The CalArts Thing

In the wake of the new Thundercats show, CalArts is taking a beating for being producing an ugly, simplistic, and homogenized art style in animation that has become linked to SocJus.

thunder cat

It’s long been the subject of several memes.calarts meme

There was a good thread recently about why “CalArts” has become linked with SocJus that can be read here.

But what is “CalArts” really like, and is it really to blame? Is it ugly and homogeneous? I’ll let you be the judge.

I found a page that has the 2018 films of CalArts animation students.

Here is something from a 4th year CalArts student:

Squiggly words and keyframes aren’t what comes to mind when most folks think of animation.

This animation from a 4th year would’ve been nuked from orbit had it been posted on NewGrounds:

On the other hand, 13 pages in, I did find this gem by a 1st year.

Here’s a first year that, while the art is kind of ugly, shows mastery of the concepts of animation.

CalArts needs Jeongho Lee and Katie Billions more than they need CalArts.

The few good ones are so out of the league of much of what’s coming out that being associated with CalArts may be to their detriment in the future, because the person who made Gumball Machine will now be inextricably linked with the person who made this:

Because the CalArts short films are listed by the number of plays they’ve received, fewer and fewer people will see Gumball Machine because it’s behind a dozen pages of stuff like that.

I don’t think that it’s fair to say that CalArts it turning out a homogenized style of design, but much of the design coming out of it IS rather ugly, and many of the student animations range from poor to mediocre in quality. Of course, some of that can be chalked up to student effort; you’ll always have your A, B, C, and D students turning in a varying quality of work.


7 responses to “The CalArts Thing

  1. Pingback: Nerdlife 11: Fine Call It A Comeback – Of Wolves and Men

  2. Reblogged this on Barry Reese and commented:
    I was unfamiliar with the term CalArts but I had definitely noticed a sense of familiarity about many of the new animated shows out there. This is an interesting look at the movement.

  3. i went to the open show where all of those shorts premiered. The first set of films (“All of my friends”) was a side project the student did for fun (Students can submit anything they’ve done that year to the showcase, which is what goes up on the calarts vimeo channel, including trailers for projects, 24 hour films, and storyboards like what you see here)

    Her main film (“Dennis the Dinosaur”) was performed live and obviously had an incredible amount of effort put into it.

    • In addition, many of the *great* films aren’t up yet because they’re still in production (for example, the absolute standout of the year, merryweather fox, hasn’t been released yet). I suggest you check out a previous year and judge the school on that instead as it’s a much more whole picture of what the students create there.

      • Send me some links of what you think is some of the best stuff that’s currently available, and I can include them in an update post.


  4. The video at the top actually shows quality observational drawing and captures gestures well, something crucial to actual top work. It seems to have a certain degree of charm unlike the other videos you linked.

    If all you see is squiggles then I guess your opinion is just wrong.

    • Totally agree with you. That first one is choppy but I feel like it works for what they were going for. Very gestural and cute.

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