Last week I checked out the CalArts Producers’ Show, the year-end screening where the best student films from the school year are screened theatrically. I hadn’t been to the show in three or four years so it was nice to see things with a bit of a fresh eye. Sad to say, but the overhwelming impression I got from this year’s batch of films is that CalArts is increasingly a school that is coasting along on its reputation than on the quality of work its current students produce. That hard-earned rep will expire sooner than later if they continue in this direction; CalArts needs to recognize that they no longer have a monopoly on teaching character animation and must significantly up their game if they wish to stay on a par with all the other animation schools around the globe. I’ll attempt to expound on the school’s problems in-depth at some later time, but for the moment, I wanted to focus on some of the positive individual achievements from this year’s crop of students.
A number of this year’s CalArts student films are turning up online and I’ve posted four of the better ones belowÃ¢â‚¬”Off the Wall, Siren’s Melody, One Last Song and This World.
Among the films that aren’t posted online, a few honorable mentions: Them Their Eyes by Mario Furmanczyk featured the most competent Disney-style character animation, Captain Scratchy Beard by Brigette Barrager offered the most distinctive sense of character design, Slum Noir by Jahmad Rollins stood out for its mature storytelling vision, exciting animation and hardcore draftsmanship skills (I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on his future work), and Nicole Mitchell’s Zoologic was easily the strongest overall film, and one of the few shorts in the program that displayed a solid understanding of how to stage a gag, pace a story, and give the audience a payoff.