CalArts Producers’ Show (Guest Review by Fran Krause) CalArts Producers’ Show (Guest Review by Fran Krause)

CalArts Producers’ Show (Guest Review by Fran Krause)

NY animator and filmmaker Fran Krause (Moonraker, The Upstate Four) attended the CalArts Producers’ Show in LA last week and took some notes for Cartoon Brew about what he saw. Here’s Fran:

Last Thursday, I was in California to show my work at the CalArts campus in Valencia and to check out their year-end Producer’s Show. I thought I’d pass on my picks, along with my thoughts on this year’s group of films. It was an interesting experience for me, since I’m an East Coaster. I’ve taught at Pratt, NYU, and Mercy College, and attended RISD as an undergrad, so it was nice to see what’s been going on out West.

Here are my picks from the show:

Crater Face by Skyler Page (2nd Year)

When The Time Is Ripe by Shion Takeuchi (4th year)

Dad? by Zesung Kang (3rd year)

SunGuy by Michelle Xin (3rd year)

The Hardest Jigsaw by Eric Anderson

Work by Michael Rianda (3rd year)

Night Parade by Sabrina Cotugno (2nd year)

It was a really inspiring group of films. The level of craft and storytelling were impressive, especially considering that, with one exception, the above films were all from second and third-year students. On the East coast, students tend to make a junior and senior film, but CalArts has their students making films all four years. The practice is getting really mature work out of the students, with sophomore and junior films holding up well next to the seniors. It’s also teaching them quite a bit about directing and managing their own projects.

“Crater Face” and “When The Time is Ripe” especially stand out to me as two films that are very well paced, with great styles and a consistent level of craft and finish. Still, I wonder if the responsibility of making a film each year is keeping the student’s schedules too busy to dabble in some more technical classes, or to learn some new techniques. Out of the twenty films in the show, only one used much 3D. The professors I talked with said that there’s been some changes recently in the curriculum that are meant to get the students more comfortable with non-2D animation, and I’m looking forward to seeing how things turn out.

There was quite a wide range of drawing styles in the program, without a noticeable “Institution Style”, as some schools seem to unfortunately put on all their films. Also of note, about half the films in the show were from women, whose presence is unfortunately all too rare in animation. I was bummed that so many of the films this year used copyrighted music. It would be great if there was more collaboration with the CalArts music students. Still, it was a really solid show and I’m glad I had the chance to check it out. I hope I’ll be seeing these films on the festival circuit this year. It’s a good thing that so many of them are available on Vimeo for everyone to see. When I wrote this article last night “The Hardest Jigsaw” wasn’t available. As I was making a couple revisions this morning, I noticed Eric posted it, so luckily we all get to see another cartoon!


    “When the Time is Ripe” is a total rip off of Joel Trussells “Mr. Wobbles Nightmare”. It uses the same illustrative style and doesn’t push the concept at all – in Trussells work the food rots and gets cut up. In this short it’s just a gimmick that has no real substance.

  • Ben Williams

    “Work” by Michael Rianda is absolutely hilarious! I was literally crying from laughing so hard. It’s looks really nice too. Definitely my favourite of the bunch, nice job Michael!

  • ZN

    These films are outstanding and inspiring. Crater Face and Hardest Jigsaw are incredibly fun to watch. So much talent!

  • Mark

    I, for one, thought When The Time Is Ripe is a far better film than Mr. Wobbles Nightmare. And aside from using fruit–which isn’t particularly NEW–there are little content similarities. When the Time is Ripe more fully explores the personalities as well. Both fun films, but Ripe is the better of the two in my book.

  • VinceP

    I love watching student films, thanks for the post Amid! I think my favourite is “The Hardest Jigsaw”. Just personal preference, but that one really hit me! So good!

  • Scarabim

    I think ALL of the entries have much to commend them. My favorites are The Hardest Jigsaw – so imaginative and fun, and The Night Parade – mystical and magical; I’d love to see more adventures featuring that little elf. Congratulations to all. Very good work!

  • Michael Rianda


    Thanks for posting some of the films. I’m really proud of all of my classmates, I think there were some really good films this year.

    Ben Williams-I imagine as you were writing that my mom had a gun to your back. But seriously, thanks a lot, that’s a great compliment.

    Evan-I think Shion comments on the similarity herself on her blog. I do disagree with you about it not having any substance, I think the substance is in the hilarious and surprisingly touching writing, I don’t know if she’s trying to push any fruit puppet film boundaries.

    There are a ton of really excellent films that weren’t featured too. Check out the Calarts vimeo channels for more:

  • Sant Arellano

    What is it with animators stereotyiping accountants, marketing people and any kind of white collar job into mindless, boring, soulless and crushed individuals?

    It is a concept I see over and over again, but I see no reason, apart from the stereotype, for them to be unhappy, Bob Parr was unhappy with his white collar job, but at least they give that unhappyness a reason, he’s asked NOT to help people.

    True, there are a lot of them that are unhappy with their jobs, but I’ve seen animators that are unhappy as well. It bothers me because both my parents and my brother are accountants and they are not unhappy people at all, they don’t think their job is boring, its their vocation. They go through stressfull periods of time, but so does any professional person in the world.

    What happend to real life reference? What do you guys think?

  • Thank you for posting these! i enjoyed each one (hardest jigsaw doesnt seem to be working for me now) DO the students get all year to work on these? the quality on each was just amazing. inspiring stuff especially crater face, work (great timing) and night parade (great colors and designs)

    big ups to all the artists

  • Tom Cushwa

    This is a great show. Very impressive work from Calarts. Does anyone know if there is a DVD available of this Producer’s Show? If so, how do I get a copy? thanks -tom

  • Thank you for the write-up of our films (and thanks chris and scarabim for the mention of my film, it is very much appreciated X3 )!

    also, re: chris, technically we can work on our films whenever we want, but second semester is considered “film semester” when most people start–so we get about 3-4 months.

  • Jen

    These films are all so inspiring. I love each and everyone of them. The way music and image goes together in “Night Parade” and “The Hardest Jigsaw” is especially enchanting. I think the music in “Night Parade” is original, correct? Wow, very impressive.

  • Sabrina-Nice job! I can see the Miyazaki and Kirisawa influences in your work. But, those are some great inspirations. You and I exchanged emails I think when you were starting at CalArts, and I’m impressed by your work-good design supported by nice and solid draughtsmanship! Keep it up!

  • Crater Face is great!

  • I really enjoyed Night Parade because of the character designs, and the story telling in it. The beginning reminded me of Kurosawa’s “Fox Wedding” which was really nice to see animated. Best of luck!

  • I loved Crater Face. Good luck to everyone and I hope to see more films!

  • Nick Woods

    A truly inspirational post. These works are incredible

  • Iritscen

    All these CalArts films look the same to me! Oh, the sameness!

    Actually, kidding aside, I found myself thinking as I watched them that most of these styles have no meaningful analogue in 3D. So I’m perfectly happy to see students in 2010 still focusing on 2D, with its breadth of potential for expression.

    If CalArts graduates could be accused of having a similar style in their “real world” film productions, I think the blame lies with the limitations of 3D and in the timidity of studio execs, not the artists themselves. Keep pushing the stylistic envelope as you get into professional projects, kids!

    Thanks for posting these, guys, they brightened my day.

  • Iritscen

    By the way, it was impossible not to think of something else posted today when I watched The Hardest Jigsaw: . I prefer the happy ending in Mr. Anderson’s piece though.

  • Anthony C.

    “I was bummed that so many of the films this year used copyrighted music.”

    Us students don’t get much of a choice-as bad as I wish I could find a friend who wouldn’t mind scoring some shorts with Orchestral soundfonts and a MIDI keyboard…(something I try on my own work, but lack the musical experience to pull off the way I want)

    I’m an AI student though-there’s no music program here. Combine that with my shyness of asking for stranger help and I’m ALWAYS having to fall back on stock and copyright music. :-(

  • Andrew

    “Crater Face” and “The Hardest Jigsaw” stood out for me among the others, though “Work” definitely made me chuckle a bit. Definitely nice to see the crop this year, especially from the up-and-coming!

  • There was a great variety in both style and story structure. Very refreshing to watch. I especially liked “Crater Face”, “The Time is Ripe”, and “Hardest Jigsaw”. Great show!
    Since, as Amid recognized, CalArts is favored above all other schools for directing positions, it’s nice to see that the tutoring is in good hands.

  • Sam

    I love many these films altogether, but don’t other animation school student’s film get the same love too? E.G Ringling, SCAD, Sheridan etc.

  • amid

    Sam: If anybody wants to write a round-up about films at a particular school, or attended a year-end screening and wants to discuss the school’s work, please drop me a line. We are open to presenting work from all schools that have robust animation programs. Also, keep tuned to Cartoon Brew for our upcoming Student Film Festival where we present new work from ten different schools.

  • “On the East coast, students tend to make a junior and senior film, but CalArts has their students making films all four years. The practice is getting really mature work out of the students, with sophomore and junior films holding up well next to the seniors. It’s also teaching them quite a bit about directing and managing their own projects.”
    Yep. Remember that thread a few weeks ago about the dominance of CalArts students that was accompanied by that ridiculous list with all the directors and their respective schools?
    Here is the answer.
    Nice article!
    Congrats to all the students! Some real talent going on here!

  • “…I’m ALWAYS having to fall back on stock and copyright music. :-(”

    You don’t HAVE to do anything, let alone fall back on copyright music.

  • Michael

    What tools do the CalArts student’s use to create such animations as ‘Crater Face’? is it straight pencil&paper? flash? photoshop?

  • K

    Calarts experimental animators get no love :( Their show (the night after the producer’s show) was just as strong. Amid — maybe next year I’ll contact you about reviewing it.

  • Anonymous

    What was in the Producer’s Show was only a fraction of the good work in that department. It’s really a shame that so few could be seen there. Also, most of the students DO collaborate with CalArts music students, but unfortunately that wasn’t evident from just those few films. Check out the Character Animation Vimeo channel… There are more films there that weren’t in the show.