Directors of Disney, Pixar and DreamWorks Films Directors of Disney, Pixar and DreamWorks Films
Feature FilmIdeas/Commentary

Directors of Disney, Pixar and DreamWorks Films

Pixar, Disney and DreamWorks Directors

Even though I’ve always been aware of the dominance of CalArts alumni within the West Coast industry, I was still surprised to see the above chart posted on a message board. Is there any other creative industry that is so dominated by one school? I certainly can’t think of any.

A similar chart could be made for TV series produced at Nick and Cartoon Network. CalArts alumni have created Spongebob, El Tigre, Dexter’s Lab, Powerpuff Girls, My Life as a Teenage Robot, The X’s, Time Squad, Adventure Time, Fairly OddParents, Camp Lazlo, The Regular Show, the list goes on and on.

Let me be very clear. This is not meant to be twisted into a criticism of the students attending CalArts; there is an above-average level of talent that attends the school and they obviously should be delighted that people want to hire them. But on any given year, I see just as many promising animation students graduate from other schools as I do from CalArts. So the overwhelming dominance of CalArts students at the highest creative levels of certain studios strikes me as being disproportionate to the caliber of talent spread across American animation schools. If anything, it speaks volumes about the state of our industry and its inability to look for fresh ideas beyond a single safe-and-approved farm team.

The main takeaway? West Coast animation is not a level playing field that judges artists purely on the basis of skill, talent, and ideas. If you’ve gone to an animation school other than CalArts, you probably have a better shot of winning the Powerball than you do directing a film at one of these companies.

UPDATE: Awesome Brew reader Doug Nichols is compiling a master list of animation directors and schools. If you can help fill in the blanks, please post in the comments. We’ll share the findings once its as complete as possible.

  • Colin Fleming

    “Let me be very clear. This is not meant to be twisted into a criticism of the students attending CalArts.” – Right its just a criticism to anyone who HAS attended CalArts.

  • Tom

    I think we can go further and use this as the reason 90 percent of the animation released and broadcast stinks.

  • Dean DeBlois went to Sheridan and he co-directed Lilo & Stitch and How to Train Your Dragon.

    This interview also says Chris Williams went to Sheridan and The University of Waterloo.

  • amid

    Colin: First comment and you did exactly what I expected some readers to do. Since you insist on debating semantics instead of having an honest and open discussion about the topic and why things are the way they are, let me clarify my sentence to make it even more clear: This is not meant to be twisted into a criticism of the students attending CalArts (or those who have attended in the past).

  • amid

    A general note – I know the list isn’t 100% accurate or complete, but the general point it makes is accurate. If others can fill in info, please do. Mike Mitchell (Shrek Forever) doesn’t have a school listed under his entry, but he attended CalArts too.

  • “If you’ve gone to an animation school other than CalArts, you probably have a better shot of winning the Powerball than you do directing a film at one of these companies.”

    Challenge accepted.

    – Palmer G. Pattison, CCAD ’11

  • In your list, you mentioned the creator of “Camp Lazlo” as among the CalArts alumnis.

    The creator, Joe Murray, didn’t attend CalArts. Murray graduated from De Anza College. He made his student film there, too.

  • Ed

    I wanted to go to Sheridan, but they rejected me, twice. So I went to Calarts instead after first try. I had fun at the school. In the end, I have a good career and made tons of friends that are all unique and eccentric. I thought calarts animation was going to be a cookie cutter program, but I did not feel that way while I was there. I disagree with you Amid. Maybe you should go and try to make a film every year for four years, stuck in the desert of santa clarita, without a car! It may seems calarts alumni dominates the industry, but that’s not a good reason to put down the program while you’ve never attended. I’m glad I went to Calarts, not that Sheridan wouldn’t have been good too. I don’t know. I didn’t go there! SO I’m not going to judge it.

  • Grant Beaudette

    Considering CalArts and Sheridan are the only two schools that have a long track record of teaching animation and that almost all of the newer schools that claim to teach animation don’t really teach it at a meaningful level (including my non-consensual time at an AI school) it’s not hard to see how the people who rise to the top so far have come from a rather small pool.

  • Ed

    I think you are right though that the industry does focus a lot on calarts. I do wish there’s another school I could’ve attend that I felt had the same energy and fame. A school that is CHEAPER! Maybe Sheridan?

  • JJ

    Tom: Do you have an industry job? And if so, is it under a person who, at one point, went to CalArts? Say thank you.

    If you’re unhappy with the jobs these people have produced (whether based on industry preference or not) I’ve got a nice job waiting for you (or others) here at McDonald’s. I’ll even throw in the hat for free.

  • Speaking as an animation student of the The University Of Lincoln, UK; I can say that making fun of CalArts and the stereotype we associate with it’s student body is one of the best morale boosting activities our class can engage in.

    That… that’s not healthy is it?

  • amid

    Ed: Thanks for the thoughtful comment, but please don’t put words in my mouth. Nowhere in the post do I put down the CalArts program or judge it. This is about hiring practices at the highest creative levels of the industry, and why one school dominates the industry so heavily.

  • mustaffa jenkins

    you’re an idiot Amid.

  • Frank R

    I agree with Grant Beaudette, I think we could have a more complete picture if we had the year of graduation of the directors in the list. I think those that have made it up the ranks graduated at a time when there were less schools to pick from, and consequently would guess that the current variety of schools will lead to directors in the future being from different places.

  • Well now it’s my new goal to break this trend, at least once.

  • Matt

    Too bad the chart doesn’t include Sony Pictures Animation. Cal Arts alumni directed their first two movies as well. “Open Season” directed by Jill Culton, Roger Allers and Tony Stacchi. Also “Surf’s Up” directed by Ash Brannon and Chris Buck. Their third film, “Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs” wasn’t directed by CalArts alums. It was directed by Chris Miller and Phil Lord. BTW, I’m CalArts as well.

  • Chris Sokalofsky


    “it’s not hard to see how the people who rise to the top so far have come from a rather small pool.”

    Or. OR. it’s only that small pool that is given a chance to compete at that level. There’s plenty of talent out there across the planet that simply isn’t given the chance to compete at the topl. I know some amazing animators (and I’m not too bad myself), and the only avenue open to us when we graduated was T.V animation. It’s fun, it’s great, but it’s low quality because we have to pump it out fast.

    Will we ever break into feature film animation? Not on the strength of our work from our show, which doesn’t do justice to our animation skills. So we what? quit our jobs, starve for a year, work on a film? We’re not modelers, riggers, lighting artists. Even if we come up with something impressive, when we apply to a big studio, what will happen? Hmm…never heard of VanArts before. don’t know any canadians in the industry. And we’ll get tossed aside. And before naysayers comment, YES, that’s how it works. Connections are everything in this industry. and CalArts has a line right to the top.

  • i think you bring up a very interesting point Amid. Lets just think–if every one of these director’s has spent four (or so) of the most formidable and impressionable years of their lives in the same state, in the same city, in the same school, with the same classrooms, and conceivably many of the same teachers, how different can their view points, aesthetics, storytelling techniques, and influences REALLY be? Granted, each and everyone of these directors is infinitely more talented than I am, and I am not trying to put anyone down, but there is no way of getting around the fact that all these things are true. I love animation, I try to animate every day, and even make money doing it sometimes. But during the day I have an amazing fulltime job that impacts peoples lives directly, and the pull to go out to LA and work on these gigantic movies that I can’t relate to AT ALL, is non-existent. If I were seeing some more interesting things being made I think I would have moved out to LA a long time ago and tried to break into the industry over there. I realize as I’m writing this that that too might be part of the problem. Maybe if I, and more people like me, went out to LA and worked for the big studios there would be a greater diversity of talents to influence these mostly very bland films. And by the way I’m not trying to say that I could even animate at one of these places – I’m just hypothesizing. The quality of the animation is not what’s in question, it’s the stories being told and the characters being created that are the problem. Anyway, found this very interesting, thanks again for all you guys write on here. It’s just an incredible site.

  • Sam

    I think I saw this post made at the Animatedbuzz forum. So the list wasn’t made by Amid, for those who thought he made it.

    While I think the result of the above chart does shows Calarts have a very strong animation program in the past, and now the Calarts alumni are dominant in the animation industry’s leadership.

    I look forward to the future where this will not be the case because many talents come from all over the place too. Not everyone can afford Calarts, and not every talent must go to Calarts to be successful one day.

    I’m also wondering if there’s some kind of a politic, status and bias-ness going on with this animation industry. Where maybe they will favor Calarts alumni more than other school just because the current leaders are mostly from Calarts? I could be wrong however, but I do not believe that talents from other school lacks the capability to excel in the future is all. It’s not just about the school, it’s about you as an individual who can push that boundary.

  • N

    So I guess we can call West Coast directors both a boy’s club and a Cal Arts club? ;)

  • for a long time CalArts was one of the few prominent animation schools in the country, I don’t think there were really any comparable schools up until maybe 40 years ago.

    Give it 10 years, we’ll start to see directors from different schools tackling projects.

  • It’s all about who you know. And people know their classmates.

    When I started at Cartoon Network 5 years ago, there were maybe 1 or 2 fellow SVA grads in the studio. Now on Adventure Time alone we have 5 SVA grads. When people ask me for recommendations, I recommend people I know, and a lot of the time it’s classmates.

    Calarts has a good animation program and it’s had a good one for a long time. So it’s no surprise that a lot of the industry’s top talent went to school there.

    This list, in my opinion, isn’t a criticism of Calarts or it’s alumnus, it’s really a criticism of all of the other schools that teach and specialize in animation. Calarts may not be perfect, but it must be doing something right.

    I’m proud to be an SVA grad, but I see lots of areas that it could improve to better prepare it’s graduates. Maybe someday I’ll be able to help implement those changes.

  • I saw Eric Darnell at a Siggraph thing, and I don’t remember him saying he went to CalArts for animation. I could be wrong though.

    I predict that trend will be broken in the near future. It’s the thorough film-making education aspect other schools are lacking. At least from what I’ve seen/experienced. That information is so readily available now though. As soon as it picks up, the trend will start to break. Plus all these films from overseas are starting to get North American distribution, and that will likely affect who get the director’s seat in future films.

    This is just a general list but it would be nide to see the same thing for Oscar/Annie winning films only. Remember that Happy Feet is in there… ;)

  • Dave

    Wow, this is amazing. Finally Amid, you are right on the money with a recent article. Statistically, there’s legacy from going to Calarts to getting into the industry. Not only getting in but advancing as well. The talent level is just as high at many other animation schools. Wake up industry, there’s a lot of new talent waiting to get hired! Hopefully we’ll be seeing a difference in this kind of compilation rather soon. It sure would help me out!

  • I don’t know which is more depressing the fact they all went to Calarts or the fact there are only two women on this list.

  • “DreamWokrs”?

    That list leaves out a whole bunch of Dreamworks movies that might alter the Cal Arts ratio a bit.

    I’m pretty sure Nick Parks wasn’t a Cal Arts grad. His two for Dreamworks weren’t any less Dreamworks than PDI’s “Antz” was when it was made.

  • L

    San Jose State has an awesome Animation/Illustration major, and I am proud to represent it!

  • At one point it was the only place to go to get your skills up to that level. Now, there is Gobelins, Sheridan, and San Jose state (for some strange reason that school has been funneling people into the industry.) I would love to see these other talented people who are not getting into the industry because they give the jobs to cal arts kids. That’s just not true. People get in on the strength of their portfolios.

  • The conclusions you draw from this list are asinine.
    Go do some research on just how many schools taught animation from the year 1975 to the year 1994 in the US and Canada.
    Then go and actually TALK to a few of the people on this list and ask them how and why they got to direct.
    You will come away with far more reasonable answers than “it’s obviously a club! A conspiracy!”
    Of course, then you couldn’t write your provacative little article then could you.

    • CJ

      This is an old post, I know.
      But I love seeing people like you on this entry and entire site put words into people’s mouths.

      Maybe, instead of accusing people of things they did not say or specifically imply, we should ask them to explain more.

  • amid

    John S: You’re putting words in my mouth. I never said or implied in any manner that it’s a club or a conspiracy. The only conclusions that I drew from this chart were A.) it’s more difficult for non-CalArts students to direct a feature or create an animated series at particular animation studios, and B.) an industry that relies heavily on a small pool of talent isn’t as healthy as an industry that draws on a diverse pool of talent.

  • Also…I just noticed.
    Under Home on the Range, the list maker listed ME as sole director, leaving my co-director Will Finn*(Pittsburgh Inst. of the Arts) off the list.
    Dean DeBlois (Sheridan)is also Missing, listing Chris Sanders as sole director of Lilo and Stitch, and Bob Peterson (Ohio Northern University) is missing from UP, leaving CalArts grad Pete.
    Whoever made the list seems to be stacking the deck in order to make his or her argument.
    This seems to weaken your position as well, Amid.
    By the way, I learned where Bob Peterson went to school in seconds thanks to a wonderful invention. It’s called “The internet”. I often use this Internet to do “Research”. Would you like a definition of that word as well?

  • I’m not putting words in your mouth, Amid. I drew these conclusions after reading your article. It’s all there.
    Did you read it?

  • Dave

    Several of these movies have more than one director, yet only the director affiliated with Cal Arts is on your list.

  • What’s with all the hate for this one innocent post? Amid’s just pointing out how a lot of directors for these films happened to coincidentally come from Cal Arts. He even said that he wasn’t writing this as a criticism of the school at all, so why argue with him about it? I understand he’s gotten his fair share of crap from people in the past, but that’s no excuse to bash him just for this.

    Interesting article, Amid, although I don’t always agree with your opinions, and don’t worry, there are always gonna be hecklers on almost every place in the Internet who just wanna sling poop at people for the fun of it. That stuff does nothing positive for the animation industry at all.

  • YK2

    Unkrich representing USC baby!

    USC Screenwriting Class of 2014

  • N

    I had hoped John S.’s posts could explain away the disproportionate lack of female directors, because 1998 is certainly not 1950, and sadly, his posts don’t. :(

  • Phil

    Wow, really looks like “CalArts or GTFO”.

  • Aaron

    I would love to break this trend. However, I feel that schools that are geared towards the arts provide a course work that will better prepare students for the industry. My university (BGSU) has great resources and tuition I can afford, but the trade off is the program lacks a concise direction for students who want to work in the animation industry, leaving us potentially behind in comparison to other schools. Sheridan and CalArts has built up a reputation for producing students who are well versed in what they do (in theory) and it’s less of a risk to hire some one who comes from these institutions. It’s also very important on who you know.

  • It’s sad to see so many overly antagonistic and hostile posts on this site recently. Definitely not what I want to see in a community of animators (especially from directors themselves).

    Amid already said that the list wasn’t completely accurate and all-encompassing (which might’ve not been the best idea), but his point still stands. Most directors from large animation studios come from Cal Arts and it’s a surprising amount. I don’t go to Cal Arts, and this is kinda discouraging, but informative at least. It’s not going to stop me from trying though ;)

  • That isn’t what is being discussed, “N”.
    I have no idea why there aren’t more Female directors.
    Now that would be an interesting topic, Amid!! Why not use your new tools the “internet” and “Research” to write an interesting “article” examining this subject?

  • Thomas Hatch

    I went to the school of hard knocks!

  • The Ghost of Warner Bros. Past

    Jeeze Louise, kids. Unlax.

    Amid’s point is entirely fair.

    The animated feature film industry is currently dominated by graduates of CalArts. Yes, you can safely call it a clique. Just like members of the writing staff of some comedy shows are all from Harvard. A college clique. Don’t fight it. Breathe it in and smell the coffee.

    And keep in mind, when it comes to the above-average presence of Cal Arts grads in our business, it’s not just the directors. The crews are often packed with CalArt grads. And why not!? These talented people no doubt went to CalArts to pursue careers in animation.

    Amid’s other points are equally valid: the odds of non CalArters directing animated features are low considering the CalArt “club” members who are ahead in line.

    But here’s the point that Amid makes that is the most profound: an industry that relies heavily on a small pool of talent isn’t as healthy as an industry that draws on a diverse pool of talent.

    This resonates. All these The CalArters bring the same deck of experiences to all the movies they make. The sameness is starting to show.

    New creative blood — from a new source — would be a good thing.

  • Robert

    There weren’t many animation schools in the past, so these are all the graduates from a while back. With all of the new animation programs that are opening and growing I’d expect more directors with backgrounds in different schools in 10 or so years.

  • i guess it’s not totally surprising to see this list. i always felt that calarts and feature animation were almost synonymous. i dont know who posted it up there, but its true: we tend to hire people we know and most times the people we know are old classmates.

    amid, as for the backlash you’re getting, you’ve made your bed over the past few years.

  • Leirin

    Am I the only one who’s laughing at the “Pete Dcoter” typo?

  • Tim Hodge

    “Mulan” co-director Barry Cook went to Columbia College.
    Aaron Blaise (“Brother Bear”) did NOT go to CalArts, he graduated from Ringling in Sarasota. His co-director Bob Walker (not mentioned on this list) went to Sheridan (I think – someone correct me if I am wrong).
    Byron Howard, who co-directed “Bolt” with Chris Williams also went to Ringling.

  • de

    Amid has a point. There’s no conspiracy but there is definitely a trend. A trend that may put non CalArts people at a disadvantage.

    Anyone for Powerball?

  • cougar

    wow… ease…
    i don’t know or really care about the accuracy of the list. nor do i think US feature animated films are all that jazz… i’m just gonna say a couple li’l things.
    from what i’ve seen of the student work done at CalArts, it seems that the program is geared toward molding hollywood feature-film animators and directors. which is fine if that’s what they do. would it then be fair to say that those who attend CalArts are more interested in doing this kind of work?
    i attended RISD, where the animation program is more geared toward self-expression, personal films, and experimental work. and yes, there are loads of uber-talented people coming out of different animation programs all over the world. but maybe they don’t want to make watered-down feature films?
    or maybe the equation is simpler…
    CalArts kids go to Hollywood because of its proximity and influence on their education.

  • pink elephant on parade

    Can someone please tell me why Amid is such a reviled pariah in the animation community? At least, the ones who frequent the Brew? I’m not being facetious, I’m honestly curious.

    Because every time he makes an innocent observation, it’s met with passive aggressive name calling and feeble attempts at witty retort, which is pathetic especially for a community of supposed cartoonists. I’ve been reading the brew since day one, and while I don’t always agree with Amid, I’ve never considered him a fraud, or unworthy of his position.

    I’d love to see the honest, well thought out discussions generated by this type of post, but that’s been happening less and less around here and this particularly childish hate fest seems to be an unsavory new low.

    It seems to frequently boil down to “Amid insulted something I don’t like” Well, if you like badly drawn Looney Tunes re-imaginings and repetitive bland character designs coming from major studios then bless you my children, your cal arts training did little to prepare you for the battles to come.

    There’s something to think about. The Cal-Art Style. Is it too much to ask for a little variety in character design? Oops, I should point out I have nothing against the Cal Arts Design sensibilities, I just like variety. Oh why bother, let the mud slinging continue.

  • autisticanimator

    Most “art” schools are too commercial compared to Cal Arts. They’re more concerned about the “hot jobs” in the industry like modelers and riggers. Our school even claims that the people graduating from the Academy of Art as Storyboard artists or Character Designers won’t be hired because nobody offers those positions to graduates! So classes that give students more control over things like the story and art direction aren’t really offered. However one could always be self-taught, I guess. It hasn’t much worked for me though…

  • David Levy

    I know Cal Arts has a great experimental program too, but its larger traditional animation department attracts students which desire to work at these big studios and direct these big pictures. As an SVA alum and teacher, I can attest that a strength of the SVA approach is that it encourages the students to be indies and to make it on their own terms. That bent doesn’t make it superior or inferior to Cal Arts, it just makes it different.

    On Amid’s point that these big films could benefit from a different set of influences––who could disagree? To disagree with that desire is a vote for more of the same. And, more of the same doesn’t help our industry grow up.

  • chris

    where are El Dorado, Sinbad, and Spirit, and all the co-directors for a lot of the films?

  • optimist

    Eric Darnell did go to Calarts, but in Jules Engel’s Motion Graphics Dept, not in the Character Animation Dept.

    Mike Mitchell I believe was in the live action dept at Calarts. All 3-motion graphics, live action and character animation-comprise the Calart’s School of Film. Other corrections and amendments have already been addressed.
    It should be noted too that Calarts has always had a program that changes quite a bit from class to class and era to era depending on who’s teaching and who’s attending; the students have a far greater influence in IT than IT does on THEM. People who went there will understand what I’m talking about.
    There really is no “Calarts identity” or house style that is imposed on anyone, no matter what anyone who didn’t go there says. it is what it is, and it’s a LOT of different things. It just happened to be the oldest (and for a long time was the only) school that focused on traditional, character animation-driven filmmaking.

  • Tim Hodge

    What about “PoE”s other two directors, Steve Hickner & Simon Wells?
    Why isn’t Disney’s “Dinosaur” on this list? Where did Eric Leighton and
    Ralph Zondag attend school?
    (I am not sure if the answers to these questions will help or hurt the argument – but the point of all of this seems to be that the validity of the original list should have been researched more fully before it was published, and definitely before it was re-posted here.)
    Also…Tarzan’s co-director Chris Buck is a CalArts alum. However, neither director of the upcoming “Untangled” is a CalArts grad. Glen Keane handed the reins over to Byron Howard (Ringling) and Nathan Greno (CCAD in Ohio).
    Lee Unkrich (USC) should have had two more credits on this list for TS2 & Monsters, Inc.
    And they skipped Mark Dindal’s (CalArts) other film for Disney, “Emperor’s New Groove”.

    I’m tired. Someone else finish up verifying this research.

  • tom

    Despite any overlooked details, like schools co-directors went to, I still find the list revealing. Although I wonder what the breakdown of the rest of the crew is, as far as schools. If someone feels that strongly about the offense of someone posting a list like this, go and post a corrected list. Its like heaven forbid, someone dared to criticize DreamDisPix; barbarians at the gates, the fortress is under seige.
    I’m not in the business, so I guess I’ll have lunch in whatever town I choose.

  • Che

    As someone who couldn’t afford art school I found it very difficult breaking into the industry. I am a working professional and I ALWAYS see people hire their friends/classmates over more talented/experienced artists. It’s who you know. Not only are they first-draft picks, they get a heads up when jobs are available. Cal Arts students are very good at getting internships too.

    Not complaining though. That’s just how it is. Just know that if you are self-taught, you’ll have to be better than anyone. And you got to work extra hard to find those jobs.

  • A.C.

    John S.,

    Why don’t _you_ read? Amid is saying it’s not a level playing field. It isn’t, and it seldom is for any career. I want to be a voice actor, not an animator (I can’t draw worth crap), and I already know that I’m at a disadvantage because unlike many of the VAs I idolize (Tara Strong, Richard Horvitz, Grey DeLisle), I did not grow up in or near L.A. nor did I start as a child actor or singer. I grew up in friggin’ Wisconsin, and I’m going to school in Indiana because it’s closer, the acting program is good, and the community is awesome.

    The only thing I think that Amid is missing is that the fact that there isn’t a level playing field is just life, though that’s unfortunate. Acting, animating, whatever is mostly who you know and what they know of you (like whether you’re a pain in the ass to work with or not). Of course playing fields should be leveled as much as possible, but they’ll always be bumpy, favoring one side over another.

    And wtf have you done lately? My internet research doesn’t list anything since you being on the preproduction team of Bolt. At least Amid is doing something. He writes books and he gets people riled up on a regular basis, which is generally quite lulzy. He has strong opinions, so he’s frequently polarizing. Big deal. There are worse things in the world, if this even counts as one of them.

    Amid, why is my reading comprehension better than most of these adult men? I didn’t see any “HATE CALARTS” anywhere. Maybe I didn’t read it right? Am I supposed to tilt my head, look at your post using a mirror, and chant in a pentagram until your true message of “CalArts is 666” appears?

  • Mike Thurmeier, co-director of ice age 3, Sheridan.
    Shane Acker Director of 9, UCLA
    I think most schools are focused on individual job skills, where as calarts makes you more of a rounded animated film maker?

    But who you know definitely is important in the Biz.

  • I haven’t read through the other comments above, so I’m not sure if someone else has already made this point. However, I think it’s a little unfair to say that students from other animation schools don’t have a shot at directing films at major studios.

    Back when these people were getting into the industry in the 1980s, animation was almost dead, and the only place you really *could* go to school for it was CalArts. Students who went to CalArts had direct connections with Disney and other studios out in California–back in the days before cell phones and internet, it was all about location, location, location. Of COURSE most of the films at major studios were produced by CalArts grads. They’ve been in the industry the longest, and they have the most experience!

    However, I don’t think this is the case for the modern day. There are now a lot of options for students interested in pursuing their passion for animation. These days, Ringling puts more grads into the industry than CalArts does on ANY given year. There are also great students coming out of SCAD, Sheridan, Academy of Art, and Animation Mentor. Not to mention all of the astounding work by French schools.

    So really… I think as the industry continues to mature, we’ll hear less and less about the glory years of CalArts. Yes, CalArts is still a great school, but I don’t think it boasts ALL of the top talent anymore.

  • Thank you Amid for posting this article and initiating this very entertaining discourse.

  • chéBEBE

    Cal Arts is an amazing school and unfortunately, I graduated from AI in San Diego, which was a joke. I would of been better off teaching myself animation. However, putting that aside.. at least I can say that I’m a professional animator, doing what I love. All those directors up on that list worked very hard to get up on that pedestal.. it’s wasn’t just given to them because they went to Cal Arts. Sure, Networking is everything but they all deserve to be where they are at. The Cal Arts program caters to an environment fit for a developing and creative mind.. Those minds that continue to grow undoubtably are going to succeed. Obviously the leadership in Pixar and various other studios know this..

  • Karen

    Left off quite a few names here. Lee Unkrich (Toy Story 2, Monsters, Inc., Finding Nemo, Toy Story 3) didn’t go to CalArts, nor did David Silverman (Monsters, Inc.). I’m not aware of director Dean DuBlois (Lilo & Stitch, Train your Dragon) going to CalArts, but I’m not sure.

    Conversely, Tom McGrath (Madagascar 1/2, Megamind) went to CalArts. And Cars 2 is being directed by John Lasseter (CalArts again).

  • NC

    The animation industry is changing. What this lists shows is how influential CalArts was in the 80’s getting these people’s feet in the door. Now they’re getting the big jobs we’ve always dreamed about. CSU Fullerton has a growing program, it’s newer but already Fullerton alums are dominating Nickelodeon. Fullerton has a really strong program, as long as you don’t let the GE’s get int the way. I’d say give it 10 years and we’ll see a much diverse list. BTW the whole thing with CalArts grooming directors is not exactly the best thing. I’ve heard from a lot of studios that they’ve stopped hiring interns from CalArts because they come in with a sense of entitlement and expect to be treated like they’re Chris Sanders or Glen Keane. I can say for sure that when I interned for a few major studios, who for their sakes will remain nameless, out of those studios I’ve only met one CalArts student who wasn’t even in the animation program.

    The playing field is leveling it’s just a matter of time and CalArts needs to realize that it’s no longer the top dog.

  • startstop

    Why did no one tell me about CalArts when I was in art college?!?

  • Yeah but guess what, I’ll bet those sucker are still paying off their student loans!

    HA SUCK IT!….oh…wait…sigh.

  • Amelia

    Hi I’m a Calarts Alum and yes its true, we are all Illuminati ALL over this industry!

    I pretty much got my job at Disney because John Lasseter and I are like *this*. (imagine that I’m crossing my fingers) He called me up one night and was like, “Amelia, you and I went to Calarts and you know what *that* means! JOB.” And get this…the next week I was a director. It was amazing. We have a secret handshake and everything! Pretty much all my….excuse me, *OUR* film ideas come from the Calarts hive mind. You just sit in one of these like Borg-ish recharge chairs and plug in like in the Matrix! Then all these ideas just flood your mind. I don’t even have to think!! Holy crap I’m so glad I laid down that 100,000 grand for Calarts. Its *SO* worth it. I didn’t have to do any work at all. Everyone just gives me stuff all the time! Its SOOO easy!

    I am 100% serious. Actually I’m a 113% serious. *wink*

  • Alex

    the fact of the matter is no schools outside or cal arts or sheridan have a well established system that really make students better. I should know- im going to an AI school and find myself learning more from pros online. Had I know about Cal Arts I would’ve gone but I was a late bloomer hahaha. Too bad for me…I’m still going to direct a film though… A really good one and at one of those studios none the less.

  • Riza Gilderstern

    Oh snap! I see why this list is so troubling as well. There are only two women on this list! Is the industry of animation a seedy boys club that only the sharpest can break through the glass ceiling. I ponder why that is there are plenty of woman working in the industry why oh why is this list so… Sorry I just wanted to be a part of the gang.

  • I should say this is one of my biggest anxieties come true. I didn’t go to CalArts, and wondered if life would be easy or difficult after college. I do get the feeling of something prejudicial. But now that this chart is out in the open, maybe someone can bring it to someone’s attention (someone important). Also, what about studios in New York and Canada (what about that new Pixar Canada that was just announced)? And while we’re asking, how long have RISD, SVA, Pratt, and all other non-CalArts art school been teaching animation? Because as far as I know, CalArts has been around the longest.

  • SCAD

    There is no secret that the school you go to accounts for more than your talent and ambition.

    If you were framed for murder would you want the lawer with the law degree from Yale or the one with the law degree from
    Vanderbilt University?

    Getting an animation degree from CalArts is equivalent to getting a business degree from Harvard, a law degree from Yale, an engineering degree from MIT, a music degree from Juilliard, a physics degree from Princeton, or a degree in medicine from John’s Hopkins, and entering in the respective fields. If you go to a school with a good reputation, you have a leg up, especially when your future bosses are alumni from the same school and you may even have had the same mentor(s).

    I got my animation training at SCAD, and have found it to be extremely difficult to break into the field, whereas I see CalArts grads have very little difficulty. One reason is SCAD has almost not connection to the West coast (or anywhere for that matter), while CalArts grads do dominate the West coast industry. People in the industry automatically assume I have a second class education, thus deserving of second class treatment. Accurate? Maybe, maybe not, but if so, this industry is definitely NOT the only one that works in the same way.

    Is it good to have so many people with a similar background dominate any field?

  • Dr. O

    Wow, has anybody ever heard of Gobelins School of Animation in Paris? They are by far, and I mean by really far, the most creative, dedicated and skilled artists in the world. Their work is so original and groundbreaking that their annual shortfilm release is one of the highlights of my year. Please check out more schools outside the states and you’ll be amazed what world you will find…

    I think this “chart” shows only how one sided the animation industry has become, sad, really sad…

  • Danonymous

    You know….You wouldn’t even have to have a point to this article. All you have to do is write an article entitled “CalArts,” leave the body of it blank, and you’d get just as many disgruntled comments. Go on…try it.

  • Keith

    Personally I think the whole CalArts thing is being blown a little out of proportion. While I think it’s an interesting statistic, I don’t think that’s really what’s at the root of the animation industry lacking “fresh ideas”. Just because people went to the same school, doesn’t mean that they are all going to think or direct the same way. Heck, look at Tim Burton!

    I think the reason a lot of feature films have gotten bland and unoriginal isn’t because the directors all come from the same school. It’s because the suits run the show, pay for the show, and play it safe because it makes money. I imagine most directors’ hands are tied when it comes to personal expression on a film anyway, CalArts or no. I’d say it has much more to do with management than it does by having an “approved farm team”.

    I’ll admit, it does brings up an interesting trend, however, I really doubt the management is going through their staff and saying, “Ooo, CalArts grad…let HIM direct.” Almost no one is hired to direct right out of school, and I would think that the decision to hire a director would be based on the job you did while at the studio (as an animator or story artist or something) and your ability to lead a team.

    I would be curious to know where the directors at an East Coast studio like Blue Sky had gone to school however. It’s certainly possible that the same trend exists there as well, but maybe not.

    Interesting read though. Thanks for posting Amid.

  • Jeffrey Simonetta

    To be fair these are just 3 studios, names on the list are repeated and most people on the list at the same studios were friends prior to directing. Friends trust and will help each other out especially when millions of dollars are on the line

  • Hulk

    Before anyone gets jealous of CalArts: I can tell you as a Cal Arts alum that going to Cal Arts does not guarantee that one will direct a film at any of these studios or even be employed by them. There are plenty of people who went to Cal Arts that are being just as ignored by the industry as people from other schools. At the time I was a student there the teachers did absolutely NOT prepare us for the industry in it’s current state. My class graduated with a skill set that was considered obsolete by the industry. What’s worse is that the faculty tried to make limp wristed pachouli smelling “artists” out of us as a response to the industry change, rather than train us for the industry as it was/is. Those who made it in to the industry, did so because they were just that good anyway and would have gotten in no matter what school they were attending.

    PLUS I can name three shows/movies that were NOT directed by CalArts alumni or even professional animators in the case of two of them: “Beavis and Butthead”, “South Park” and “Family Guy” are those shows. At the height of their popularity, those shows had more impact on the public consciousness than all of the afore mentioned shows combined.

  • Tim I was going to post the one about Aaron going to Ringling, but you you beat me to the punch, but the funny thing is now he’s going to be a director back in Florida at Digital Domains new digs. Also I am not sure Byron Howard went to Ringling, I never saw him there but I do remember him working in the tour corridor at MGM now know as Hollywood Studios. Byron would come into our figure drawing classes and when I saw his gestures I was blown away by his talent. He eventually made it into the Disney Feature Animation Florida internship and the rest is history.

  • Just want to throw out that Tom Warburton, who created the Cartoon Network series Codename:KIDS Next Door attended my college, Kutztown University, in Pennsylvania.

  • As someone who attended CalArts, all I have to say is that this is pretty awesome and inspiring. I saw a lot of talent at the school during my time there, and it’s great to see that it often ends up being noticed.

  • Vicky Toro

    Eric Darnell went to CalArts Experimental Animaton Program


    And Unfortunately, Pixar’s young short films directors including

    Peter Sohn, Doug Sweetland are mostly from CalArts, too.

    CalArts is still the best animation school.

    I went to Pixar exhibition at MoMa several 4years ago.

    About 90 Pixar Artists participated their works and

    I got shocked….because more than 80 artists were from

    CalArts. They were not old, but young. Maybe graduated CalArts

    in late 90s or early 2000s.

  • Oh yeah?! Well, well, MY SCHOOL graduated the guy who directed Daria (Pat Smith) and Kyle Cooper (of Imaginary Forces) and then there’s a bunch of guys who are heads of their division at ILM in San-Fran

    So Nyeahhhhh

    (actually I really wish I could attend Cal Arts too)

  • Ryan Moy

    Eric Darnell graduated from CalARTS experimental animation MFA.
    \and Upcoming Dreamworks Film “Mega mind” is being directed by
    Tom McGrath he is also from CalArts.

    As Vicky said, CalArts is still the best school in animation.
    Pixar’s young short films directors who will be feature film directors
    are mostly from CalArts.

    Teddy Newton (Day & Night 2010 with Toy story 3)
    Peter Sohn (Partly Cloudy 2009 with UP)
    Doug Sweetland (Presto 2008 with Wall-E)
    Mark Andrews (One man band 2005 with Cars)
    Ralph Eggleston (For the Birds 2000 Monster Inc)

    These young Pixar directors mostly graduated CalArts late 90s.

    And I have to say this.

    CalArts has the most small numbers of student body.
    SVA has 3300 undergraduates students
    RISD has 1400 studetns
    Ringling has 1400 students maybe.

    But, CalARTS’s art studetns are only about 400 because calarts
    has music program and dance program.

  • Sean

    NC is right. Nickelodeon right now has quite a few Cal State Fullerton Grads working their way up through the trenches.

    I agree with the sentiment that this appears to simply be the result of the fact that CalArts was one of the only games in town for a while. Plus, as we all know, this business is a lot about who you know. Therefore, it might not be a case of people only hiring fellow alums so much as people hiring and promoting those who they have met or heard about through school connections.

    My best friend and I both went to Cal State Fullerton, so we will hope to one day add some CSUF slots to that list.

    It took a long time for many schools to catch up to the respected level of education that the “Ivy League” had, but schools like UCLA have done it in many areas. It takes time for programs to catch up to the ones that started first and are still going strong.

  • droosan

    Well, of course the odds of directing a Hollywood animated feature are less than winning Powerball — there are what..? *maybe* ten animated features in production around L.A., at any given time? Heck, we can’t ALL direct ’em! ;-p

  • Derek

    The only director I know from SVA is the guy who made “Courage the Cowardly Dog”. THAT’S IT! C’MON, SVA, WHAT THE HELL!!? PICK UP THE PACE!!!

  • bob

    most of this movies had 2 directors! and their respective schools.
    None of them are listed.

    PLEASE if you post actual data, make it accurate!
    Otherwise what is the point of this conversations?
    I would indeed be interested in learning this kind of facts, but this is so Wrong! Already by line 5 there are already 5 directors missing!! (Mulan 2 directors- Prince of Egypt- 3 directors Ants-2 Tarzan-2)

  • Billy Batz

    If it makes you feel any better, only 4 of those movies were good.

  • LiMitchell

    The director of “Coraline” and “Nightmare Before the Christmas” Henry Selick is also a CALARTS grad.

    2010 – Dreamworks – Megamind – Tom McGrath (CalARTS)

    2011 – Disney – Franken Weenie – Tim Burton (CalARTS)

    2011 – Disney – Winnie the Pooh – Stephen J.Anderson (CalARTS)

    2012 – Pixar – BRAVE – Brenda Chapman (CalARTS)

    2013 – Dreamworks – The Croods – Chris Sanders (CalARTS)

    2013 – Disney – SnowQueen – Chris Buck (CalARTS)

    and in Sony pictures

    Surf’s UP (2008) – Ash Brannon (CalArts) Chris Buck (CalArts)

    Open Season (2006) – Jill Culton (CalArts) Anthony Stacchi (CalArts) Roger Allers (Arizona State Univ)

  • Yeah so they’re directing big budget movies but… are they happy?

    Personally, I think the effect on television may actually be noticable. I’m just flicking through Jerry Beck’s excellent Nicktoons book and, while I adore the look of some of the cartoons in here, so so many of them look like variations on a theme. Hard to say who is at fault there – CalArts, Nick? I don’t know. Many may not even call it a fault. Clearly someone loves that style.

    In film, well, I don’t know how many of those would have been any better with graduates from somewhere else but, at the very least, spreading the net far wider than CalArts would bring different points of view, different methods, different ways of thinking and different priorities. That variety would seem to me to be something to strive for.

    I know from going to my own crappy college so many years ago that the way things are taught will affect how you do things for probably your entire career, no matter how different we all are.

  • robiscus

    Amid, thank you for posting the list and making the salient point. I work in the industry and it definitely is a weird scenario. Even to my friends who went to CalArts(I did not). In fact, a lot of my friends who went to CalArts groan about how incestuous the business is.

  • RiE

    As a current CalArts student, I just wanted to say:

    I see Amid’s point and yes it is undeniably true that CalArts has a certain dominance over the animation industry. From what I’ve heard it’s also not so far-fetched to say that in this industry, connections and knowing people get you jobs, and CalArts definitely paves the way for such instances.

    But, as an artist-in-training, I would really like to think that when I get a job opportunity it isn’t because of the industry favoring me for where I went to school. I want a job that I got with my own two hands with whatever talent and skills I’ve managed to accumulate over the years that I happened to spend at CalArts.

    Amid makes a great point about how the opportunity may not be the same for those who didn’t go to CalArts. However, I would also just like to put it out there that CalArts students try just as hard or more to get jobs and succeed as those without this unfortunate, but undeniable leg-up. And it does hurt a little to read articles like this.

  • Is it possible to get into the industry without having gone to ANY animation college? Obviously the answer to that question would depend a lot on the portfolio and talent of the individual. But in a general sense how realistic is it?

    ps. I’m trying to get a job in the industry and didnt go to college, let alone Calarts.

  • Now that’s an interesting list in any respect, albeit not complete nor 100% correct. This could be the start of a really interesting article if anybody likes to do a lot of research. Some points:

    1. The year of graduation needs to be given for all persons. That way it would be possible to calculate how long it takes any graduate to land a first directing job. Also this would indicate the time window we need to watch when looking at newly founded places of education.

    2. I’d like to see co-directors, screenwriters, directors of animation, and heads of design included, basically all positions which decide about a film’s appearance (but no execs, of course).

    3. The list should be extended into the past, if only to show that there was no such thing as an animation academy before a certain date. Also there should be some research as to which persons worked outside USA in animation business, like in european or australian productions.

    4. Some numbers are missing, like the total of graduates of every year, compared to the number of the few of them who actually direct feature films.

    5. And finally this research could be extended to animated TV shows as well as to other countries. I think a similar pattern will appear in french animation industry, but not in many other places.

    As an aside, renowned german (non-animation) directors of the 70’s and 80’s all seemed to come from the same 2 academies – which is no wonder because until the 90’s there were only two TV & film academies in Germany.

    Finally a word about “Calarts dominating US feature animation style”. I don’t think it’s as simple as this. As others pointed out, execs and non-animation folks play a heavy role in deciding which stories are made into multi-million-budget films, which then very much dictates style and technique of the films. Sometimes I think the greatest talent of those directors is to make good films despite all those influences.

    If you look for films which look different, don’t look for anything more expensive than 50 Mio $. Visual innovation seems to always come from small budget teams far outside the Hollywood vortex.

  • HowdyHey

    What exactly is the point here? So a college built smack dab in the center if the animation industry that has been teaching top notch film making and producing extremely talented students for decades is bad? The idea that a person MUST attend calarts in order to get in to the animation industry, (or at least have an easier shot at it) is completely bogus. As is apparent, there are plenty of other equally successful and talented directors who’s names are not mentioned that come from all parts of the world and various colleges. To say that it’s unfair that Calarts is a sort of pool of “safe” choices is such a boggling statement. Do you hear people complaining about this kind of thing with, say, law schools? Is it unfair that a large amount of talented lawyers and so on come from Harvard? No, because it’s true. But that does not, however, mean that there are not other talented people out there from other schools that have persued their careers and made it to the place they wanted to be. A simple fact of the animation industry is this: If you are good enough, you will make it. Make it in to the industry, survive inthe industry, and excel in the industry. Who you know, and what college you attended is great and all, but the final deciding factor in being hired into the industry or becoming a director of a major motion picture is WHO YOU ARE AND WHAT YOU CAN DO. This pool doesn’t exist. This pool is an imaginary entity cooked up in a pot of angst by those who feel some sort of contempt towards Calarts and the idea that many of it’s students get these jobs in the industry that other “more diverse” people deserve. Why do they deserve these jobs? Just for the sake of being diverse? What I think people are afraid of here is that the same people and ideas and stuff are going to result from having ONE school having a sort monopoly. This is understandable. However, I think we need to realize that it is not the college, the teachers, nor the place on earth which both reside that create the “ideas”. It is the student who makes the ideas. It is up to the student to be different, to have a different view, opinion, and though process.

  • I noticed you have Aaron Blaise down as from CalArts. He’s actually a Ringling School of Art & Design alumni, since he just recently visited here.
    Just thought I’d point that out!

  • amid

    Slowtiger: That’s a wonderful outline for a research project. If there are any animation writer/researchers who would like to undertake such a project, please get in touch with me. We may even be able to pay you for this.

  • CalArts Parent Dishing Out Lots of Money

    As a parent of a CalArts student, I will tell you why my son chose his school. He connected with the CalArts student films more than films from other schools that he watched. Turns out, he knows himself quite well and loves CalArts. He had offers from three other schools. What he receives at CalArts is collaboration, camaraderie, and support. The steady stream of guest speakers energizes and inspires the students. These are only some of the unique aspects of the CalArts Character Animation program. Yes, they are well connected to the industry, which it seems they’ve earned. I expect my son to leave CalArts with his creativity intact, and with connections to the industry. He needs to eat, does he not?

  • SlowTiger, (and others who basically said):

    Sometimes I think the greatest talent of those directors is to make good films despite all those influences.

    I think your point is extremely valid, and I was about to write the same thing last night after my first comment, but forgot. I would agree that one of the most amazing things these directors do is to actually create a watchable (or almost watchable) movie out of all the mandates and story corrections provided to them by these execs. I think an informed audience can tell that a lot of these directors probably aren’t allowed to make the types of movies they want to make.

  • SelickMicky

    CalARTS was the best in past twenty years, and it will be best
    in the future, too because many talented artist gather up at CalARTS

    CalARTS just accept the smallest students numbers
    to keep their student quality,
    but the other schools don’t.

    CalARTS character animation program’s acceptance rate
    is about 10%.

    SVA is about 70%. Ringling and RISD are about 25%.

    CalARTS students deserve to dominate the industry because
    they had to start hard working for getting into CalARTS.

    SVA and the other school students start hard working after
    they got into the school.

    If the other school students want to have the same opportunity as
    CalARTS people have, I will say ” it’s unfair !!”

    I am from Singapore, I just believed what SVA tells on their website.
    So, I came to SVA paying a lot of money, though I got some scholarship.

    I learned that SVA accept too many students to make money.
    They don’t care about how talented students are, but they
    only accept so many of students without careful judging.

    SVA has 3400 students, while CalArts has 300~400 students.
    Even though I am at SVA, I will never except SVA students have
    even similar talent as CalArts students have.

  • Mackintosh

    I am Canadian Japanese, who attended a quite famous art school in New York until the last year.

    I had to pay a lot of money because I am an international student.

    I quit the school in NewYork and
    came back to Japan to prepare for second try CalARTS application because I learned the truth that Art schoOls in New York told me lie.

    I just believed what the school told on their website because they said
    only extremely positive side of their school.

    My previous school’s acceptance rate is more than 70 percent.
    So many of my school mates were even the beginners of drawing and
    teachers had to teach them from the very beginning of drawing technique.
    Some of my friends got into the school submitting just several pieces of
    gundam and batman sketches on their sketches books.

    I wanted to understand them….but I cannot! why?
    I did not come to New York paying more than 30,000 tuition to
    hang out with kindergarden students.

    I came to US to meet talented artists and share my passion and art.

    Many schools just accept more than half of applicants.
    The animation industry don’t need a lot of artists, but they need a few talented artists actually.

    Pixar, Disney, Dreamworks are busy, and they are not volunteers.
    They don’t have time to examine every student’s portfolios.

    I really want to go CalARTS because CalARTS only accept a few
    students compared with the other schools to keep their students quality.
    That’s why CalARTS people can start making their film from their freshman year.
    People from the other schools cannot because they have to learn
    the very basic drawing when they start their school year.

    Anyway, don’t believe what the schools tell on their website.
    The truth is much harder than what you know and what you think.

  • Heh, all this outlines is why I wanted to go to CalArts in the first place! >.<

    Speaking as someone who went to an East Coast school, I’m not all too surprised at this list. Many of CalArts students are ones who are immersed in the Hollywood field from the get go – it’s only natural that they follow through with it during their career. Schools immersed in the more independent, television based environment, like schools in New York, are the ones who end up dominating that field instead. I didn’t see this as a negative post, just demographics that I would be interested in (would be good to expand this to co-directors though like some have pointed out…would be interesting to see the diversity there).

    But yes, I also see this as a challenge! Especially since there needs to be more female names up there!

  • Anonymous

    Hiring practices like this are common in many industries. If you want to work at the most prestigious law firms, you almost certainly have to attend one of the top tier schools. That’s where the law firms visit to recruit, and your chances of getting in to the firm after being educated somewhere else are slim to none.

    Likewise with animation; studio recruiters visit known schools like CalArts, Ringling, SCAD, etc., and lo and behold, those students are the ones who dominate the internships and entry-level positions… this, despite the fact that there are talented people at many other schools. The same is happening right now with Animation Mentor and character animation jobs. AM has a good reputation and some of its students are very, very good, but a huge proportion of animators on Ice Age 3 were AM alum. Is the school really so good that no other quality animators existed? Or is something else going on?

    It’s just simple, natural human behavior — people hire who they know and trust, whether it’s people from a school they used to attend (like CalArts) or students they teach in an online school (such as AM). There’s nothing insidious about the process; it’s just a fact of life. This industry is not 100% merit-based and never will be.

  • I would suggest to read Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Outliers, about this. I’m halfway done, but it would seem the CalArts trend is reflective of the nature of connectivity than talent. I too would like to see the years of the graduates.

  • Staying anonymous for this one

    This topic hits home for me, as it’s something I’ve had to deal with since I am graduating soon. My prospects for actually having an “in” into the industry any time soon are very grim. I can draw just fine, and I know and care a lot about cartoons, but I obviously do not have the training to just walk right into a studio.

    Yes, this is partially my school underserving me. Frankly, I did not know with certainty what I wanted to do for the rest of my life 4 years ago. I didn’t think I had the talent. Now that I do have that confidence, it’s too late, unless I want to go to school again (which I do not) and quadruple my debt, because face it– schools with specially designated programs for (2d) animation– i.e. Calarts or Sheridan– are CRAZY expensive. Over three times what I pay for school, and I am in a LOT of debt!

    I wanted to go to a specialized art school, but my family talked me out of it. They had horrifying ideas about me starving and $70,000 in debt. And who could blame them? I am the first (and only) in my family to go to school, period. And since the studios are NOT set up to actually train employees, but depend on specialized training from stupidly expensive schools, the industry really shoots itself in the foot in terms of perspectives that can actually differ from the “young, privileged, [overwhelmingly] white, [quite often] male” perspective. I see it all over in the Pixar movies. With few exceptions, the “voice” of the film feels very much wholesome, all-american, white, boyish, clumsy, maybe a little self-centered, but good-hearted (who almost always falls for an assertive female). Not that I think ANYTHING is wrong with this type of person, but it seems to be so dominant.

    An industry which only attracts privileged people isn’t in and of itself a problem. But a creative industry? It may be financially successful, but it ends up repetitive, no matter how utterly beautiful or technically accomplished it might get.

    It’s hard to have an interest in social justice and animation at the same time. The history, I can handle. But a present– as in, 2010, where we’re supposed to be enlightened, diverse, cosmopolitan– that only accommodates those who were privileged enough to attend certain schools and be present in certain circles– is sad.

    Before someone jumps me, I am not interested in hearing about the exceptions, because what matters here is the standard. Someone who isn’t privileged and set on the track VERY early, has an awful lot more work cut out for them. No one who is just good with their hands and drawing can even get a shot.

    Wasn’t Ken Harris a used car salesman well past typical college age when he started at WB? And look at how brilliant he was. Most of those early, wonderful animators had no CalArts, and they managed to still be the names we revere today. Who knows what sort of utter genius lies out there, in a person who simply doesn’t have the money to devote all of their time to creating personal work? Or a middle-aged person who could be BRILLIANT when trained? Heaven forbid I ask about people who can’t afford long periods of unpaid internships. The animation world could be quite seriously missing out on a lot of amazing talent.

    Like I said, there is nothing wrong with the dominant perspective– aside from the fact that that is all there is in the commercial industry. Cartoons ain’t alone in this, but it sure is pronounced. I think it’s problematic.

  • Maureen Furniss

    Having taught at and/or visited a wide range of animation schools, I can say that the level of artistic talent at Cal Arts is not equaled in any other program. Most schools will accept students at a wide range of abilities, from ‘just learning’ on up. In contrast, every student admitted to Cal Arts’ two animation programs has great artistic talent, and when these artists work together in classes and on personal projects, the results are dynamic.

    I love Cal Arts, and I’d invite any doubters to come to campus and sit in on our classes for a few days. Pick up a pencil and join our life drawing sessions, and see the level of work that is produced. Our undergraduate students are more like grad students at a lot of schools, and many of our graduate students come in at the level of professionals.

    At other schools, there are of course talented artists, but you’ll not find entire programs of equally amazingly talented students. Naturally, when all these students graduate, there will be relatively more from Cal Arts who gravitate toward top creative positions, since we have a greater concentration of top talent. Certainly, the bonds students make while at Cal Arts affect hiring later on–our students find jobs for one another.

    Just to respond to one thread of this conversation, many of the very best students in both our animation programs are women. They are being recognized by employers, but there is still a clear industry slant toward hiring and promoting men. It’s the same in almost every industry. However, our female students are doing very well in a wide range of positions, a lot of which are outside the narrow scope of feature film production.

    So, call us up (tel: +1-661-255-1050) and come for a visit. I’d be happy to show you around myself. After you are here, I hope you will better understand why Cal Arts is such a special place, and you will see why our students become leaders in the animation world.

  • J

    It could be for any number of reasons. Why do so many astronauts hail from Ohio?

  • Mark

    CalArts Character Animation Dept. oes up and down, and recently it’s been on the downside. They have a handful of good teachers from the field, but sadly most of the staff teachers are woefully short in understanding Character Animation. They don’t have strong design (basic, or character) teachers, and have been somewhat rudderless in the last few year. Broadening the student’s experience with exposure to computers and other artistic influences is fine, but the lack of focus on CHARACTER anmation in a department called “Character Animation” is quite appalling. Very sad.

  • Pho

    J is right.

    I am a high school student who want to be
    an animator of Diseny.PIXAR

    Without insulting People from Ringling and Sheridan, who care about
    people from Ringling and sheridan when people talk about
    the american animation history?

    I saw `Pixar Story` and `Waking Sleeping Beauty`.

    Those film were talking about only people from Calarts.

    Some directors graduated Ringling and Sheridan, but
    only people in Ringling and Sheridan know that details.

    People only remember the big names such as
    John Lasseter , Brad Bird, Tim Burton, Glen Keane

    I want to be an animator and some of my friends, too.

    We have role models and they are all Calarts grads.
    I and my friends did researches.
    Some Ringling and Sheridan people are good directors and artists,
    but their achievement is much smaller than what Calarts people
    did for the american film industry.

    From `Waking Sleeping Beauty` CalArts people started
    90s Disney renaissance.

    From `PIXAR story` CalArts people first created 3D animation and
    they made Pixar studio.

    Young student are not professional to research unknown co-directors.

    My role model is John Lasseter, Brad Bird, Tim Burton and John Musker.
    Ringling and Sheridan artists are great, but who thinks of them as their role models except for the students in Ringling and Sheridan ?

    CalArts’s dominance cannot end because many young talented student believe that Calarts is the only choice.

    If Ringling and Sheridan want to be the same class as CalARTS,
    their people have to do something great, not get a job in the big companies ruled by Calarts grads.

  • Joe

    Although your observation may be true in terms of current feature film directors, I don’t think it reflects the landscape of the workforce in the industry. Many come from Sheridan, Ringling, CSUF. It’s this workforce that the future directors will come from.

  • Sam

    You know, Director is a job scale of 1/300 to 1/600 depending. And that you have to realize that not everyone will end up being a director. A director is just a job post like any others, they too can get fired and thrown out of their own project.

    People who think they can go into Calarts and become a director have no idea what they are up against with. Maybe they do, maybe they do have what it takes to handle that awful job of guiding 300 over people and if they fail at it they fail really hard and get hurt even more with their reputation. But more realistically speaking, I think students should remain humble about the matter and become an animator or story artist first before they even think about becoming a director.

    I also seen a LOT of great talented animators, who might not be Director material, but are mind-blowing talented at acting and animation, coming out from schools that doesn’t require portfolio admission. I think I somehow admire those people more because they have to be on their own to be driven rather than just ride on their surroundings only to motivate them to do so. You get out of how much you put in.

    Personally I feel Calarts is spoon feeding their students too much, and when the industry changes (the 2D dying era), they don’t do anything to help prepare them for that and the students goes panicking than thinking on their own about what to do next.

    On the other hand though, back then the internet isn’t as advance as now. With such rich resources available everywhere, I do believe down the road it’s not difficult to be good at doing what you want to do, and it kind of goes back to the know-who thing. And yeah, the industry is bias. Deal with it.

  • robiscus

    Is CalArtds the best school because so many of its grads reach top positions in film and animation companies? Okay, lets buy that.

    That goes both ways. Fewer avenues “tow the line” more than american film and television animation. So I don’t think it is necessarily a mark of a school with immense talent. Immense talent pushes boundaries and creates art – which is not really what these films and shows do. They are a business.

    Art is better represented in the shorts being produced by animators in this country. Fact is, I went to a prominent art school that had a bonus of a rigorous art history program for all student. The CalArts grads that I work with didn’t have that focus. It makes me sad when we are discussing something and I have to explain who Brancusi is. They have a leg up in the industry for sure, but not for having the “best” school. Just having one that focuses on a specific industry. It can be argued, at the expense of a more well rounded education.

  • Klyph

    That list also conveniently leaves out Over the Hedge and Sinbad, both of which had non CalArts graduate directors.

  • Kyle

    CalArts is denifitely the best school in the animation field.
    Not because of their great alumni, but their students.
    So many schools just accpet their students too easily.

    Ivy League schools have big repuation in the world because of
    their students. Ivy League schol are hard to get in and their studetns
    are mostly the best ones.

    CalArts does the same thing. They only accept a few talented
    students because it really helps their students to share their
    art and passion with the other talented students.

    I don’t think that Rinlging and Sheridan do the same thing as
    CalArts does. Their acceptances are more than 25 percent,
    even though CalArts’s acceptance rate is 8-10 percent.

  • johnnn

    personally i’d like to see more non-animator filmmakers direct animated films… like Wes Anderson did Fantastic Fox. obviously that wouldn’t work all the time, but it could add some new perspectives and variety.

    btw, i really like this post.. because it presents such a simple fact (which clearly can’t be disputed) and results in a lot of discussions, debate.

  • Anthony C.

    School is what you make of it, and you’re portfolio is what gets it in the end. Call it coincidence instead of purposeful discrimination.

    I too accept the challenge. (MAA major at AI of Tampa)

  • Jim

    It seems to me that it all comes down to the fact that the people in charge at these studios went to CalArts and so they end up hiring people they know and have worked with, and trust, and who have also gone to CalArts. This practice seems to have grown till now the industry is completely dominated by the school. I don’t see this as a problem necessarily, that’s the way any studio works. If people don’t like it then they should start their own studio and hire their friends from whatever school they attended.

  • I’m sick of hearing all of you spout the wonders of Cal Arts.
    I go to the College for Creative Studies. I go to school in Michigan where the industry has next to no presence, no matter how hard the state tries.
    I really like my school. It’s spirited and driven and doesn’t try to shunt me in to an expected way to do things. I get to do both experimental and character work here because I want to, not because the curriculum or faculty says I should.
    My program is only 9 or so years old, most industry professionals don’t seem to get anything like a director position for at least 5 years.
    I originally planned to go to CalArts but my parents couldn’t afford me moving to LA. I’ve often thought about where transferring to a better known school will take me but you know what? I have to work harder here. I have to want it and be driven and keep up with what the industry is doing on my own. And I’ll be a stronger artist and professional because of it.
    I’m not saying CalArts sucks I’m not saying CalArts is better. I’m saying shut up and respect that there are schools out there outside the 4 or 5 well known ones with students who work hard and love what they do and are more creative then ones I’ve seen from those well know schools. We’re here. We’re going to stay here. And you’re going to hear about us. Not because we went to the best connected school, but because we God. Damn. Want it.
    So thank you, Amid. We’re working on it.

  • Creek

    I’m not sure about how many annual applicant’s these other schools had, but I remember very clearly I was competing against over 500 applicants for 33 spots at Cal Arts my first year.

  • Chris Siemasko

    Aaron Blaise graduated from Ringling.

  • BDP

    having gone to Cla- Arts with many of these directors I believe it has to do with a period in time where Cal-Arts was just about the only school around teaching animation. That generation of animators/directors came from Cal- Arts. I n the coming years that may change as the younger crop of artists rises through the ranks.
    It may have been an advantage for that age group but now with more colleges popping up I’m sure that will change as we get older and are carted out to the retirement pasture!

  • I haven’t read all the comments yet-But, prior the bubble that created Dreamworks, Blue Sky, Sony and the like, the animation community was really small and there were really only a few arteries like Sheridan, and Calarts that drew top talent. These days the field is broad, and the talent is coming from everywhere. So, the list isn’t really representative of what is happening today. I’m sure it will change drastically from here on out. But, it’s a boost to my ego. Thanks!

  • -You should add up the cumulative revenues CalArts kids have generated.

  • VickyToro

    Take a look the students adademy awards winner list
    ( Jogn Lasseter , Pete Docter, Shane Acker won this awards
    when they were students )

    Student Adademy Awards Winners (2000-2009)

    (2000) Long, Long Ago, Tod Polson – Cal ARTS

    (2001) Boobie Girl, Brooke Keesling – Cal ARTS

    (2002) Passing Moments, Don Phillips, Jr – Ringling

    (2003) Perpetual Motion, Kimberly Miner – R I T

    (2004) Rex Steele: Nazi Smasher, Alexander Woo – N Y U

    (2005) 9 , Shane Acker – Univ of California

    (2006) The Possum, Chris Choy – Cal ARTS

    (2007) Arts Desire, Sarah Wickliffe – N Y U

    (2008) Zoologic, Nicole Mitchell – Cal ARTS

    (2009) Pajama Gladiator, Glenn Harmon – Brigham Young Univ

    = Cal Arts – 4 , N Y U – 2 , Ringling – 1

  • Greg Browe

    Whether or not Amid’s post is antagonistic is irrelevant. As previous posters have noted, a majority of directors in animation have come from CalArts, which has a long(er) history in the animated medium. That lack of training elsewhere has led to a sort of hegemony (temporary or not, perceived or not). But, ultimately, that’s all quite meaningless.

    Programs in education evolve in their scope and focus, but they revolve around talent. Cal Arts has valued leadership, and such a tenet can be observed in the list above. But that does not mean they run a clique. I’ll give an example.

    Being a Boy Scout, I know that Eagle Scouts hold many positions of leadership and resonsibility, despite their incredibly small number (we are only 1% of the total number of who join the movement). But Eagles do not run a monopoly on any business or political body, and they cannot. The talent of leadership is ubiquitous. Anyone can lead, just as anyone, to quote a figment of a rat’s imagination, can be a chef…

    Cal Arts does not simply teach animation, it values an entrepreneurial spirit that is key to direction. I do not plan to attend CalArts after my graduation from CCAD, but like my compatriot Palmer Pattison, I think the odds that Amid presents are false, and regrettably resigned in nature.

    I have the will to succeed in spades, and my choice of school will not prevent me from attaining any goal towards which I am most focused. In turn, no one can claim that their lack of success in directorship is due to the machinations of an old boy’s club in a sun stained school.

    I thank Amid for the post, it will inspire people to change the industry, which I think was the message.

  • I don’t know it someone said this sorry can’t read the 120 some-odd comments. As an SVA grad yea it hurts a bit but CalArts has great talent, also I don’t like California so I am in New York, its my choice its where my life is. That aside take another look at this list, I think its more encouraging that more schools are breaking in lately and that CalArts in the last year or so is becoming less dominant.

  • purin

    Ah, alas. My future looks less bright. I tried for Cal-Arts, but I am, alas, average, or less than that. Off I trudge to my less-picky school.

  • optimist

    Some of these comments are way off base.

    The thing to get AWAY from in our industry is cheerleading “rah-rah” nonsense for or against any ONE place or School–of thought, of opinion, of style or of physical location. Loyalty to UCLA or USC or Rutgers or wherever is in my opinion just as silly, and it’s obvious that that kind of cheerleading is an artificial construct made up of just a shared set of circumstances more than anything else.
    I’ve never found an “attitude” coming from Calarts grads in the industry-however, I have found more than a little anti-Calarts attitude that presumes anyone from Calarts must be an entitled jerk, or rich. Neither are any more true than for any other ex-student I’ve met. Don’t believe cliches. There are no Calarts secret handshakes either literally or figuratively

    Those directors listed(including the ones left out from other places) had all paid a LOT of dues-no one was directing features 5 years out of any school. Not one.

  • Chris Sobieniak

    This is why it was a shame I didn’t pursue going to CalArts like I wanted.

  • This is a fascinating topic.

  • mrscriblam

    wow huge response to this one

    i dont have any plans to apply to calarts but apparently i need to in order to go anywhere with my career :(

  • calartskid

    “They have a handful of good teachers from the field, but sadly most of the staff teachers are woefully short in understanding Character Animation.”

    I dunno how much you know about the staff teachers there, but you need to look up who these people are. Corny Cole, Mike Mitchell(RIP), and Dan Hansen are all part of the staff there, and to say they don’t know anything about character animation is just plain ignorance. Corny was a assistant teacher with Don Graham at Chouinard, who was one of the greatest teachers at Disney during the time Bambi was made. Please do some research before you make a petty ignorant comment like that!

    CalArts is a great school and still is! One of the biggest reason it’s still great is that it’s still one of the few schools that gives you an opportunity to make your own film and be a filmmaker! Most of the other schools dont. I personally can see why a lot of directors are from calarts just the simple fact that you do a film each year for four years and show it to a audience in a theatre!


    CAL-ARTS…(hmm I might have to do a write up of this topic)

    Is there dominance in the field from cal-arts people? Yes.
    Lots of people go to cal-arts because its the ‘school that walt built’.
    But is it the BEST school for animation? I doubt it.
    Cal-arts is a little like a pair of designer jeans. Next to a generic brand that is the SAME style and cut. But it doesn’t have the “GUESS” brand on it.
    And the “GUESS” brand is cal-arts.

    People (studios) look at that. Sure.
    But that isnt the fault of the people that come out of cal-arts. These people are very talented and very skilled. And I would say they are THAT in DESPITE of going to cal-arts. There are many MANY schools teaching animation and I would say that are probably better then Cal-Arts.
    The only thing that cal-arts has that is a big advantage, is that it is in the same location as the studios (california), it is able to bring the pro’s in to speak and guest lecture and even teach a class or two (time pending of course).
    That’s a big draw for students that want first hand experienced people and not just ‘teachers’.

    The thing that is overlooked with that, is that many times, these pros don’t necessarily make the BEST teachers. So…it’s a catch 22 type thing.

    The list isn’t all that surprising actually. It’s not the peoples (alumni) ‘fault’ for being a cal-arts grad. The studios more than anything are looking for people that will FIT IN with their mindset, product. Their ‘style’. Which is usually nothing more than what the other guy (studio) is doing. (and lets just admit it, in the case of all three of the top listed, its Disney1, Disney2, and Disney3)
    IF you can do that, and your good…than you’ve got a shot.

    I think that the thinking is, if you went to ‘cal-arts’, you probably have always wanted to work in/at disney, and grew up with disney and therefore already primed to bend to their needs.
    So….half way there!

    Thats a plus. (for the studio)

    NOTE: Not to say that all three studios don’t do good work! They most definitely DO! BUT…it is (not always, but very often…) A certain type of work. From a very creatively hamstrung crew (willingly and non willingly).
    Now if they can get Genndy Tartakovsky, and tell him to go crazy…THAT would be a step in the right direction!

  • droosan

    As a note of encouragement to some who have asked: yes, it IS possible to work in ‘the industry’ without having attended an animation school.

    I am largely self-taught, having started out nearly 20 years ago in North Florida doing flying logos, show opens, etc for Florida State University’s sports and promotional programs (several years before there was a structured course program for such things). I ‘snuck’ into the industry from underneath, by blindly sending my logo reel to a few companies in the mid-1990’s. It was a reel that most studios probably would toss in the trash THESE days, but it was enough then to demonstrate that I not only knew the software, but that I had a good eye for composition and timing. It landed me a visual effects gig on a network TV show, which led to more VFX gigs, and eventually to TV cartoons, commercials, an animated feature, and a slew of cheap DTV projects. I give my best to every project I’ve ever worked on — no matter how ‘lame’ it may actually be. I’ve won two Emmy Awards for visual effects, and have been nominated two other times.

    I’ve never ‘directed’ — but then, I have no desire to do so.

    The fact that I’ve never attended an animation college has not been a detriment to my career. In fact, the subject rarely comes up.

  • Handel-I don’t think you know what you’re talking about. Proximity to the major studios is about the only good point you made. It’s true, they get good guest speakers-many of whom are alumni. Which may or may not be the motivation for them to reach out and be generous. There are many great courses out there with awesome teachers. But, CalArts is comprehensive in their approach to animation. That’s hard to come by in a school. And, it has a unique legacy that it’s built upon, which will always draw the most interested and talented students. So, there are some key advantages the school has that really can’t be undermined-unless the school itself looses sight of that. It’s really hard to argue that it isn’t still the best school to attend if you’re interested in character animation. If you want to be a judge, you’d probably aspire to Harvard, Yale, Princeton, etc. CalArts is the equivalent, I would argue. Because, there’s tremendous value in tradition.

  • Jerry

    Amid doesn’t seem to understand how this works. Let’s make it clear for him. The reason more CalArts students get hired is because they tend to be the cream of the crop. The most talented students apply to CalArts, and so Calarts has their pick of the litter. So when it comes time for them to graduate and get jobs, yes, they’re going to get these jobs.

    Look at American writers of the last 50 years. I’m guessing that somewhere in the range of 25-40% of the most famous and respected came out of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. This is not favoritism at the level of the publishing industry; it’s that anyone who wants to write will apply to Iowa. So, again, Iowa gets first crack at the talent pool.

    Amid, what you need to understand is that the arts should be based purely on elitism. It should have nothing to do with anything but hiring the most most talented artists. And if a healthy portion of those talented artists happen to be Calarts graduates, that is not a bias in the industry. In fact, it should tell you that there’s a lack of bias, and that the industry is hiring based on pure artistic talent. You should be thrilled that there’s no artistic affirmative action going on. You should be happy that the film industry works based on a simple ideal: the most talented get the best gigs.

    You want to hear someone bash Calarts, find someone who applied and didn’t get in. You want to hear someone bash Iowa, go to UCI. You want to hear someone bash Harvard law, go to Stanford.

    Not that I’m saying you weren’t good enough for Calarts, Amid. I am saying, though, that your sour grapes sure don’t help your case.

  • Miguel

    Cal Arts is great because of the talented students. We feed off of each other and learn story unlike other schools that hardly even touch on the story telling aspect of animation. I believe this is one of the reasons Cal Arts students become directors. Not to mention having four movies under their belts when graduating does help unlike other schools that are not even require to make a film. We have about 140 students making a film every year. That means we watch and study and help one another to make a greater film each year. I’ve learned so much here at Cal Arts and is probably one of the best choices I have made in my life. I love it here and anyone that really wants to be a bad @ss and not want to sleep for the next four years of their lives should come experience this intense program!!!!!

  • calartskid

    “But on any given year, I see just as many promising animation students graduate from other schools as I do from CalArts. So the overwhelming dominance of CalArts students at the highest creative levels of certain studios strikes me as being disproportionate to the caliber of talent spread across American animation schools. ”

    I respectfully disagree! There is a dominance of calarts student films that are better then most schools including sheridan, goeblin, San Jose State, NYU, USC, and UCLA..etc! Look at the list of student academy award winners and you can see it for yourself-

  • Tarddlers

    People in this thread keep implying CalArts makes its students do the same kind of work, but this is flat out wrong. The schools showreels are the most diverse of any school.

    The students have to be more self directed. Nothing is spoon fed, it’s far more hands off than other animation trade schools of note. Cal Arts is more likely to turn out directors, because you need to be self directed, self motivated, with strong vision, to even get anything out of it.

    I tried every excuse to go anywhere but CalArts, but even though it cost a lot and I had to apply more than once, I could not feel confident that any other school would not be a waste of money, or teach me more than I could get off of the internet.


    Hi “OTHER DAN”.

    Actually, I kinda do know what I’m talking about. And since you (in a round about way agree with some of what I said..all while saying you DISAGREE with it, tells me that your arguing out of a defensive mode. Almost as if I’ve pee’d a little on a dream of yours. Believe me…i’m not trying to attack cal-arts. I actually like cal-arts. But I’m just being honest about it.

    Is Cal-Arts a great school. Eh…ok. It’s arguable. It’s a GOOD school. with ebbs and wanes. Are there other great schools? Absolutely. More and more as technology comes into the forefront. For movies (live and animated) tv, video games, etc etc.
    The schools are popping up all over.
    The thing with cal-arts IS the draw of “tradition”.
    The “Name brand” BABY!

    But looky looky..If you go to another school, lets say SCAD.
    SCAD is a very good school, with (I would argue) just as much “comprehensive in their approach to animation,” as cal-arts…
    The only thing, is how good your reel is. Not really the school.

    I did.

    And your reel is strong because YOU put the work into it. Not the teacher, not the school, not yo’ momma and poppa flippin the bill to send you to a name brand school so you can get name brand drunk at a name brand art party on name brand tequilla and pass out butt nekid on a name brand installation sculpture built by some other doof who was also duped into paying big bucks for a name brand school.

    You put the work into your reel, and if its strong matter where you go to school…’ll be ok.

    All those people in the list above went to school there when there were actually very few other schools to choose from. But now…there’s tons.
    Cal-arts is a fine school. But its not the only school and could be argued if its now the best school.
    ….unless you LIKE to waste money for designer jeans.

  • The Obvious

    “The reason more CalArts students get hired is because they tend to be the cream of the crop. The most talented students apply to CalArts, and so Calarts has their pick of the litter. So when it comes time for them to graduate and get jobs, yes, they’re going to get these jobs.”

    “You want to hear someone bash Calarts, find someone who applied and didn’t get in.”


    Those comments do not help defend CalArts in any shape form or fashion. I don’t even know where to begin.

    I teach at a very prestigious college, and I frequently remind my students that they are some of the best young talent who have the resources and the opportunity to attend a college that opens doors with its name alone. I do not say that as a dig, I attended the school also and had the same opportunities they have, but thinking you get opportunities solely on your merit assumes life is equally fair for everyone with drive, ability, and a dream and it is not.

    As an educator, I am gravely concerned with the concentration of opportunity being restricted by income tax bracket or a college’s influence in a particular arena. As a member of an institution that falls into this category, however, I cannot deny that the wealth required to attend these schools limits the pool and gives students who meet the criteria for acceptance(AND have the money) a golden ticket to the land of opportunity. I dislike the absurd rivalry between visual arts institutions as much as anyone, but there is an institutionalized preference to every system.

    “People in this thread keep implying CalArts makes its students do the same kind of work, but this is flat out wrong. The schools showreels are the most diverse of any school. The students have to be more self directed. Nothing is spoon fed, it’s far more hands off than other animation trade schools of note. Cal Arts is more likely to turn out directors, because you need to be self directed, self motivated, with strong vision, to even get anything out of it.”


    I have no opinion on whether the students produce the same kind of work, but the most diverse showreels of any school? What independent body came to that conclusion? How would one even measure diversity of showreels? I’m assuming CalArts is the only school of this kind you’ve actually attended, so how would you know? There is no evidence to prove that Cal Arts students are more self directed than students at any other visual arts school. I would imagine that a young filmmaker at a visual arts school, with none of the connections that CalArts itself promotes itself as having, who breaks into the field is way more self directed and self motivated.

    Again, to be clear, there is nothing wrong with having talent, great opportunities, and being fortunate. I have had great opportunities and been extremely fortunate. I do not, however, think it’s healthy to discount luck, opportunity, and privilege when assessing my accomplishments.

    I am sure there are a lot of students at CalArts who feel the same way because I don’t assume anything negative about the student body’s motivations or their appreciation of the opportunity to attend what I’m sure is a fine institution.

  • JMatte

    As someone else has pointed out, students or future students would be wrong to think that CalArts is the be all and end all of animation schools. Not to take anything away from its programs or teachers, but it IS possible to get into the industry by attending any numbers of other schools.
    Find the one that is right for you. Be it money or distance. Also do your research: find out what graduates are saying about their experience at their schools.

    So you may not start in a big studio. Perhaps your first job will be with a video game company, television series, flash animation for greeting cards, or any other numbers of other artistic endeavours. It doesn’t mean you won’t reach your goals someday, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with getting experience at the smaller places.
    But hey, power to you if you start big right away!

    Just getting into a studio, no matter where you graduated from, is sometimes also about timing. If there are no jobs, you could be the next grand master, you won’t get hired anyway. Just hang in there.

    The list seen her, though interesting, is small, incomplete and gives a slightly skewed vision to an outsider and may send the wrong message to any future hopefuls.
    Those who want to become directors anyway.

  • Ross

    Oh no! Pixar and Dreamworks only lets people from CalArts direct animations! Animation is RUINED FOREVER!

    Oh, that’s right, I like animation because I like animating, not because I have my heart set on directing the next big flick at a top production company. If you’re only into animation because of Pixar, then you seriously need to reconsider the life you’ve tried to set up for yourself, because if you end up disappointed because you haven’t spent big bucks on a fancy education and are thus BARRED FROM THE DIRECTING PROFESSION ALTOGETHER, then what will you do? What if you get it and it turns out that imagining yourself as a director is more fun than being one? Looks like you’d have some serious sorting out of your life if you fail to meet and enjoy the extremely narrow goal you’ve set for yourself.

  • Amid – I would be interested in such a research project. You have my info.

  • Doug Nichols

    This topic really got my geek going. Of course, I’m in management, so that means something different than you might think.

    I re-did the list and copied the link to my google doc below for your perusing pleasure. This isn’t definitive, but it’s more expansive than the one Amid posted from the original source and so shows a different picture. I’m sure I left some movies out. I KNOW I left the Pokemon movies out, but I have an 8 year old boy so I have DVD’s of both. Sue me. There are other mistakes in here, I’m sure. Some on purpose. I read through all the comments to pull out info where people seemed certain of director/school match and used them as is. Sourced from IMDB, Wikipedia, Boxofficemojo & various sites and blogs for individuals when I got deeply sidetracked. Didn’t try to dig too deep on everyone and the Europeans were particularly tough to trace with a few notable exceptions like Paul & Gaetan Brizz & Nick Park. I didn’t get out all my ‘art of…’ books, but I’m sure I could pull more data from there. (Where DID Ron Clements go to school??)

    I love excel. And google docs.


    Total Movies: 82
    Total Number of Directors: 108

    I was unable to easily come across info re: their scholastic endeavor for 37 of the listed directors. For the ones I could find:

    CalArts: 27 (it looks like more; don’t double count!)
    Sheridan: 5
    USC: 4
    UCLA: 3
    Several: 2
    Many: 1

    Women: 7 (counting co-directors)

    Enjoy it here in all its splendor!

  • GF

    There are less women on that list than non-Calartians.

  • robiscus

    “You want to hear someone bash Calarts, find someone who applied and didn’t get in.”

    I never applied to CalArts, I didn’t even consider the west coast for school(I went to SCAD), and I have a great career in animation here in LA. Boasting that all discussion on the proliferance of CalArts grads in the industry is merely sour grapes is like stating that no one likes your work in a critique because they are jealous of your talent. Its ignorance.

    CalArts appears to have a curriculum perfectly suited for working in the mainstream animation industry. That doesn’t mean its a great arts curriculum. This was abundantly clear when my two friends who graduated CalArts were at a museum with me and they had never seen Laocoon.

    That in mind, CalArts resembles a trade school more than a fine arts college. And often, the work on tv and in theaters reflects that.

  • That’s great Doug, thanks for all the hard work. Let’s get the community to dig in and help fill in some of the holes. Anyone got anything to add?

  • mightgaine

    Tom McGrath went to CalArts

    Ron Clements went to CalArts
    (I saw it from Pixar Story. It is right)

    Chris Miller (Shrek the third) actually went to CalArts

  • amid

    Doug: Wonderful work! Thank you.

    Everybody, if you can fill in the data that is missing in Doug’s chart, or double-check it, please help. Mightgaine has already filled in a few gaps.

  • mightgaine

    Plus, you should add more film names

    (2011) Disney – Weenie the Pooh – Stephen Anderson (CalArts)


    (2011) Disney – Franken Weenie – Tim Burton (CalArts)

    and If South Park be added on the list,
    Sponge bob should be added on the list, too !

    (2004) Sponge bob the Movie – Stephen Hillenburg (CalArts)

    (2002) Power Puff girls Movie – Craig McCracken (CalArts)

  • amid

    I could be wrong, but I don’t believe Ron Clements ever attended college for an extended period of time. A bio by Paul Wells says he took a figure drawing class at Art Center. The following bio also says that he got his training at Disney:

    Paul Demeyer has two degrees:
    Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Ghent (K.A.S.K.)
    BA , Animation , 1971 — 1975

    California Institute of the Arts
    MFA , Film Graphics , 1975 — 1977

    Bibo Bergeron graduated from Gobelins. He also studied art at the Ecole de la rue Madame.

    John Eng attended two schools between 1975-1979:
    School of Visual Arts, New York City Illustration, Film Studies
    Brooklyn Museum Art School, New York Painting, Sculpture

    Cory Edwards
    Anderson University [BA ’90]

    Todd Edwards
    Anderson University [BA ’94]

    Matt O’Callaghan
    CalArts, according to this interview with Frans Vischer

    Mike Mitchell attended CalArts [source]

    Warren Coleman graduated Australian National Institute of Dramatic Art [source]

    Kevin Munroe attended University of New Brunswick, Dalhousie University and Sheridan College. [source]

    Tony Leech attended a university in Tulsa, OK. [source]

    Ralph Zondag attended Sheridan. [source]

    Sam Fell graduated Nottingham University [source]

    Disney’s Teacher’s Pet (2004) is missing from the feature list. It was directed by Timothy Björklund, who graduated from CalArts.

  • Nathan Strum

    Nice list. I’ve been meaning to compile something like that. I particularly love how “Dreamwokrs” is spelled.

    I’ll have to read through all of these comments later – I’m sure they’re as well-informed and insightful as ever. But I’m a little busy right now, editing 136 student films into *this* year’s CalArts show (this Saturday, Main Gallery, CalArts, 2:00 PM; or Sunday, The Bijou, CalArts, 2:00 PM).

    I wonder what feature films we’ll see from this group someday…

  • OtherDan

    Doug, that more comprehensive list was interesting-especially when you look at the corresponding movies. Ron Clements attended CalArts-I’m 98% certain.

    Hi Handel. I didn’t say “I DISAGREE”, I said I don’t think you know what you’re talking about. Your assumptions about the aspirations, preferences, dreams, and general conception of what it’s like at CalArts is off. Sounds more like you’re speaking from your buttocks. I’m sure many students there have been inspired by Disney animated films from the git go. That doesn’t mean when you attend that you’re fixated on getting there and are willing to breathe Disney. To the contrary. What you find there is your voice. And, they encourage individuality which becomes part of your psyche and empowers you. You tend to gravitate to places that suit your style. In fact, there was a minority of students that actually were gearing toward Disney. Also, you don’t have to be rich to attend-hello?-loans. What you do have to do is get in based on a portfolio. Anyway, I think to anyone in the know, your comments are misinformed. My point was that it is true that there is some great instruction outside of CalArts, I can’t think of many other schools that offer the complete package which can compete. Your point seems to be that fragmented programs are just as good if not better. I do disagree with that. I have taken night classes to stay current, and more often than not, the steps from novice to intermediate to advanced are not cohesive. And, it isn’t the teachers. It’s the programs. The whole argument about CalArts is moot really. The data speaks for itself.

  • Doug Nichols


    As long as new info comes in, I’ll fix & re-post. Conflict on Ron Clements. Can we get Jerry to cast the deciding vote?

  • C.L.H.

    Cartoon Brew= the CalArts of Animation Journalism


    HIYA “OTHER DAN” and thanks for your reply. Sincerely.

    Dan, I like ya. I do. I think I’m willing to bet that your a fairly young guy with a very young way of looking at things. Not meant as an insult (even if it sounds like it)..just that I think you are making alot of the same assumptions that gets many many people making the same wrong decisions. (just my opinion of course)
    To your post:

    ‘OTHER DAN’: “Your assumptions about the aspirations, preferences, dreams, and general conception of what it’s like at CalArts is off. Sounds more like you’re speaking from your buttocks.””

    Very possible that I have no point of reference to speak about. No history and just somebody spoutin’ to spout. Or…maybe I’m someone that went to cal-arts for three years and was hired directly from cal-arts a feature animator and has been involved in animation in some way or another for over 17 years. Be that as it may…Like everyone else, Its STILL just opinion that I have. Take it or leave it.

    ‘OTHER DAN’: “”I’m sure many students there have been inspired by Disney animated films from the git go. That doesn’t mean when you attend that you’re fixated on getting there and are willing to breathe Disney.”””

    Well, everyone has differing inspirations. Sure. But chances are that a great deal of those students grew up on disney and have a raging toon hardon for the history of disney and the whole romantic view of it. Sure who wouldn’t. And cal-arts is certainly a part of that.

    But…if I were that someone who went to cal arts for three years…what if I told you that the big thing back then was for MANY to bag on disney. I mean really hardcore baggin. About style, and design. Just being nasty to da’ mouse.

    Then…what would you say if I told you that many of those SAME people that bagged on disney, well those same people raced as fast as they could to go ….where?

    Yup…disney. AND at a time when there were other studios to go to .

    And one can’t blame them either. I certainly don’t. BUT…Individuality stops at the admissions door my friend. Which goes to your next line:

    ‘OTHER DAN’: “”What you find there is your voice. And, they encourage individuality which becomes part of your psyche and empowers you. You tend to gravitate to places that suit your style.””

    I believe it was Confucius that said it best: “VATO..dat’s so much’ boo-cwap!”

    It’s beautiful and it brought a tear to my eye, but…comon. Anyone that wants to be honest about finding their “voice” and “individuality” can freely go downstairs to the “experimental” animation classes. They do WONDERFUL work. ( and i mean that)

    BUT…if your stepping into ‘character animation’, that’s meant for STUDIO work. Your going to look at alot of old animation and study alot of old animators work and design. Will you find your own voice? eventually. But if your paying buttloads of money to be in a private art school, to learn ‘character animation’….your not going to waste alot of time trying to be an ‘individual’. Your going to learn (if your lucky) the ins and outs of full animation. The basics. The fundamentals. Acting and action.

    And if your lucky, you’ll get hired as an inbetweener (if we’re talking traditional) and then spend alot of time going up the later. But the same applies now with CG. They aren’t hiring you because you spent time in school being an “individual”. They’re hiring you to work within THEIR guidlines. When you’ve proven to be a disciplined lil feller and have earned it…then you get to be an “individual”.
    Which consists of a directing animator saying “no no…do it like me.”

    In school, yes you can make any sort of ‘film’ you want. But MOST (because they are thinking clearly) know that they have to appease a studio. So..they’ll work at their designs and they’ll work at their most important scenes in the film. Be it an acting scene or an action scene. They want to impress the studios with THAT and not necessarily their “individuality”.

    ‘OTHER DAN’: “”Also, you don’t have to be rich to attend-hello?-loans.””

    loans aren’t free money dude. You gotta pay them back. That’s….why…they’re called “loans”.

    Pay em’ back with interest. You do know that right? And even if you get into the industry..because many schools (like cal-arts) are private and very expensive…if you do get into the industry quickly…it will still take some time to pay off those bills. …hello?

    (If i WERE someone who went for three years, and was blessed to be able to get several grants and also STILL takes time to pay off the L..O..A..N..S).

    ‘OTHER DAN’: “”What you do have to do is get in based on a portfolio.””

    For school? Yes. But I’ll tell you, that I know that cal arts takes in alot of people…ALOT of people because well…not necessarily because of talent, but also to round off their enrollment. Dude..I know I may be shattering your illusion and i’m sorry for that. But its still BID’NESS.

    Cal-arts is expensive. And not everyone is as gifted as the next person. And …well…cal arts knows it. And many are let in due to just collecting their ducket. It doesn’t make them BAD. It’s just…the way it is.

    They aren’t any different than any other art school. Comon…we all know this right?

    ‘OTHER DAN’ :'””My point was that it is true that there is some great instruction outside of CalArts, I can’t think of many other schools that offer the complete package which can compete. Your point seems to be that fragmented programs are just as good if not better. I do disagree with that.””

    There are many MANY schools that offer what cal-arts offers. SCAD. Sheridan. Ringling. to name just a few. (And those are very good schools).

    But there are also EXTREMELY good classes ONLINE.

    The online classes that are featured on “ANIMATION MENTOR” are fantastic. Taught by many of the same people that are currently in the animation system right now. I would urge anyone to head there first to give it a looky loo. Yeah..its expensive as well, but if you are looking to work it from the comfy comfines of home , or you have a family that you need to be in state with and for, OR if you just don’t have the budget to lift your gunga tuckus up and move just yet to calif (or wherever)…that’s aces!

    I’m saying, that you don’t have to spend yourself into high debt for the designer label. That’s all.

    I’m also saying that the school…no matter WHAT the school is….really only matters to a very small point.

    You could go to the absolutely best school in the world and come away with nuttin. Or you could go to the smallest unknown school who has one ‘ok’ teacher that is able to unlock a mystery, and blows the doors off for you–and turns you into the next Vladimir Tytla.

    But no matter what, It comes down to….you. The amount of time YOU put into it. The amount of time and passion YOU put into your work. YOU could teach yourself if you really wanted to. There are any amount of tutorials online.

    But if your looking for a school to be a sort of ‘wubby’…then there are several options. Not one. And that ‘one’ (cal-arts) is certainly a good one, but its not necessarily the BEST one. Not anymore.

    ‘OTHER DAN’: “””Anyway, I think to anyone in the know, your comments are misinformed.”””

    Yup. Your probably right. No doubt that there are those pro’s that would vehemently disagree with me. It is just opinion after all.

    But in anycase, good luck to you and your endeavors. If you have the passion and the want, I have no doubt you’ll achieve your goals.

    Been fun, Bye all.


    Cal Arts is known for the talent in the past. However if you graduated anytime after 2008, YOU ARE NOT GOING TO GET HIRED ANYWHERE! They don’t give a shit what school you went to, NO RESUME, NO JOB!

    Students are up against the pros who have been doing this for years. They will get the job. And even if you do get a job, you won’t be able to pay Cal Arts back with the wages they will pay.

    My advice, buy Preston Blairs “Cartoon Animation”. Read it over, and over again. (that goes for CG folks too!) Draw every example, get a mentor who has been in the industry and have him or her critique the work. Work on that for about 4 years then make a short. Watch animation from the 1930’s-1960’s. Then stop. There’s your degree.

    Schools will NOT teach you this. They will teach you how to animate full feature (New) animation and NOT television animation or commercials. Who the hell is going to work at Disney coming straight from school to feature animation?? No one. Better yet, who’s making 2D films anymore. Not Disney anytime soon.

    So not only will you have a bad education, but you will owe $200,000 to schools and don’t go through Sallie Mae for loans. Borrow from the mafia instead, they might give you a break. Seriously.

    Art schools are no longer affordable, but just down right a rip-off!! I got so much better as a artist leaving school then during. Work o your own and stay away from $chools. They are a business before art!

  • Mark A

    I didn’t attend Cal-Arts, but I still think I can direct some day. The only reason I didn’t apply there is because when I transferred schools I was under the impression they did not take transfer credits (was I wrong) and I already had two years under my belt. I kick myself in the butt for not applying. I think different opportunities would have presented themselves to me. I attended AILA, while the animation program wasn’t Cal-Arts, I still learned a lot ( it’s gaming program I would match with any school in the nation.) Plus, We had instructors there who instructed at Cal-Arts as well, we also had instructors who were Cal alum. I interned at Cartoon Network while attending AILA, The directing animators of the show I was on on didn’t go to Cal-Arts. Do I feel Cal-Arts students have an advantage because of the alumni? Sure, but does that count me out? No. Hell, at my current job, I was hired by a Cal-Arts alum, so much for the buddy system theory.

    As for awards, two people I went to school with at AILA, have worked on teams that either won an Oscar/ Emmy, or were nominated.

    Ask Stephen Silver where he went to school? Or David Colman? To me they are the best character designers in the business and neither one of them attended Cal-Arts.

    The point I am trying to make is where you go to school can matter, but the student makes the difference. A good attitude and strong work ethic are what matter most. From experience the people I see fail in the animation are those who do not perfect their craft (this statement applies to any animation student at any school). They never draw outside of class or work. At AILA, I attended life drawing sessions after school all the time. If I was having trouble, I got help from instructors. Initiative is the key, not school. The directors listed above probably have a high work ethic, it just so happens they went to Cal-Arts.

    Students put too much emphasis on the school and not themselves. George W. Bush and Oliver stone both went to Yale….. Some of the piss poor attitudes I have seen on here are the reason why many on here won’t direct, not because you didn’t go to Cal-Arts, because you give up and quit too easily. You have bad attitudes.

    Steven Spielberg went to Cal State Long Beach. Tyler Perry built a billion dollar empire, produces, directs and distributes all his films. Didn’t attend film school. Quentin Tarantino, didn’t go to film school. Cecil B. DeMille, Military College. Billy Wilder, German exile. Do not discount this list cause the directors above are live action. It is still story telling. James Cameron and Ron Howard both proteges of ROGER CORMAN, the same Roger Corman who is currently working on Sharktopus. Frankly speaking, Sharktopus seems like it would be more fun to work on than anything going on in animation right now.

    Here is an analogy that will help my point. There is a concensus in the football world that the best players come from southern schools. The same way animation folks think Cal-Arts is the only school. Many professional football super stars did not attend big southern “football schools.” Tom Brady, sixth round nobody out of Michigan, never thought he would play, he now has 3 Super Bowl rings and is married to Gisele . Drew Brees went to Purdue, not exactly football royalty, just won a Super Bowl. Ben Rothlisberger (aside from his off field antics) went to Miami of Ohio, 2 Super Bowl rings. Kurt Warner went to Iowa tech or something like that, then bagged groceries, 1 Super Bowl ring, lead one of the greatest offenses in the history of football (’99 Rams), and two more Super Bowl appearances. Randy Moss, future hall of famer, Marshall. Aaron Rodgers, one of the elite quarterbacks in the NFL right now went to Berkeley. HELLO!! BERKELEY!! Best known for sleeping in trees and making hemp clothing. JERRY RICE went to Mississippi Valley State!?!? Where? IT DOESN’T MATTER! BEST RECEIVER IN THE HISTORY OF FOOTBALL!

    In the last 10 years only three teams have won Super Bowls with quarterbacks form big “Southern Football Schools” Payton Manning form Tennessee, Eli Manning form Ole Miss (which isn’t really a giant in the SEC) and Brad Johnson (Florida State, which is questionable) Hell! Trent Dilfer went to Fresno State, he has a Super Bowl ring with the Baltimore Ravens.

    Also, the AFL was once considered a joke until it became part of the modern day NFL in the sixties. Last ten years, the AFC once AFL has dominated the sport of football.

    Ed Wood, horrible, horrible director, but I look upon him as inspiration, he never quit. He didn’t

    Emphasize on you, not the school you went to. Work ethic and attitude go much farther than Alma Mater and talent.

    One more note, if quantity over quality equals success (cause a good portion of the films mentioned above are not very good), then Roger Corman and Lloyd Kaufman have most people and schools beat.

  • Bob Winquist’s Ghost

    HANDEL aka Steve Garcia,

    Boy you sure are the same as ever. Long winded, boring, and well full of sh!t.

    Cartoon Brewsters: You see Handel (Steve) is actually a product of CalArts. He was in the class of ’90 and only went 2 years. He got a job at Turner Animation and didn’t really work that much after that. He had to move to Austin to find a job and is doing computer games. He likes the sound of his own voice. He likes to argue in circles. He likes to talk about himself. He speaks in a glib manner. He likes to attack you personally. He will threaten you with bodily harm if he sees you at the Comic Con. He is evil. Do not encourage him by responding to his posts. As you can see by the length of his posts he has nothing better to do. Please ignore him.

    Go away Steve. Go away.

  • OtherDan

    Handel, I’m feeling nerdy enough tonight to respond. It’s really all in the spirit of fun and sharing. It would have been nice if you didn’t take the hypothetical route.

    17 years ago when you might have been hired at Disney, was not long after The Little Mermaid and just before The Lion King. That was the beginning of a nice ride. So, it’s no surprise your hypothetical Disney-bashing peers would have been interested in riding that wave. I can’t think of the array of other studios beaconing back then as you alluded. So, if you did attend then-apparently things have changed. Because when I was there, those attitudes about Disney and the individuality existed as I stated. The fact that you think I’m a young man is either a statement about my youthful self-expression, or confirms my thoughts that you’re a little off with your presumptions. I’ve got a wife, two kids, pets a mortgage and a studio job (11yrs experience). I was in that minority who geared toward Disney, because that was what I loved from a young age. I was hired afterward, and I got my taste of the studio at the tail end of the wave you may or may not have ridden.

    The Character Animation program did teach the fundamentals and traditional Disney approach. But, individuality was fostered by the faculty and came through in the student films. The people I know who have excelled have confidence in themselves that I think the school instilled (when I attended). And, that idea of critical thinking and expression extended to critical studies courses too. It’s the vibe of the whole school. It’s that individuality and confidence that bears director-types which is what this post is about. And, that is the key ingredient along with the connections and relationships that the school provides which should be highlighted.

    Brands typically become “name brands” over the course of time when people begin to recognize value and style. I’ve bought Old Navy jeans before: they looked fine. But, they didn’t hold up and compared to my more quality name brand jeans, they were cheap and sucked! If I wanted to sell a Porsche, I wouldn’t want to devalue it because I spent good money on it. Sure, a Lexus might be a more practical and shrewd option, but, it doesn’t, can’t and will never have the same heritage and history of a Porsche. So, if I bought into CalArts and perceive it as that classic Porsche, why would I want to tarnish that reputation and all the other like minded people? If you did attend, why would you want to tarnish it?

    I took out hefty loans. It hurt. But, I paid them off in two years, and I don’t regret spending the money. You should be doing it because you love it, not because of the money. Money will come later, once you’ve proven your worth. I never thought much of it other than “Ouch”.

    So, you can encourage people to be responsible, and conservative about their education, but you can’t deny that list of animation leaders and their work. I think Brad Bird was taught by his folks to aim at the top before giving up-which is what lead him directly to Milt Kahl. That’s what I was taught as well. I think that’s a better target for aspiring talent in whatever field. The chips will fall as the will regardless.

  • Amid: I leave that work to others because I’m not really in the know about US big animation. And after thinking it over, I don’t believe it makes sense to start a similar list about european animation where I’d be better qualified.

    droosan: That’s the spirit! I’m self-educated as well, never attended any art school, but still I make a living from animation (among others) and will have a feature film one day.

    Hollywood may produce enjoyable films which make a lot of money. But rarely it produces interesting films to my taste. So there’s no sense in calling any school “the best” because that will always leave out everything with a different agenda. I have seen thousands of films long and short, and some of the most interesting ones came from totally unexpected places, sometimes from students attending a school not even dealing with arts, let alone animation.

    Every student should know wether he wants a job, or wants to make good films. Don’t expect to get both because that’s extremely rare.

  • Giovanni Jones

    I went to a small suburban school and lived on day old chicken from KFC. My parents were not famous or rich. I made average grades. I did not “know anybody,” unless you count a handshake from a local kid’s show host in a shopping mall. I was miles from the “big time.”

    So I networked. I still do. It IS “who you know.” But sometimes you have to ‘get to know’ and then you’ll know. You know?

    Today I make a very good salary at a very big entertainment company. I’m not very high on the food chain, though, and of course I wonder ‘what if?’ But I’ve had a long, steady career and a nice life at home.

    Things can always be better or worse, but everyone’s got circumstances and you bloom where you’re planted. And you never stop looking for the next flower bed. Okay, that’s corny, but there’s always tomorrow for dreams to come true, tomorrow is not far away. Clarice! Papa! Come home this instant. But — This instant, young lady! No doe of mine is going to associate with a red-nosed reindeer! Oh, is this your snow bank? No… I want to be a dentist. Right now, I’m just an elf. But I don’t need anybody! I’m in-dee-penn-dent!

    Sorry, I got carried away.

  • Actually, Steve went to CalArts for 3 years and worked in a variety of studios and projects, including the seminal “Iron Giant” under the great Brad Bird.
    Handel/Steve is right that there are more schools and more programs out there for the aspiring animation student. The best advice is to rigorously research everything so that you can make an informed choice and find the best school for you and your personal goals.
    One thing I will say in defense of CalArts is that waaaaay back in 1990 it was the only school that I knew of that emphasized making personal films and encouraged each student to do their films in their own style. This is probably why so many directors come from CalArts. Every student is directing their own films beginning freshman year. You graduate, or leave, having made 2 to 3 student films, having handled each and every part of the process.

    Getting back to the main point, the big reason I take issue with this article is due to this statement:
    “The main takeaway? West Coast animation is not a level playing field that judges artists purely on the basis of skill, talent, and ideas. If you’ve gone to an animation school other than CalArts, you probably have a better shot of winning the Powerball than you do directing a film at one of these companies.’

    This statement is ridiculous. It insults everyone on the list, and everyone who ever went to CalArts. Amid will most likely counter that he has a right to his own opinion. Horseshit. To quote Harlan Ellison, “You have a right to your INFORMED opinion.” If Amid had done some research, perhaps talked to a few of the people on the list, he would have learned the reasons for the apparent domination of CalArts students in this field. Instead, he rushed headlong to the conclusion that there must be preferencial hiring practices and that anyone who didn’t go to CalArts has no hope of ever directing. EVER!
    Again, this is HORSESHIT. Exquisite horseshit.
    Unfortunately, I’ve come to expect this sort of thing from Amid.

  • Animation Consultant

    Wow, this is exactly the conversation, debate, bitterness, and satire that ANY healthy industry needs to prosper. Ultimately this industry is a business that responds to the market(s). There is a “good old boy” market, a school market, a creative market, and most importantly a consumer market (the bill payers). In the end, you have to actually deliver for any of the market forces to be of continuing value.

    CalArts has been through its ups and downs, just like the industry and just like other schools. There is nothing magic about this. It is natural. CalArts’ fundamental goal (like many other quality schools) is to provide an atmosphere where artist can grow (try, fail and find an artistic voice) and offer that to the marketplace. Take a look at the product that comes out of CalArts students and you will find that is not “cookie cutter” It shows a very diverse and exploratory student body. Those who find an artistic voice that resonates with the market forces (GOB, school, art and consumer) have a chance to succeed.

    Much of the trick in any highly competitive industry (especially the entertainment industry) is to have some little thing that sets you apart from the rest of the competition. As good as you are, you are a risk to any employer – an unknown. They may have 20 fully qualified candidates, who fill market needs and can do the work and only one position. Employers are looking to minimize their risk. It usually comes down to something as simple as a personal recommendation from a trusted connection. Sometimes it comes down to personal chemistry. Previous work (internship). Sometimes it comes down to a pedigree – your school. It is like that in accounting, engineering, medicine, law…. and entertainment.

    But, make no mistake, that CalArts or SCAD or RISD…. or Yale or MIT connection is really only a door opener! You really do have to perform or you will not last. Too many non-performers and the school reputation will not last as well. The industry will prosper as long as the market responds to the actual performance of the players. CalArts is not magic elixir. It is just part of the market and it will only continue to be a valuable resource as long as the school prepares the students to deliver and its graduates actually deliver. All the other schools are in the exact same boat!

    The energy and debate in this discussion is just the competition, visibility and feather ruffling that the industry will need to bring out the best in all of us.

    Oh, yea… and the other schools need to steal a few of the Borg-ish recharge chairs…. they are down in A113 in the secret room behind the 1979 Illuminati class picture.

    Yes, TJoe…. this is me.

  • OtherDan

    John’s right on point, but these provocative posts make for the best threads. So, rather than attacking each other personally, it would be nice if people just made compelling counter-points. Even though I got a good laugh from “Bob Winquist’s Ghost”, I think calling someone out who chooses to obscure himself for whatever reason is not right.

  • Hell yeah, nice to see an Edinboro University alumni on that extended list. Gives me hope for the future…

  • Milly

    I had a feeling a topic like this would garner a lot of attention. & boy was I right C: I agree on points on both sides.

    Its true that connections play a huge role in this industry. As much as skills do, I’d say. So we have CalArts and Sheridan, who are both huge institutes boosting an impressive background and with immense talent. They have seniors who are working in the industry and their mentors came from the industry. Where else would be better to pick new blood from but CalArts and Sheridan then? Referals are common in the industry(heck in any industry) and companies like Disney and Pixar don’t have all day to review the hundreds of portfolios they receive everyday. Its natural for them to pick out the ones from established schools, those with connections or those who’ve won awards. Sadly, its just how things work based on the idea of convenience and reliability.

    I do not believe that the ‘sameness’ some critiques are debating over is due to the ‘lack of fresh blood’ though. Imo its a commercial business out there, so even the most artistic of directors and animators have to adhere to the public’s needs. Sponsors aren’t going to feed a pool of whimsical arty farty feature films. That’s why shorts exist. If you want something different, go to a film festival, not the theatre.

  • That list is short. If CalArts is the great school with a line right to the top, what happened to all the other students who graduated WITH those guys on the list?

  • Christina S.

    @Doug Nichols: You’re getting your Chris Millers mixed up. The Chris Miller who co-directed ‘Cloudy’ isn’t the one who went to CalArts. Like Phil Lord, he also went to Dartmouth College.


    Hiya “OTHER-DAN”.

    Fun and sharing. That’s what its all about isn’t it? I don’t believe I was taking a hypothetical rout though.

    “OTHER-DAN”: “”So, it’s no surprise your hypothetical Disney-bashing peers would have been interested in riding that wave. I can’t think of the array of other studios beaconing back then as you alluded. So, if you did attend then-apparently things have changed. Because when I was there, those attitudes about Disney and the individuality existed as I stated.””

    Well, I look at that ‘disney bash’ time as pretty much the extent of the ‘individuality’ you speak of. Beyond the griping, it really was the thing that they all wanted and aspired to go for. Look, I don’t blame them for it.

    I even understand the whole ‘bash’ thing. If the want is to be in the ‘collective’ (disney), you can at least deny it by bashing for a few years to save face. Again, its nothing I fault them for, in fact I bet if they were to do it all over again, that they would probably take a different rout and not do the bashing (which was pretty silly).

    “OTHER-DAN”: ” I’ve got a wife, two kids, pets a mortgage and a studio job (11yrs experience)…. ,

    Well GOOD for you! Glad to hear it. but your still wrong about cal-arts being the end all.

    Much of your last post is basically talking about cal-arts and asking why I would “tarnish” it.

    “Other”…. ( May I call you by your first name?), I am NOT “tarnishing” Cal-Arts. I said its a fine school. I like cal-arts. But it IS most definitely a ‘name brand’ school. There’s simply no denying that. It’s silly to deny it. People go there with the thought that its the school that walt built.

    Is it a good school? YES. But back when, looking at many on that stupid list, there really were not a whole lot of other choices.NOW there is. And they are every bit as good and yeah…some, even better than Cal-arts..

    That’s not ‘tarnishing’ cal-arts. Its just being honest about it. I mean the sheer idea that saying anything other than positive glowing things just short of “cal arts gave me an extra two inches to muh junk”, could be considered “tarnishing”?

    That’s idolizing it, (for the very reason I’m stating. Cuz its a very romantic NAME BRAND.)

    And in doing so, your just not being honest about it.

    Does Cal-arts still attract alot of good people. Yup. Many because for the very reason I stated. But there ARE more and more people taking alternate routs…and that’s a great thing! Even FOR cal-arts themselves.

    “OTHER-DAN”: “”… but you can’t deny that list of animation leaders and their work.””

    The Brad Birds, Brenda Chapman, Lassater…those people are great due not to the school so much…but the fire and passion and sheer drive to learn what they do, as well as playing the politics of studio life. (which is ugly, and petty.).

    But the fire and passion?— those people had it before going to any school.

    A school, ANY school doesn’t make anyone great. If your lucky, it should at the very least be required to teach you the basics. In animation or in story structure. But where you go from there, is up to you.

    If a school MAKES people great…then there sure as hell would be a TON more people then whats on that list. If you went know how many people go in and out of those doors.

    A school….does not make you a great animation person. And it sure as heckfire and grilled cheese doesn’t make you an great artist either.

    The only thing that I would say (and said before) gives cal-arts a little more of a leg, is the fact that they can much easier bring in people from the field for guest lectures.

    But often that’s more “inspirational” rather than “educational”. And while that’s a different beast, there IS most definitely a place for that.

    But even still…having Glenn Keane come in and lecture doesn’t make you glenn keane. It doesn’t mean you don’t sit your pudgy tuckus down and do the work. You learn by forging ahead and making your hours and hours of mistakes.

    Not by idolizing a school (any school) and giving it more credit than it deserves for YOUR LOVE. YOUR PASSION. AND YOUR TONS OF TIME.

    Oh and for the record…I don’t believe that “”If you’ve gone to an animation school other than CalArts, you probably have a better shot of winning the Powerball than you do directing a film at one of these companies.””

    If your getting into the animation realm of it..all that matters is your reel. That’s it. If you’ve never gone to school and you just sat down and found out your a killer animator..stick a reel together and hit a spot were you can show your reel to some one, and you’re gonna be ok. I would imagine the same goes for sticking a reel together for a story rout. Just get it to the right animation meet markets to show to some folk, or work a connection.

    (except for story… you may have to put out a little more. Less so if your a female though.)


    The “list”:…. depicts people who at the time had very few options as for schools (rightly then, but wrong now in present day).


  • Bart

    Wow, John S. sure has some chip on his shoulder. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised considering the movies he has directed.

  • startstop

    Just read Doug’s list.

    *slaps hands on knees* THERE ya go! Even though most of the directors still graduated from CalArts, they are BY NO MEANS dominating the animated feature industry as much as this post claims they are in the grand scheme of things! Therefore, this argument proves useless!

  • Doug Nichols

    @ Christina S. – that’s what I had originally, but changed it based on another comment above.

    mightgaine says:
    Chris Miller (Shrek the third) actually went to CalArts

    Now – are there two? One directed S3 and another directed Cloudy?


  • Doug Nichols

    Ah-ha! Should’ve looked before I posted. Yes! Two of them! One did S3, one did Cloudy. One went to CalArts, one went to Dartmouth. Can they be in the same room at the same time?

  • Doug Nichols

    Amid: Tony Leech/Hoodwinked, according to that source, met his two co-directors at the same Tulsa univ. Now then: University of Tulsa, or Oral Roberts U?

    ORU has a film program….


  • Hey Bart.
    I’ve only directed one movie, and I am well aware of it’s flaws.
    As to chips, Amid has demonstrated that the mother of all chips resides on HIS shoulder. Curious you don’t take him to task. You a buddy of his? One of his fans perhaps?
    I have no chip, I just know bullshit when I hear it.
    AND, since you brought it up, what have YOU done?

  • OtherDan

    Okay Handle-my last comment on this one. I’m not saying that the school is the end all be all. I’m not “idolizing” it. But, I am arguing that it is in the top tier, and why I think it is. And, obviously like my Porsche analogy, it behooves me to play into that mystique. I’d probably have a very different opinion if I never attended. It may not be the best car. But, drive one and see for yourself how a name brand compares to your typical automobile. Animation Mentor seems like a great way to learn. But, it’s expensive too. And comparatively, do you get the exposure to the other schools (fine art, theatre, dance, music) that you find at CalArts? While sitting at home doing your private lessons, do you befriend other artists who may influence you and push you? You might make some great contacts through your mentors and create a fan base on youtube. But, one day when you’re directing a movie and you think David Hasselhoff would be a great addition to SpongeBob, will that relationship you had with him from your days at CalArts come into play? It’s hard to know which schools offer comparable programs, and personally I don’t know of any that are as prestigious or comprehensive. You seem to be insisting there are many avenues to get into a production. But, this post is about directors. I don’t think you can rise through the ranks as you described and muscle your way into a directorial position as effectively as having the self-confidence and skills that the school tries to instill. I think this list-even the more extensive one speaks for itself really when you compare the alumni with the films they directed.

  • I decided to make a similar chart for TV creators.

    It’s not a complete list, some schools I could not find information on, and the show is listed on a case-by-case basis. Some creators had more than one show; only their first show is listed.

    Also, shows based on a preexisting property is generally left out, although this is case-by-case, mainly by how much the creator was/is involved in the show (I listed “Boondocks”, for example, while I left out “Garfield and Friends”).

  • mightgaine

    Hi, Charles Brubaker. I found Somethings to fix and add

    Spongebob Square Pant’s “Stephen Hillenburg” went to CalArts

    ChalkZone’s “Larry Huber” went to CalArts
    (Chouinard Art School changed its name into CalArts in 1961)

    You should add “The Penguins of Madagascar” (2009)

    Bret Haaland want to CalArts

    and Television Specials : Shrek the Halls (2009)

    Gary Trousdale went to CalArts

    Merry Madagascar (2009) – David Soren


    GO USC!! Wahoo we made the list! SUCK IT UCLA!

  • Charles K

    I attended CalArts in the early ’90s. I have worked for a variety of studios. I now teach for Academy of Art University.

    Re: CalArts – when I attended, there were very few animation programs ANYWHERE. Go back to the ’70s and ’80s when many of the people on the list attended, and there were even fewer.

    Some of my CalArts friends from that time are directing features, some are out of the business entirely.

    Re: Academy of Art University. We send our top students to Pixar, Blue Sky, Weta, etc. Some of our marginal students will have difficulty finding work – just like those at any other university. Animation is competitive in the best of times, as anyone reading this blog already knows.

    Some of my top former students are already lead/directing animators at big studios. I have no doubt that in time some of them will direct too. But they are still in their ’20s and early ’30s. I would not really expect them to be on a director’s list at this point.

    The point? I think it is intellectually lazy to draw sweeping conclusions about an incomplete list of artists, almost all of whom are in their 40s and 50s and attended CalArts at a time when there literally few other options.

    Not everyone who is capable of directing a feature is going to have that chance, because the number of opportunities to do so is small. Life is not fair.

  • mightgaine,
    Like I said, there are some missing shows. I might add more soon.

    Added some school corrections. Thanks.

  • Shawn

    Wow….that’s a lot of dudes.

    I know everyone’s talking about whether or not Calarts is great or not. Personally, that’s kind of irrelevant. Given that we’ve got 2 lady directors only now making their way into what’s traditionally a pretty righteous Old Boy’s club, it’s not going to matter what school I went to. As a lady, my chances of making it onto that list are severely diminished if not almost non-existent.

    So, Calarts men: Have at it. I’m going to be over here making my own stuff on my own terms.

  • theoutsider1983

    Are there any really successful people in animation right now that are self taught? I don’t have the money to go to an art school, so I decided to teach myself. And I live in California, but I have to work and I can’t apply to CalArts, and up and go to school in the middle of no where if I was accepted.

    I’ve always wondered this. This is a question for you guys who do go to CalArts. How many hours a day and how many days a week do you guys do school work and work on your films? How much downtime do you guys get a week to do whatever you want?

  • And in 1930, a pile of people in animation on the west coast came from Kansas City.
    So what’s new?


    If you think that the big studios care about quality animation, you are kidding yourself. A movie making a lot of money is the only thing they care about. The Princess and the Frog was a beautiful movie, with a great story. Since it did not make enough money by Disney’s standards, Disney has not scraped almost every 2D movie that was in development. That is the saddest thing that I have heard in a long time. Making movies is about so much more than just artistic ability. It is a business , plain and simple. Networking is important no matter where you went or are going to school.

  • Katie Cropper

    I firstly would like to say I don’t think graduating from any particular school should entitle you to any particular job -arts or otherwise. Personally I went to a small art school on the east coast with an eclectic mix of artists and I felt that made me a well rounded artist and I’m so happy with the decision I made. SECONDLY, are we seriously putting everyone’s professional worth into a portfolio, application, and H.S. transcripts that they had at 17 YEARS OLD. For the rest of us non CalArts Alums cut yourself some slack its just stupid. Also, maybe its all this chai tea, dried cranberries and burning incense on my end but why the hell is it that directing feature animation for big name studios is the end all and be all? what about being artistically satisfied? does that then mean that the rest of us animated peons are breaking our asses for nothing? why are features made in hollywood by big name douche bags the holy grail?

    -I’ve been working at my Alma Mater’s Admissions office on and off for the last three months on top of my own freelance work and my personal film and I have to tell you. You’re giving these high school kids way to much credit.. It is your life after School that decides your future. -Seriously, some of the most talents people can crash and burn its not CalArts its hard work. anyway, I’ll still be proud of my school’s filmmaker alums.. Rob Zombie, Robert Redford, and *cough* Eric Goldberg.


    “I’ve always wondered this. This is a question for you guys who do go to CalArts. How many hours a day and how many days a week do you guys do school work and work on your films? How much downtime do you guys get a week to do whatever you want?”

    Most of the students that go to Cal Arts do not have the money to go there. They take out hefty loans. They are very serious about their work. They would never be looking for downtime to do whatever they want. They just want more time to animate. To be successful you need to be willing, and by that I mean really want to, work at your craft every waking hour. That is how you get better. You need to love it so much that it is just about the only thing that you want to do. This could be one of the reasons that Cal Arts students excel. They work the butts off all the time.

  • Good point Charles K.

  • Just to chime in for my alma mater, Cal State Long Beach, our graduates are Steven Spielberg, John Dykstra (Star Wars), Ed Gombert (Disney) and myself. I’ll be bringing The Kustomosters to independent TV this summer with the Pink Slip Animation group and Cheeky Entertainment. Keeping up the DIY ethos of CSULB students.

  • Darwin

    Is it that time already? I’ve just spent my entire day reading all those comments…

  • Darwin

    Oh wait! Look again – The list is DREAMWOKRS films – that’s a whole other studio!

  • Margarita

    04/29/10 2:57pm
    Jerry says:
    “You should be happy that the film industry works based on a simple ideal: the most talented get the best gigs.”

    Excuse me??????

    And the 34,000 tuition fee??? Is that a talent question too?

  • prospective student

    As a prospective student I’m strongly considering about going to CalArts, and not because I believe it has the absolute best program. I’ve seen the campus and actually don’t think it even comes close to the facilities and resources at Expression College in Emeryville, CA.

    However, CalArts has professionals from big studios such as Pixar, Disney and Dreamworks come down to the school every year to meet and critique students’ work and essentially “network”. Networking is crucial to almost any profession, so I don’t see why animation would be an exception. Talent may get you hired, but it won’t necessarily get you the interview. These studios are receiving thousands of reels and I can’t seriously believe that they look at every single one.

    These studios probably filter through the resumes and portfolios the same way other large companies do. No matter what profession you’re in, alumni tend to favorite students that also went to their school. Because so many CalArts alumni have paved the way, they have accumulated a huge influence. I think anyone going into a field as ambitious and competitive as animation and wants to land a job at one of the major studios should do their homework and expect this going in. I’m sure alumni from other other equally and maybe even more talented colleges will work their way up, but until they do, I’m playing it safe and will try for CalArts.

  • An Undergrad

    Truthfully, I think it all comes down to trust. If you think about it, the animation department at CalArts was founded/influenced/financed by Walt Disney himself. You trust Disney, you trust CalArts. But chances are, like Disney Studios, CalArts has high quality teaching. Therefore higher quality portfolios. I’m currently attending SCAD. As an animation student, we only make ONE film out of the four years we’re here. The first of the four years, we don’t even animate. When you compare that to CalArts where students produce 4 animated films during the four years they’re there, it’s clear to see who is better experienced in directing animated films.

    That’s not to say that there aren’t others who can’t do a better job, but experience and trust are huge factors. SCAD’s animation program is changing and growing, but it takes time. If we’ve managed to catch up to CalArts by the time I graduate, that would mean I’d need probably 10 years in the industry in order to get into a directing position. I think the reason why we’re seeing what we’re seeing with CalArts grads doing most of the directing is simply because CalArts has been around the longest. Is that fair? I think so, but once all of these other graduates catch up, I think you’ll see a change in this list.

    Noted Example: Pete Doctor – graduated CalArts in 1990. Monsters Inc. came out in 2001. How many animation schools were there in the late 80’s and prior to that? I have confidence that the animation industry will be much different 10 years from now. :)

  • Tom

    Jennifer Nelson went to CSULB, Not RISD.

  • droosan

    Just noticed that TITAN A.E. (2000) is missing from the list .. directed by Don Bluth (Brigham Young University)

  • Mark

    ” the animation department at CalArts was founded/influenced/financed by Walt Disney himself.”

    That’s not true. The school was funded by a Disney Family foundation, but there was no animation department initially, and then the first full animation department was the experimental animation program started by Jules Engel–this is the program Glen Keane attended. The Character Animation department wasn’t begun until 1976–10 years after Walt died. The program as initially set up was antithetical to what Walt wanted—but evolved into precisely what he wanted while the rest of the school went off the rails.

  • SoVeryUnhip

    Are there any people of color on that list? And wow, the lack of women is… disgusting, honestly. Shawn’s comment simultaneously energizes me and breaks my heart.

  • Hal

    Thing about CALARTS is a lot of Animation students don’t go there for undergrad, but as a post-grad. Since CalArts doesn’t had “grad” studies per say, there’s no telling how many alum in the industry are CalArts grads via some other undergrad institution. Sadly, I’ve heard from a lot of people that the department just isn’t what it was since Jules Engle passed away.

  • Mark

    The Character Animation Dept. has never had a “grad.” program. And I can’t think of one person who complete the character animation degree and moved into motion graphics/experimental animation (although I bet there are a handful) just for the degree–if at all. There have been a few people from the experimental animation dept. that have used that as an excuse to take as many character animation classes as possible–and it’s always been welcomed. Jules Engle never had anything to do with the character animation department.

  • Connor M.

    Mike Johnson who directed Corpse Bride is from RISD. Go RISD!

  • Maureen Furniss

    The three winners of the Region 1 competition for the student Academy Awards this year are all from Cal Arts. They are 1) LIFELINE by Andres Salaff, BFA/character; 2) PIECE OF CAKE by Eliza Ivanova, BFA/character, and 3) THE WONDER HOSPITAL by Beomsik Shimbe Shim, MFA/experimental. These films now go into the national competition with the 3 winners from each of other regions. Congratulations to our Cal Arts directors, and good luck to all the others who are entering into the national competition. I’m interested to see which other schools will be represented.

  • mightgaine

    I just found some
    incredible several CalArts Freshmen’s first year films.
    I was shocked…..

  • puddle

    Has everyone just failed to mention that this list isn’t even a good representation because it’s the same people being repeated several times?!?! You might as well have made the list include Walt Disney and the school HE went to every single year his company made a film! John Lasseter made the list three times, Andrew Stanton and Andrew Adamson, Pete Doctor, and Brad Bird are all on it twice! Of COURSE CalArts is going to look like it is dominating! It’s not even a good representation of what you were trying to prove- therefore you failed to prove anything except the people at CalArts apparently did something right!

  • severine

    Lots of Calarts – Lots of men.
    Also, lots of BAD and boring movies that look no different from the other (Home on the Range? Shrek? CARS?!).
    No doubt that Calarts produces fine students but so does Sheridan and SVA. They just end up working in the cartoon business rather than movies.
    Also, they may leave the school and know how to animate, but good storytelling seems to be few and far between. People are too blinded by how pretty everything looks (lol Madagascar).

    Aight, boys. I accept your challenge.

  • Chris Williams (Bolt) did indeed went to Sheridan in Oakville Ontario, he did the International Summer School of Animation, summer 1992 and 1993 (i was also there)
    I can also confirm that Dean Deblois (Lilo and Stich, How to train your dragon) also went there a few years earlier.
    Bibo Bergeron, director of Shark Tale, did Les Gobelins in Paris. In my book, Les Gobelins are now producing the best artists in animation. I think we will see more of them in the USA in the future.

  • Someone essentially assist to make critically articles I would state. That is the first time I frequented your web page and thus far? I surprised with the research you made to create this actual submit amazing. Excellent task!

  • Ikwansha

    i have an idea of a movie so i want contact details
    of director to help me in my movie suggestions