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How Your Choice of Animation School Can Impact Your Future

Read why it's important to choose the right school as you pursue your career in animation.
smiling animator at her desk

As you think about choosing an animation school, you'll get lots of opinions.

Your friends might encourage you to apply to schools that are highly respected in the industry, while your family may tell you to save money at an animation school close to home. In the end, the decision is yours.

There are many factors to consider when choosing your school, and only you can determine what your priorities are as you start your animation training.

A successful animation career, more than other art careers, is dictated by attending the right school and the location of that school. Because the animation industry has a higher profile in certain cities, it can mean better networking and job opportunities.

And if you've attended a school that's regarded well in the area by local studios, you may have a better chance of getting your foot in the door.

School and Location Matter

If you're willing to relocate to attend school, you may want to consider schools that are near animation studios or other companies where you would like to find internships and jobs. Take a look at some examples of top animation cities:

  • San Francisco–Major animation studios are in abundance in San Francisco, with Dolby Laboratories, Industrial Light & Magic, Lucasfilm and LucasArts leading the pack.
  • Los Angeles–L.A. is full of production houses, simply because it's the movie industry hub. Consider Disney, EA, Sony Pictures Imageworks, Hasbro, DreamWorks, Nickelodeon, The Jim Henson Company—the list goes on and on and there are several good schools that are considered popular recruiting grounds for fresh talent.
  • Vancouver, BC–Hollywood North is another trove of animation talent, with Pixar Canada, Tinderbox, Nintendo Canada, Rainmaker Animation and many more studios settled into the third largest entertainment spot in North America.
  • New York–There are big and small studios galore in the Big Apple, from LOOP to Viacom, and the city has a number of schools to help provide talent to fill them.
  • Redmond (Seattle)–Of course, Microsoft Studios is the biggie in the Pacific Northwest, but Nintendo runs a quick second as far as employing animators. There are other animation and gaming studios in the area, including Big Fish Games and Adobe, and though most of the animators come from out of state, there are plenty of homegrown schools to help flesh out the workforce.

Faculty Is a Friend to Your Future

Have the faculty worked as professionals in the animation field? Learning from teachers who have first-hand experience can be a great benefit. Not only will they be able to impart real-world knowledge and advice, but they may have industry contacts and be willing to help connect you to opportunities that may arise.

The Right School Could Spell Internship

If you attend school in one of the top cities for animation studios, you'll find that most of the big studios have some sort of talent development or student programs. For example, Walt Disney Animation Studios in Los Angeles has a summer internship program for students and recent graduates that is a paid 3- or 6-month position. The program offers participants the chance to learn new skills and apply them in a real-world environment under the guidance of a mentor.

This internship opportunity will allow you to network and work with other talented students from around the world and give you hands-on experience that could potentially benefit you throughout your entire career. Pixar, Lucasfilm, Animation World Network and many other studios located in high-concentration cities offer similar programs.

Besides mentorship and internships, look for a school in your price range that has a solid reputation. Find out if an animation school is respected among industry professionals. Find out if the school is accredited. Accreditation is a good sign that a school meets high educational standards. It can also ensure that your credits will transfer between schools, and that you will be eligible to enroll in graduate-level programs at accredited universities upon graduation.

Animation Education & Career Guide