CalArts Hiring New Character Animation Head

The CalArts Character Animation Department is looking for a new program director. Here’s the job listing. The CalArts grad who sent us this link added in his email:

“As an alum, I’ve grown somewhat disappointed with the level of ability graduating from the same department that raised me (don’t even get me started about last year’s Producers’ Show), so I have great hopes that whoever they get back in the school will do whatever it takes to restore its once sterling reputation.”


  • Animation Pimp

    seems they have problems on the experimental side too. Despite being one of the most popular teachers (and among the finest indie animators in the world), Igor Kovalyov was, last I heard, given his walking papers (he was only part-time).

    I suspect a jealous teacher was behind this speedy departure.

  • http://www.lippy.com Lippy

    Mebbe they’re looking for some REAL MEDIOCRE talent to head up the Anim.Dept. In that case, they can stop looking! there is NO ONE more MEDIOCRE than th’ Lip.Check out my “MTV Engine Room” audition tape: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jVJgGyV1yOM

    And thanx to Amid & Jerry. I never would have known about the show auditions if not for the BREW!!

  • Radrappy

    When people recently started complaining about the quality of Calart’s Producer’s Shows, I visited the film library and watched every show from 1993 onward. And guess what? Turns out there were good and bad films in every Producer’s Show! It’s just as rare to find a well crafted and enduring student film ten years ago as it is today.

    Maybe it’s the change in focus from animation to story or the recent artistic trends that have a lot of alumni and industry people irritated. I will say though that it seems only natural to claim that a decline is underway when your school’s recent work falls under criticism or fails to impress Cartoonbrew.

  • http://velvetandratskins.com ECJ

    I have heard the best films never get in the producers show. You gotta go to the open show and watch all 9 hours to find the gems.

    But that being said the french animation schools do seem to be kicking everyone else’s ass. Maybe cal arts students should work together more and collaborate like their Gallic superstar contemporaries.

  • shiyoon

    “But that being said the french animation schools do seem to be kicking everyone else’s ass.”

    ?? I dunno how you get the picture of french animation schools being Gallic superstars.. a lot of their “films” are hardly stories at all.. most of it’s guys running around in crazy locations.. with lots of camera moves.. it’s hard to find a decent story that is really saying anything.. or even great character moments.. they just seem like stunts to get a job in the industry..

    I still think CalArts’ biggest strength is the opportunity to be a filmmaker! not just a animator, storyboard artist,.. etc..

    I dunno who the guy is who said that.. but this year’s and last year’s producer’s show had its share of gems.. just like every producer’s show!.. ( Nicole’s Zoologic, Chris Choy’s The Possum, Leo Matsuda’s Prekisstoric..etc)

  • james

    back in the day, Cal Arts was the only place to learn real animation skills,.. today, there are tons of schools to choose from.. some cheaper, some better, some awful, some scary.. the talent pool is spread out, and therefore the cal arts pool is diluted. Besides, people who really work at their craft learn more on their own.

  • Ryan

    I graduated 10 years ago.
    I had a lot of fun and learned a hell of a lot as well.
    I’ve met people that attended the school going back to Tim Burt’s days and everyone has this thing about how good it was when they went there. I do feel the face of animation changes over time and the work at the school now is a bit different then when I attended. I go to portfolio reviews now and the producer’s and I always enjoy it and find it inspiring, there really is a great deal of talent there.

    There are also people who attend but never really work hard, and like one of the people who commented above wrote, the producer’s shows have a wide range of fantastic work to mediocre to just plan bad. That is the same now and 10 years ago or 20 or 30, it is just how it is.

  • http://www.hunteachother.com Max W.

    How about John K?

    I’m sure he’d love to take up the job!

    Maybe then he’d have less to complain about.

  • Jesse

    To be fair, many of the (U.S) industry’s top talent has come from the school – interestingly, flooding the market around ’92. I could list some names, but y’all know who you are. ;) DISCLAIMER!: This does NOT serve to discredit talent produced by great schools like Sheridan and the like. Y’all know who you are too.

    But, yes, the school could use a bit of a tune-up. Especially now that one can get an exceptionally structured education online (i.e. Animation Mentor, Stephen Silver Character Design, etc…) Not to mention the countless books and notes now available (the Walt Stanchfield Notes, Richard William’s “The Animator’s Survival Kit,” etc…) And ALL for less than the current $24K+ price-tag the school hangs around it’s neck.

  • http://animated-detour.blogspot.com/ Carlos

    As an incoming freshman to Calarts, this is a bit haunting, if not unsettling (especially considering the price tag!) I sought Calarts for it’s reputation, and worked my ass off to get accepted on my first try. I really respect 2D animation, and I frown upon its current state. I want to work so hard to produce worthwhile stuff, improve my skills, and exist in a new golden age of animation… fingers crossed… I just hope the other animation students at Calarts feel the same.

  • calartian

    I think you should realize the position has recently been filled although the listing is still on their website. The school just hasn’t made the official announcement yet.

  • The Vengeful Ghost of the 80′s

    I stopped attending Cal Arts Producer’s Shows years ago because the emphasis shifted from acting, pantomime, storytelling, and good drawing (what we used to call ‘Character Animation’) to flat, pseudo-designy, “I’m-ready-for-my-TV-deal” tripe. Hopefully, they can get someone in there who has a solid grounding in the basics.

  • Fred Cline

    I was disappointed by the lack of focus and substance in the program when I went there. It’s not that there was NO focus or substance, it’s just that for the tuition money spent, I expected more value. It seemed that I learned more from the students next to me than from the teachers. It turns out that those were maybe the best years of the program. I think we naturally notice the negatives and dwell on those. It’s human nature.

    There is definitely a lot of passion and money that has been poured into CalArts and the Character Animation program over the years, and I think that is as true now as it has ever been. I hope they find a capable and passionate person to lead out.

  • scott jeralds

    the job has been filled already.

  • Dan

    I think the real problem stems from the industry, not the leadership. They want to control the output of the students-not unlike WalMart. And, unfortunately the industry has been so shaky that it has caused CalArts to think of other avenues to guide the students. When I got out only two people got jobs at Disney Feature Animation. And, the year after that the number went even lower. CalArts is famous because it allows and fosters creativity and thinking outside the box. Just look at the success of the University of Utah-Does anyone else see how their success rate is linked to directives from the powers that be? That’s not necessarily bad, but the ideology of CalArts should remain intact or else we’re going to see some boring films in the future. That said, I felt and still do that CalArts needs to prepare students better for the realities of production and the work environment. “Clicks” will only get you so far in working life. That’s where they should make the adjustments: better gauging the realities of the industry-where the majority of their students want to end up. If anyone thinks animation mentor is a substitute for what you gain from CalArts, I’d argue that you get what you pay for. Those schools ain’t cheap, but their cheaper than CalArts. Long live CalArts!! Who’s with me??

  • http://www.husbandlaw.com Paul Husband

    While there are valid points raised in several of the posts above, perhaps another factor in the disappointment expressed with recent student films shown at the Producer Show, which is not limited to CalArts is the principle: The older I get, the better I was.

  • http://deleted Dan

    Yeah! I used to be a great surfer when I was younger…thinking back though, I remember not being satisfied with my skills even then. You make a good point Paul. And James, I think isolationism is not the best way to advance. You’ll loose your strongest allies that way. Take it from me.

  • Nathan Strum

    First – nice current piece of news reporting there. That search began nearly two years ago. As already mentioned, it was recently concluded with the final selection of the program’s director a couple of weeks ago. The official announcement should be forthcoming shortly. (CalArts’ website isn’t exactly zippy when it comes to updates.)

    For what it’s worth – there always have been and always will be detractors about CalArts. But to me, the only people whose opinions matter are those that are willing to step up to the plate and sacrifice their own time away from careers and family to actually make a difference by teaching there, rather than just sitting on the sidelines, complaining about what they perceive to be “wrong”. It’s clear from a number of these comments that some people have had very limited exposure to the majority of films being produced, and even less first-hand experience with the program itself.

    CalArts isn’t about cranking out Disney animators, or any other specific style of animation. Nor is it about fitting students into any preconceived notions about what an animator is, nor forcing them to make what people “think” CalArts films should be. It’s about helping the students find out who they are as artists, to give them the chance to discover what interests them the most about animation, and to equip them to begin to realize their potential by teaching principles that apply to all styles of animation. How well films reflect those principles is up to how much the students embrace them. There have always been students for whom animation is everything, and others where story is everything, or design is everything. The program is all about animation, but that doesn’t mean it’s all about animating.

    As influences come and go in the industry, the students’ own inerests tend to change, so of course that gets reflected in the films. So sometimes there appear to be trends – but students always have the choice to do what they want to do. There’s nothing that can be attributed to as a singular “look” to CalArts films – but only if you take the time to look at everything. What seems to have happened though, is that people have gravitated towards certain films which have been put on a pedestal, and are now held up as how the program “used to be”. But the fact is, those films only reflect how a handful of students who went through the program “used to be”. You can’t judge the program based on a small sampling of films, regardless of the year.

    At its core, CalArts is about students learning to make animated films. That hasn’t changed. What has changed, is the scope of the curriculum is far broader now than it was in the past. When I was a student in the early 90′s there was practically no 3rd and 4th year curriculum, and many people simply left after two years. Now there are actually reasons to stay for four years, and the skills students are leaving with are much richer than in the past. Is the tuition obscene? Yes, it is. But you can’t get the kind of interaction with other students at an online school that you get at CalArts, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a student body more passionate about animation anywhere else. The friendships I made are the most lasting and important things to come out my time at CalArts. I also learned a tremendous amount as an artist and animator – but it was always up to me as to how well I applied it. The same applies to every student. Is the program perfect? No, of course not. No college anywhere is perfect. Every year is a learning experience about what works and what doesn’t, and the program continues to grow and evolve. If it was exactly the way it “used to be”, it would be accused of having stagnated. The fact that there are human beings teaching there means you’re going to deal with whatever each one of them brings with them. More often than not, what they bring with them is a passion for animation and art, and a desire to pass that along to others. And it is really, really hard to find people willing to make the kinds of sacrifices that teaching demands. Fortunately, there are people out there with a passion that overrides common sense.

    There will always be CalArts films that people don’t like, along with ones that people love. Critics looking for faults or those who have an axe to grind will focus on what they don’t like. The diversity in the students is what you see reflected in the films coming out of the program now. Diversity in backgrounds, cultures, influences and interests, as well as diversity in the faculty. The program has matured away from its trade-school roots. And yet, there were studios climbing over each other to hire students this year at the Job Fair. This year’s Producers’ Show sold out more than three months in advance, and people never stopped calling for tickets.

    For each of the last four years, the Open Show (which is every film turned in by the students) ran nearly eight hours. That’s nearly 150 animated student films – per year. If you really want to see what the program is about, you need to make a point of going to the Open Show, and sitting through each and every one of those films with the students who created them. Everyone gets the opportunity to make the films that they want to make. That is what makes CalArts unique.

  • Duze

    Thank you, Nathan!

  • http://www.drawn2gether.com/blog Tina Price

    The sad reality today is that it doesn’t really matter what school or who heads it because the problem is that there are not enough animation jobs in the United States for the amount of talent, good or bad, graduating from all the universities due to so much animation work being outsourced. Students need to look beyond the Producers Show today and be prepared for the reality of the animation job market. Some will go to the big box studios but most will face sporadic and uncertain employment and would be better served if they were informed of the independent artist, migrant film worker and virtual studio environments that make up a good portion of the animation job market today. But that’s another topic.

  • http://Storyboredom.blogspot.com Jeff Ranjo

    Go Mr. Strum!! Get down with yo baad self!!

  • Clover

    Yay Nathan!! SPOT ON.

  • http://doubled8.blogspot.com jeaux Janovsky

    Thank You Nathan.

  • Nancy Beiman

    I applied for this position last year and was told that they were discontinuing the search since they were keeping the ‘interim’ person who was currently there. So I took a position at Sheridan instead.
    I’m interested in seeing the Character Animation program return to its roots: good animation, good design AND good story. That awful TV inspired ‘Cal Arts Style’ came in after my time, and it gets very dull very fast. I saw a few films in the 2007 show that were good; the rest were not as. Haven’t seen the 2008 show yet.
    The animation field has changed dramatically in the past decade; there is now more work in games than in features, and from the latest feedback I got from my students–gaming offers better job stability, more creative freedom, and better scheduling. If your heart is set on feature animation there are a smaller number of spaces, but that could change in a few months after another animation studio has another hit. There are actually more animation jobs available now than there were when I graduated; thing is, there’s also more competition. But the good artists will get the job nods. This has always been the case.

  • http://enworrel.blogspot.com Ian Worrel

    WOOO! Nathan.