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Many believe that Stan Winston’s lifelike computer animation—his menacing “dinosaur animatronics,” featured in Jurassic Park—forever changed the way audiences could experience special effects. And there’s more groundbreaking work being done in animation and special effects every day by people with amazing ideas and the skills to pursue them. Not all programs combine the two fields, but some do, and much of the material overlaps. During your studies, you’ll learn the basics of animation, such as stop-motion and two- and three-dimensional animation, as well as how to best integrate all the elements that make an animated character come alive—the drawing itself, the dialogue, the sound effects. And the characters you create need something to do—so you’ll also learn how to plot a story.

If your interest is special effects, you’ll learn how to manipulate audiences’ audiovisual senses to create your desired impact. You’ll gain an understanding of how perception works and how this perception can be “tricked.” With your new knowledge and technical skills, you’ll be on your way to learning exactly how the jaw-dropping effects that you’ve always loved in the movies are created—and, eventually, you’ll be able to create those effects on your own or with a team.

In your pursuit of a degree in animation and special effects, you’ll also dabble in art history. And by evaluating great animators and special effects artists of the past and present, you’ll begin to perfect your own aesthetic and carry out your own creative visions.


  • 3D Character Animation

  • Animation Storyboarding

  • Digital Video & Audio

  • Figure & Context

  • Figure & Dynamics

  • Historical & Contemporary Issues in Electronic Art

  • Image & Color

  • Motion for Computer Animation

  • Observation & Color

  • Perceptual Systems

  • Raster Imaging for Computer Graphics

  • Special Effects for Film & Video

  • Vector Imaging for Computer Graphics

  • Visual Programming


Your best preparation for a major in Animation and Special Effects is to take as many art and computer courses as you can. The more computer programming you can learn now, the better! But don’t neglect more traditional courses in the humanities and sciences—many programs in animation are very competitive, and having a broad knowledge base will work in your favor. Also, good writing and communication skills are vital to any career in the arts.