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.