A minority of CalArts alumni take great offense if you imply in the slightest that the school’s illustrious Character Animation program has a recognizable sensibility. Of course, it’s a perfectly valid observation that student films from a particular school might look similar, and the observation isn’t unique to CalArts.
It’s easy to identify a lot of school’s films simply by the styles, themes, and lengths of their output. Schools like Royal College of Art, Gobelins, and Sheridan each have house styles that are copied by a significant number of their students. This echo chamber effect is understandable, and to a large extent, unavoidable. Artists are influenced by what’s happening around them, and in a competitive animation school, there will be a strong temptation to emulate the work of other standout students in the program.
Perhaps the reason that people don’t like to acknowledge the existence of a CalArts sensibility is that the observation is typically followed by a critique about the school’s detrimental influence within the animation industry—the derisive “CalArts style” argument. The school’s proximity to the Los Angeles industry and the prevalence of its artists in LA studios make it an easy target for such attacks, which are oftentimes unwarranted.