How do I Choose the Best Animation Programs?

G. Wiesen

To choose the best animation programs for your education, you should consider the type of animation you would like to be able to do and how well the program will allow you to focus on that type. If you want to work in creating traditional or two-dimensional (2D) animation, for example, then you should look for a school with courses in traditional animation techniques. On the other hand, if you want to work in computer or three-dimensional (3D) animation, then you should find a school with a program in computer animation. You should also try to determine how well graduates of different animation programs are able to find work after graduation.

Some programs focus on traditional 2D animation techniques.
Some programs focus on traditional 2D animation techniques.

Animation programs are scholastic courses intended for students interested in working in animation. These programs are often available from art schools or technical schools, though some colleges and universities may offer animation programs as part of the art department. Finding the best programs typically requires that you have an idea of what type of animation you want to create, and understand how well the school can teach you.

Some schools offer classes in different aspects of computer animation.
Some schools offer classes in different aspects of computer animation.

For traditional or 2D animation, you should look for animation programs that focus on 2D animation techniques. This can include traditional methods, such as the creation of individual frames on paper or cels, as well as classes that teach you to use modern computer technology to create 2D animation. You should be careful, however, since the market for 2D animation is typically quite a bit smaller than the market for 3D animation. Some animation programs in traditional methods, therefore, may not help you find work as well as programs in 3D animation.

Animation programs in 3D animation are typically available from a number of different art and technical schools. You should look for a program that will teach you certain basic aspects of animation that still carry over into 3D animation, but with a focus on the use of computers in animation. It can be helpful to look for a program that will allow you to take classes in different aspects of computer animation, such as modeling, character animation, lighting and effects, and texturing. You should also consider what computer programs are used in classrooms at different schools, and ensure you learn to use the software that is used in the industry in which you wish to work.

It can also be helpful to look at how successful graduates from various animation programs have been in finding work. You should be sure that successful graduates are actually working in animation or a similar field, as some schools may report success for graduates who are managers working in retail or other unrelated fields. It can also be beneficial to view the portfolios and demo reels of graduates, to see the kind of work being produced by students in various programs.

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Discussion Comments


@clintflint - It probably depends on what kind of animation we're talking about. If you consider claymation to be animation, for example, that's something I think can be picked up outside the classroom. There's also the question of what aspect of animation someone wants to pursue. Are they interested in character creation? Because that's not really the same thing as developing ways to make animated hair flow properly.

I actually think it's worth taking a course, just because the field is so complex and extensive these days it would be difficult to navigate on your own. But there are definitely still people who manage to crack into the industry without going through school first. They teach themselves and then they make their own creations as examples of what they can do. There are decent games out there created entirely by one person, and plenty of short animated films as well.


@Mor - I think the main reason people go through computer animation programs at decent schools is so that they can say that they have. If you want to work for a real company you have to have real credentials and just saying that you taught yourself the basics isn't going to be enough.

Not to mention that companies will usually want you to be fluent in particular types of software that cost thousands of dollars. Whether or not you can teach yourself how to work with free animation programs isn't an issue. But few independent animators are going to be able to afford a copy of Maya on their own.


You don't really have to go to school to learn animation. There is so much information out there about almost every aspect of it, you can pretty much teach yourself everything with an internet connection and a search engine.

The only thing you might get out of animation courses is contacts, as animation is rarely a one-person job. But there are other places to develop those connections as well and you don't necessarily have to go to school and spend lots of money to do it.

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