Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Cal Arts Style

This is an ongoing post, just for the purpose of definition:

The Cal Arts style is basically derived from late 1950s to 1970s Disney Movies - and Don Bluth - who emulates 1960s Disney movies.

Sword In The Stone is a whole library of character designs, animation tricks, actions and staging that gets reused in animated features produced by Cal Arts grads.

Young students want to emulate the work of old men at the end of their career.What is obviously good about late Disney cartoons is the skill. The fact that the 9 old men can move very difficult structured character designs around at every imaginable angle is suitably impressive. That skill hypnotizes many young animators and makes them want to aim high.

However, this part of the animation is very hard to learn. What is much easier to copy are superficial aspects of the designs in 1960s Disney. The crossed eyes- the one eyebrow up/ the other eyebrow down expression.

Madame Medusa's eyes and mouth shape are copied all the time.

There should be a 50 foot statue of this character outside Cal Arts because she is the school's biggest influence.
These are great drawings, but the mouth shapes are unique to the character and they are wrapped around some very complex construction.

Here's her mouth simplified and pasted on Mowgli's construction.Mowgli's lovestruck expression is also used a lot by animation graduates. It worked once, but is it the only way to show a character being lovestruck? Many think so.

The 9 old men had a lot of skill going for them but the animation and design by the time they were truly old was decadent and formulaic. They kept doing the same things over and over again - and that's what all the animators copy today- the decadent stuff, rather than the skills.

Unfortunately the people who grow up inspired by copies of copies of 60s Disney animation learn to accept these few superficial stylistic things and don't realize they are doing it. They unconsciously absorb it and regurgitate it in their films until the next generation comes along and copies their copies. Most Cal Arts graduates will say there is no Cal Arts Style, but everyone who didn't go there - especially if they have wider wider influences -can spot it instantly.

here it is in full bloom:

Kind of 101 Dalmations meets Scooby Doo.
When cartoonists refer to the "Cal Arts Style" they are talking about this recycled look that is not influenced by life or even other cartoon styles. It is strictly a straight line of inheritance through a few generations starting from somewhere around the "Aristocats". ...Losing important genetic code with each new generation and getting staler and staler.

It has been blended with 70s Hanna Barbera, Nelvana and Sheridan College in the last 20 years - and even a bit of Spumco, but the basic core of the feeling - soft Disney is Cal Arts.



Anonymous said...

Tim Burton went to Cal Arts. I'm a huge fan of him. What do you think of his stuff?


Alice said...

InYourFaceNewYorker/Julie,I think there was a rumor Tim Burton did not enjoy his stay there but I am not too sure. I appreciate his work as well and am interested to know what John thinks of him.

Anonymous said...

It is true. Tim Burton went to Cal Arts and then worked for Disney on "The Fox and the Hound." I have no idea if he enjoyed the school or not, but I do know that he compared working on TF&TH to sleeping with a pencil in his hand. Something like that. Tim Burton is brilliant. I am sure a lot of people here want to kill me but I DO like the "Cal Arts style." But I do, of course, love weird styles like John K's and Tim Burton's. But I can see why people would get tired of the "Cal Arts style" after a while.

Incidentally, my second cousin went to Cal Arts for illustration. She dropped out after, I think, two years because she was fed up with teachers calling her names and railing on her for not going digital. I think they called her elitist or something. Seriously, what is it with art schools and teachers being such dicks?

shiyoon said...

Didn't Tony Fucile, the guy who did the designs for Iron Giant and Incredibles, was a timer for your own Ren & Stimpy show?

He was your timing director for episode:

1. Big Baby Scam/Dog Show
2. In the Army/Powdered Toastman
3. Ren's Toothache/Big House Blues


Why would you hire him to do the timing on your show if you hated his drawing style and animation so much?

"...but the pose-to-pose timing is that formula you see in modern disney-esque "comedies". Like "Cats Don't Dance" "Emperor's New Groove" "Incredibles" "Madagascar" etc.
It's a style of timing that draws attention to itself, rather than drawing attention to the characters or story."

He's also been interviewed to say:

"Our major influences came out of the period the movie had taken place, the fifties. We studied work from Chuck Jones, Hank Ketchum, Al Hirschfeld and the Disney films from that era like The 101 Dalmatians. We wanted our drawings to feel as economical and pleasing to the eye as possible. We tried to keep things shapely and crisp, but also 3- dimensional. We needed our drawings to not flatten out against the super 3-D Giant."

personally I like both your style and tony's..but it just didnt make sense why you would hire him as your timing director if tony fucile has both the characteristics of "calarts" style of drawing and animation (he was both the supervising animator for Incredibles and the character designer for Iron Giant)..

JohnK said...

Tony is a great talent and very adaptable to different styles.

I have worked with and am friends with many artists who went to Cal Arts.