The Disney Animation School

California Institute of the Arts or CalArts as it was known, informally, was set on a hill just off of the 5 freeway in Valencia, California (NOTE: It is still there, I toured it four years ago as a potential college choice for my daughter, but I’m telling a story here, right?). In 1980, when I arrived, CalArts was basically two buildings: The Main School building, and a set of dormitories. Inside the Main building, the schools were cordoned off like “Delos” in Westworld, but instead of “Westworld,” “Medievalworld,” and “Romanworld,” CalArts had the Music School, the Drama School, the Fine Arts School, the Dance School, and the Film School. The Film School, then, was subdivided into three departments: The Disney Animation School, The Live Action School, and The Film Graphics Department. I was in the last of those three. Keep in mind, that there was very little in the way of consumer computers in 1980 and there might have been some people messing with digital graphics at CalArts in 1980, but it was nowhere near what is being produced today. The Disney School was the most structured of the three film schools from what I could tell. Every day, lines of students holding drawing boards and carrying plastic Art Boxes would go through the wooden double doors to attend classes in Life Drawing, Design, Animation, Color Theory, etc. And folks, that is where the structure at CalArts seemed to end.

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