Top 10 Animation, Gaming and Art and Design Schools in Canada for 2015

Throughout this past year we have yet again reviewed all the Art and Design and Animation schools across Canada to develop our Top 10 Animation, Gaming and Art and Design Schools in Canada list.  Our list was developed through a combination of school reviews, industry review list and journals, and from industry professionals.  Our hope is that it will help provide some insight and help guide potential art and design students to make a choice for the school that will match their specific wants and needs.  As with all top schools list, it is important to factor all of your specific criteria that would ultimately be the best choice for you.  Attending an Art and Design school is a very personal experience.  To help you even more, please check out Choosing the right Art and Design Program for more specific information.

10. Vancouver Institute of Media Arts (VanArts) – Vancouver, BC

Aspiring animators will become really engaged with every single program offered by the Vancouver Institute of Media Arts (VanArts). In no particular order they include: Character Animation, Game Art and Design, Visual Effects for Film and Television.  Students attending VanArts focus on the skills they need to break into the animation sector.  They boast that they have award-winning faculty who have worked with top studios like Industrial Light and Magic, DreamWorks Animation and Walt Disney Animation Studios.  The Character Animation diploma program focuses on character animation through body mechanics and performance, and strong foundation training in modeling, lighting, character building and art direction. The Game Art & Design diploma program is a hybrid of traditional and digital art, right from foundation to specialization. Here you would focus on creating concept art and assets for the film, game and television industries.  In their Visual Effects for Film & Television diploma program they are one of the few schools teaching lighting management tools Katana and Renderman developed at Sony Pictures Imageworks and Pixar respectively, in addition to industry standards such as Maya, Nuke and Houdini. One of the features of the school is students develop a professional demo reel and portfolio for the job market.  We continue to find VanArts to provide good value for student tuition and time investment.

9. The Art Institute of Vancouver – Vancouver, BC

The Art Institute of Vancouver is a solid choice for anyone looking to get into the animation, video game design and visual effects industry, as Vancouver is leading North America in animation industry jobs. The faculty at The Art Institute of Vancouver have deep ties to the Vancouver film and animation industry, which is really important for the program's job placement rate. The school's Media Arts department offers a 3D Modeling for Animation and Games diploma program designed to provide graduates with the relevant skills necessary to enter into and maintain a career in the game, animation and visual effects entertainment industries. Students will develop the technical and creative aptitude necessary to demonstrate and present their skills to industry. Their goal is achieved by building a foundation of traditional artistic skill, and then providing students with hands-on training in its modern application.  Graduates will find employment opportunities as a 2D Animator, 3D Animator, 3D Modeller, Character Modeller, Environment Modeller, Texture Artist, Lighting Artist, Technical Artist, Storyboard Artist, Digital Illustrator, Junior Production Designer, Render Wrangler, and many other related entry-level production positions.  The Art Institute of Vancouver campus was ranked #5 in the Princeton Review.  This is its sixth consecutive year.  Although The Art Institute of Vancouver is a solid choice, the tuition fees could be an issue for some students.

8. Emily Carr University of Art and Design – Vancouver, BC

As with last year’s list you’ll continue to see a great number of Vancouver animation schools making our list, but this should come as no surprise given Vancouver's tremendously successful and dominance in the animation scene.  Emily Carr University of Art and Design is a Vancouver-based art and design school providing a very exciting learning environment in visual arts, design and media arts. The Bachelor of Media Arts degree in Animation is an open and flexible program that embraces diverse animation media. Students develop as creative animation designers and critical thinkers.  Courses within the animation program include 2D, 3D and interactive animation integrating a range of direct and digital approaches. Forms of narrative are explored through media studies, writing and drawing practices. The objective is to help students develop their abilities for a broad range of professional opportunities.  Within the program, students are able to select specialized courses that focus their studies according to their own interests, such as: experimental animation, storyboards, character designs, concept art, layout, 2D and 3D character animation, 3D modeling and texturing, motion graphics and visual effects.  In the spring semester of 3rd year, students begin development on their senior animation projects, choosing to create their own individual work, or to work collaboratively on a team project. Students gain a truly unique university experience at Emily Carr, caused in some part to the very passionate and talented student body.  As Emily Carr is publically funded institution tuition is very inexpensive at a little over $3,800 yearly.

7. Vancouver Film School (VFS) – Vancouver, BC

The Vancouver Film School (VFS) claims that they can cram the knowledge of a 3-4 year Animation program into just one year, however it’s really up to the student’s abilities. Their students do graduate with strong portfolios and jobs at companies like ILM, Pixar, Paramount, EMI, DreamWorks, Electronic Arts and Lucas Film. Their training includes courses in filmmaking, character animation and video game design. Despite being located in Canada, the LA Times once ranked VFS one of the Top 10 schools favoured by video game industry recruiters.

6.  Max the Mutt College of Animation, Art & Design – Toronto, Ontario

Max the Mutt (MTM) is a very unique school that offers diplomas in Classical & Computer Animation & Production Diploma, Illustration for Sequential Arts: Comic Books & Graphic Novels Diploma, and Concept Art for Animation & Video Games Diploma. These are in-depth courses of study, designed and taught by working professionals.  This unique school features an emphasis on community and professionalism and input from instructors in curriculum changes and development.

Max the Mutt College of Animation, Art & Design provides an environment where students are encouraged to work hard to achieve their full potential. Their small class size and highly qualified instructors give MTM a good leg up on other such art schools.  Students receive a solid, well-rounded education where they can develop as artists.

In addition to an emphasis on classical art skills including life drawing, animal drawing, anatomy, perspective and structural drawing, and attention to developing the traditional classical animation skill set, Max the Mutt's four year Classical & Computer Animation & Production Diploma Program with curriculum based on Warner Bros. and Disney guidelines includes a compliment of computer tools and programs such as Flash, Toon Boom and Maya.

Illustration for Sequential Arts is one of the most unique 3-year programs in Canada having been designed by top Canadian comic book and graphic novel artists.  In addition to both classical and digital animation courses, the program includes in-depth drawing classes, cartooning, acting for animation, character design, background painting/design, and a sequence of visual language, storytelling and storyboarding courses.  In their fourth year, students participate in a simulated production experience directed by an industry professional.

The Concept Art for Animation & Video Games program offers an in-depth curriculum that was derived from input with major video game producers and animation companies.  The program includes a mix of fine art, illustration, animation, and cartooning courses, as well as concept courses and instruction in all necessary computer software from Photoshop to Maya.  Year four students have the opportunity to work on a “real time” simulated assignment.  Final year students have had their work featured in

Software used includes Autodesk's Maya, 3-D Coat, ZBrush and the Adobe suite of software including Photoshop and Illustrator to produce work. In year four. students spend their last semester primarily on a course called "Designing in Real Time," where student receive real life experience and act as the concept artists for a specific project.

Max the Mutt offers great tuition value for the student who wants to capitalize on practical real life skills.

5.  Think Tank Training Centre – North Vancouver, BC

Think Tank Training Centre (TTTC) has shown a great deal of commitment to providing relevant and current training for their students.  Think Tank Training Centre has a group of first-rate instructors who have worked on the likes of Hellboy, League of Extraordinary Gentleman, and Hollowman.  Their Acting for Animation instructor has worked on many Disney animated features including Tarzan, Mulan, Treasure Planet and The Emperor's New Groove.  The Lighting and Rendering instructor had worked on I Robot and The Davinci Code and many other features, along with their 3D instructor who worked at Image Engine on District 9.

Think Tank has a state of the art facility, using the latest software and technologies to satisfy the needs of the television, film and video game industries, where student workstations are equipped with full HD dual widescreen monitors. The school also has its own render farm, a high performance computer system that is used to render CGI (computer generated imagery) for film and television visual effects.

Think Tank Training Centre just achieved the number 3 spot on the top 20 schools by CG Student Awards demonstrating it’s presence as a provider of talent on the global scale.

As part of the student experience they are assigned personal mentors from local studios in their final semester.  Think Tank Training Centre endeavors to hire mentors from companies students hope to work for.

It’s clear to see that Think Tank’s number one priority is students’ success.

4.  Toronto Film School – Toronto, ON

The Toronto Film School has significantly grown into its own dynamic Toronto-based college of creative applied arts.  The Video Game Design & Animation diploma program at TFS is a dynamic learning experience patterned after the game industry exposing students to the entire game design process from concept to development. TFS’s diploma program can be completed in 18 months and covers areas such as character creation, modeling, character rigging, motion capture, game effects and animation.  The program is intense with hands on training offered in small class settings.  Toronto Film School students receive focused and specialized training on the tools, techniques and technology used in their chosen career field and learn from instructors who have practical industry experience. By the end of their studies, graduates experience the entire game design and development process, which helps them develop a professional portfolio that showcases their creativity and talent while displaying the skill set that employers look for.

Toronto has quickly earned itself a reputation internationally as a hub of innovation and creativity. The city has reported the highest concentration of small gaming studios in the country and therefore has much to offer those wanting to learn and enter the gaming industry in terms of inspiration, networking and job opportunities.

3. Capilano University – Vancouver, BC

Capilano University offers a number of 2D Animation, 3D Animation and Visual Effects programs by their Faculty of Fine & Applied Arts.  With this ability to offer niche training to its students, Capilano helps their employability in fields like character animation, character and environment modeling, texturing and lighting, character rigging and technical direction, and concept art. To get their graduates ready for the industry, the school hosts online portfolios for its students to exposure their graduates to prospective employers, in addition to hosting open houses and portfolio reviews.  So it should come as no surprise that Capilano University's animation programs have just been listed as one of the top 25 schools to hire from by Animation Magazine, a major trade publication for the industry.  It’s also no wonder that former Capilano alumni are now working for the likes of 20th Century Fox, Aardman Animation (UK), Core Digital Pictures (Toronto) Big Sandwich Games, Mainframe Entertainment, Nerd Corps, Radical Entertainment, Rockstar, Relic Entertainment and Electronic Arts (Vancouver).

2. Seneca College – Toronto, Ontario

Seneca College's Animation Arts Centre offers a wide-range of courses for any aspiring animator or video game designer; including Animation Arts, Digital Animation, Gaming and Visual Effects for Film and TV.  The students that graduate from Seneca are well trained in the artistic application of the theories of motion, timing and storytelling and are truly industry-ready graduates.

In its 6 semester (24 month) Animation program, graduates are developed to meet the specific demands of studios in need of highly–trained animators; the curriculum focuses on balancing creative and technical skills to create a high quality industry-ready portfolio.  Graduates also are able to draw storyboards, design characters and sets, compose scenes, light the environment and characters, and animate the character in a convincing and believable way.

The school also offers a 2 semester (8 months) 3D Computer Based Modeling and Animation program which specializes in 3D computer based modeling and animation. As a graduate form this program, you’ll use the latest in high-end computer workstations and learn the tools to problem solve, and to create finished portfolio projects using Maya, Nuke, Mental Ray and the Arnold Renderer animation software. This program allows students to focus careers in 3D animation.

In Seneca’s Game Art and Animation, students learn the skills to develop game art including techniques such as modeling, animation, texturing and game engine integration using the latest high-end computer hardware and software. Their studies will focus on learning the tools to develop amazing game art and to incorporate that art into real-time environments using 3D Studio Max, Zbrush, Unreal Engine and other game development tools.

Additionally, Seneca College offers post-diploma programs in 3D Animation and Visual Effects for Film and Television where students will be introduced to the various techniques used to create visual effects for film and television. Studies focus on the software tools used to create visual effects and issues involved in combining these effects with live action footage. The result of student’s final project will be a professional portfolio that would be used to apply for employment.  Software taught in this course includes The Foundry's Nuke compositing program and Autodesk's Maya 3D package.

1. Sheridan College - Oakville, Ontario

As with last year, when talking with top animation employers to see what the most sought after graduates are, ALL of them said they would love to get their hands on a Sheridan College animation graduate. No surprise there though as Sheridan is world renowned; at one point in the not so distant past, Sheridan was referred to as the Harvard of animation schools. Students considering attending Sheridan College better be very committed and passionate individuals because it is an extremely intensive 4-year program. However all that hard work does pay off; the school's award-winning graduates have gone on to many industry leaders like Pixar Animation Studios, Walt Disney Animation Studios, DreamWorks, Lucasfilms, Electronic Arts, Cookie Jar, Cuppa Coffee, Studio B, Don Bluth Productions, Corus, Nelvana, and most other prominent studios. In fact, many grads have their choice of studios.

What makes Sheridan one of the leading animation colleges in the world seems to be adhering to the industry basics and doing it better than anyone else.  For example, there is rigorous instruction in both classical and computer animation where students learn that great animators have to understand 2D principles of movement, performance and expression. Sheridan’s animation program stresses the art and movement fundamentals that underlie all animation, regardless of technique.  Additionally Sheridan has a deep pool of faculty who are not only extremely talented but have the kind of experience that students can only dream of.

Sheridan offers a 4-year Bachelor of Applied Arts in Animation degree, a 1-year certificate program in Computer Animation, and two one-year post grad degrees in Game Level Design, and Game Development - Advanced Programming.  If you are hoping to earn the opportunity to endure the torturous workload at Sheridan, first you better prepare a winning portfolio because their portfolio requirements for entrance are unreal.  For these reasons Sheridan College earns our number one spot.