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Master of Fine Arts (MFA) Degree

The MFA in Animation & Visual Effects program focuses on developing skills in any one of the many areas of expertise within the animation and visual effects industry. The program educates students in all aspects of animation and visual effects, from ideation to post production. Communication, collaboration, and time management skills are emphasized throughout the program to ensure graduates are acclimated to the intense professional culture that awaits them.

MFA Animation & Visual Effects Unit Requirements

Major 27 units
Directed Study 18 units
Graduate Liberal Arts 12 units
Electives* 6 units
TOTAL 63 units
*Per director approval

MFA Animation & Visual Effects Degree Requirements

  • Successful completion of Final Thesis Project
  • Minimum 2.0 cumulative GPA
  • Minimum grade of C in all required 63 units

Additional Information

MFA Program Learning Outcomes

Graduate students will meet the following student performance criteria:

MFA Thesis Project

  • Present an original thesis concept worthy of the MFA degree
  • Demonstrate the feasibility of the thesis project
  • Produce a professional-standard project, with topical content for the industry, showcasing technical and artistic ability.

Technical Skills

  • Demonstrate facility with animation technology and software.

Presentation Skills

  • Clearly discuss work and workflow process with a review committee, using industry terminology.
  • Effectively pitch ideas to the review committee
  • Create visually compelling, professional quality presentation materials

Preproduction Skills (Project Development)

  • Execute projects that demonstrate attention to: research, analytical thinking, detail, flexibility in problem solving, and revision.


  • Collaborate effectively to produce creative projects

Professional Readiness

  • Present a comprehensive demo reel / portfolio demonstrating professional-level achievement of specialty skills
  • Demonstrate accountability for planning complex projects, prioritizing tasks and meeting project milestones.
  • Document project workflow.

Specialty Skills: Traditional Animation

  • Demonstrate strong drawing skills and facility with anatomy, proportion, figure, animals, perspective, color and design, and composition
  • Develop visual stories that support comedic or dramatic situations
  • Stage stories through effective camera placement choices
  • Draw convincing characters, layouts, storyboards, and animatics
  • Apply the principles of animation to create animated movement and performances

Specialty Skills: Storyboarding

  • Demonstrate strong drawing skills and facility with composition, and color and design
  • Create value studies that set the mood for each scene, applying an understanding of light source.
  • Demonstrate continuity in visual storytelling through effective camera placement choices

Specialty Skills: 3D Animation

  • Apply the major principles of animation
  • Create pieces that showcase expression and emotion
  • Stage stories through effective camera placement choices

Specialty Skills: Modeling

  • Convincingly model forms in 3-dimensions that demonstrate a thorough understanding of anatomy and sculptural form.
  • Display a range of modeling skill sets including hard surfaces and organic.
  • Create textures that will be applied to the surface of models.
  • Produce industry-standard turnarounds and wireframes

Specialty Skills: Visual Effects

  • Design digital effects that meet the needs of the imagery.
  • Create believable images by combining elements from different sources
  • Compose shots for narrative power

Academy of Art University Learning Outcomes
Graduates of the Academy of Art University will demonstrate the ability to:

  1. Produce a body of work suitable for seeking professional opportunities in their chosen field of art and design.
  2. Solve creative problems within their field of art and design, including research and synthesis of technical, aesthetic, and conceptual knowledge.
  3. Communicate their ideas professionally and connect with their intended audience using visual, oral, and written presentation skills relevant to their field.
  4. Execute technical, aesthetic, and conceptual decisions based on an understanding of art and design principles.
  5. Evaluate work in their field, including their own work, using professional terminology.
  6. Recognize the influence of major cultural and aesthetic trends, both historical and contemporary, on art and design products.
  7. Learn the professional skills and behaviors necessary to compete in the global marketplace for art and design.


Please see Degree Breakdown for requirements for the program. Explore our course catalog and take classes based on your interests, either online or in our world-class facilities in San Francisco.

Graduate Degree Breakdowns

Master of Fine Arts (MFA)

The MFA in Animation and Visual Effects focuses on storytelling with an emphasis on technical acuity and emotional response. Graduate students are grounded in strong traditional skills that are then translated into the depth and dimension facilitated by technology.

The program educates students in all aspects of animation and visual effects film processes from concept to post production while fostering creativity, skills mastery, problem solving, and professionalism. Process, communication, collaboration, and time management are emphasized to ensure graduates meet the needs of the industry.

Gainful Employment Information

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Tom Bertino

Graduate Director, School of Animation and Visual Effects

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