), True and the Rainbow Kingdom (Guru Studio), and Black Dynamite (Titmouse Animation).

 

Read the full interview with Gyimah
Looking back, what’s the most important or useful thing you learned in animation school?
Staging and Layout. This is the part of the process where you decide where everything in the frame is placed in relation to your character. It’s part of what helps the flow of your story and helps guide your eye so you look where you’re supposed to look.

What’s one thing you wish you’d known or considered before starting an animation program?
I wish I’d known how important it was to have my own point of view. It’s very easy to get swept up in what other people are doing and it’s always best to bet on yourself and trust your own ideas.

What advice do you have for aspiring animators who are considering college programs right now?
I suggest getting specific about what part of Animation you’re interested in. Do you want to be a Character Designer? The person who draws the backgrounds? Once you decide, look up credits for animated films you like and google the people’s names who are doing the job you like. More often than not they have work online for you to study and work towards. There are so many jobs in animation so it’s a really good idea to be clear about which ones you enjoy before diving in.

Watch recommendations, and why. This can be one of your projects, an artist you admire, a learning resource, YouTube channel, podcast, or animation series or film you think everyone should binge watch.
I think everyone should watch Richard Williams’ The Thief and The Cobbler (The recobbled cut). He’s a giant in the industry and his work to me really highlighted the best parts of working in the medium. The playfulness, the possibility, the caricature – it’s beautiful!
Also check out anything by Genndy Tartakovsky (Samurai Jack, Primal). The storytelling is masterful and often with little to no dialogue.
Finally Canon Busters by Lesean Thomas is a beautifully produced series on Netflix.

Follow Gyimah on Instagram: @gyimahg

Interview from Nov 2021

Eva Cvijanović

Current Location: Montreal

Education: BFA Computation Arts ‘14, Concordia University

About: Director of Hedgehog’s Home

 

Read the full interview with Eva
Looking back, what’s the most important or useful thing you learned in animation school?
The school context forced me to push myself to finish projects and I think that was very useful later on. With a practice like animation, which takes so long, it is important to be able to complete something although it is maybe not perfect.

What’s one thing you wish you’d known or considered before starting an animation program?
I personally wish I would have had a more solid base in fine arts before starting my degree, but it’s a very personal thing. I also feel like that’s not necessary and there are some amazing artists that come from seemingly unrelated backgrounds.

What advice do you have for aspiring animators who are considering college programs right now?
Although animation can be a very solitary practice, community is very, very important. Even if you never do a group project, it helps to be surrounded by people who are driven and love what they do, so I would recommend visiting a place and feeling it out if it’s at all possible in today’s context.

Watch recommendations, and why. This can be one of your projects, an artist you admire, a learning resource, YouTube channel, podcast, or animation series or film you think everyone should binge watch.
This is going to sound like a paid advertisement for OIAF, but honestly I’d mostly recommend watching a lot of films and taking advantage of a big festival like OIAF if they can. For me, it’s always so great to see what’s being made right now. Also going to artist talks and seeing people talk about their process can be very inspiring. If I had to recommend something specific to watch, check out Archipel/Archipelago. It’s the most recent feature film by Félix Dufour Laperrière which really puts forward the work of many young animators and recent graduates from Montreal. It’s a really beautiful example of how collaborative the animation of a big project like this can be.

Follow Eva on Instagram: @evacvijanovic

Interview from Oct 2020

Jessica Borutski

Current Location: Los Angeles

Education: Animation 2 year Diploma, Algonquin College

Current Job Title: Supervising Director, Nickelodeon

Looking back, what’s the most important or useful thing you learned in animation school?

Looking back the most useful thing I learned was technical skills like timing in animation and basic storyboarding principals and rules. I also gained valuable advice from teachers who worked in the industry. They explained how it’s important to be humble, generous and a team player. The industry is small and directors and producers only want to hire people with a good reputation. Talent comes second to that.

What advice do you have for aspiring animators who are considering college programs right now?

I would say don’t worry so much about going to the “right” school. When it comes down to it you have to have the skill and the drive. All schools will teach you the basics of the craft. It’s what you can and choose to do with those tools that defines your future career.

Follow Jessica on Instagram: @jessicaborutski

 

Interview from Oct 2020

Lilian Chan

Current Location: Toronto

Education: Master of Digital Media, Toronto Metropolitan University, ’21

Classical Animation diploma, Sheridan College, ’03

Current Job Title: Art Director, Animator, Designer

About: I’m a Toronto based animation filmmaker who has worked with studios like the NFB, Nelvana & Guru

Looking back, what’s the most important or useful thing you learned in animation school?

How to draw with structural anatomy in mind. Understanding how muscles, bones and tendons work together really improved my drawing skills and I consider that the most valuable part of my growth as a student.

What’s one thing you wish you’d known or considered before starting an animation program?

How special it is to have time dedicated solely to learning and improving one’s skills. If I were to do it all over again, I would have treasured that time even more.

What advice do you have for aspiring animators who are considering college programs right now?

Talk to graduates about their experiences in the program they attended. Think about your career goals and whether or not the college program will help you get closer to achieving those goals.

Follow Jessica on Instagram: @lilchdoodle

 

Interview from Oct 2020

Trevor Jimenez

Current Location: San Francisco

Education: BAA Animation, Sheridan College, ’07

Current Job Title: Director

ABOUT: Story Lead on Pixar’s Soul

Looking back, what’s the most important or useful thing you learned in animation school?

The importance of learning from your peers and finding your community is something that really formed at Sheridan for me. I still am close to many friends from my college years even though we live in different cities now. We learned so much, watched so many films and pushed each other to go to life drawing and go to art shows. For me, that time was instrumental in finding my voice and discovering early artistic inspiration.

What’s one thing you wish you’d known or considered before starting an animation program?

I think it’s kind of nice that you don’t have it all figured out before you go in. So maybe just a big reassuring voice letting me know this is all part of the process – that would have been cool … I changed my mind A LOT, but It all evolved very naturally and I’m happy I didn’t see any of it coming to be honest. If I had to boil all that down into a piece of advice for students, I would say just follow what you love unabashedly and don’t look back.

What advice do you have for aspiring animators who are considering college programs right now?

Finding and being admitted to a great school like CalArts, Ringling or Sheridan can be a huge deal, but if you don’t get in or can’t afford those places there is so much out there resource wise that didn’t exist when I was in college. Make sure you take advantage of the online community, the easy access to so many amazing films, and all this ‘making of / process work’ that is available … Animation school can be great, but it’s also only part of the equation, so don’t get discouraged if it’s not in the cards.

Follow Trevor on Instagram: @trevjimenez/

 

Interview from Oct 2020

Christy Karacas

Current Location: New York

Education: Rhode Island School of Design, ’97

Current Job Title: Animator, Director, Showrunner

ABOUT: I co-created Superjail! and created Ballmastrz for Adult Swim. I also do random freelance and teach sometimes at RISD.

Looking back, what’s the most important or useful thing you learned in animation school?

Learning to think like a ‘filmmaker’ as opposed to an ‘animator’ meaning learning and experimenting with all of the tools and techniques available to a filmmaker: editing, sound design, writing, story, character, rhythm, etc…

What’s one thing you wish you’d known or considered before starting an animation program?

I wish I took more traditional drawing/painting/art classes, classes, writing classes and improv comedy. Also strong foundation skills in draftsmanship, drawing, anatomy, color and painting are very important and if you have those you won’t have any problem finding work. I cannot overstate the importance of these foundation skills if a commercial job in animation is your goal.

What advice do you have for aspiring animators who are considering college programs right now?

Ask yourself what you are interested in: do you want to get a job at a commercial studio like Pixar or Disney?  Maybe you want to work in video game development? Or maybe you want to make your own short films? While these are all similar, they are also very different skill sets and priorities. Programs at different schools are very different and some will prepare you to specialize in one of these things, but maybe not all, so try to do your research – ask lots of questions don’t be shy! If you know where you might want to work go to their websites and see what schools they recommend or where their employees went to school. Ask in Q+A’s if you can online or ask artists you follow on Instagram. You want to be sure if there is something you know you want to do that the school you pick is the right one to prepare you for it, because all animation programs are not the same. It’s also not about ‘what school is the best’ – the best to one person might not be the best for you.

Christy designed the poster for OIAF 2020, a fan favourite!

Resources for Teachers

Teachers, sign up for the Teacher Mailing List to receive the annual Guide to Schools as well as updates about programming for kids and teens during the OIAF.​ Visit the Young Audiences @ OIAF webpage to learn more about opportunities for students of all ages to discover animation.

Guide to Animation Schools Archive

View previous editions of the OIAF’s Guide to Animation Schools for interesting artist interviews and career insights.  ​

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