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Home » Santa Clarita News » Arts and Entertainment » CalArts Awards Disney, Pixar Exec With Honorary Doctorate
CalArts Awards Disney, Pixar Exec With Honorary Doctorate

CalArts Awards Disney, Pixar Exec With Honorary Doctorate


CalArts, a Valencia arts college renowned for producing artists whose works are featured around the world, awarded Disney and Pixar Animation’s Chief Creative Officer John Lasseter an honorary degree, officials said Wednesday.

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CalArts bestowed an honorary Doctor of the Arts to Lasseter, a California Institute of the Arts alumnus, “celebrating his originality, creativity and extraordinary contributions to the art of animation and contemporary filmmaking,” according to a news release.Disney Chief Creative Officer John Lasseter (Photo by Steven Gunther)

Lasseter was in the first graduating class of CalArts Character Animation Program, and spoke to graduates last Friday at the school’s graduation ceremony.

He shared two key insights inspired by his time at CalArts, according to a news release from the college.

The first was: “Your voice is worthwhile. Have faith in it. It’s so important to create in your own voice… to hold onto what makes you unique and have faith in your vision.”

He also advised: “You need others. Too often people think that being unique means being isolated, and being a great artist means coming up with genius ideas out of nowhere. Nothing could be further from the truth.”

CalArts is an internationally acclaimed institution founded by Walt Disney and his brother Roy, offering undergraduate and graduate programs in the visual, performing, media and literary arts. At the commencement ceremony, Lasseter addressed an enthusiastic crowd of alumni, parents and graduating students that included the most recent generation of CalArts animators to follow in his footsteps. “I am the filmmaker I am today because of the people I’ve learned from,” he said.

“We had great teachers in [CalArts’] Character Animation program, great Disney artists who came out of retirement to teach us all that they had learned as they invented this art form with Walt Disney,” he said. “But I learned just as much from my fellow students as I did from my teachers. Then, when we started making our own student films, we’d look over each other’s shoulders, bouncing ideas back and forth and helping each other out. Work with others. Lean on others. Celebrate others.”Lasseter fondly recalled his teachers and described the celebrated first graduating of CalArts’ Character Animation Program which, along with Lasseter, includes two-time Oscar recipient Brad Bird (The Incredibles, Ratatouille), visionary filmmaker Tim Burton  (Edward Scissorhands, Frankenweenie), Oscar-nominated director John Musker (The Princess and the Frog, The Little Mermaid), as well asChris Buck and Michael Giaimo, director and art director, respectively, of the #1 animated film of all time, Academy Award winner Disney’s Frozen:

CalArts President Steven Lavine praised Lasseter’s body of work and words of wisdom.

“John’s remarkable career exemplifies CalArts’ experimental ethos and creative spirit,” Lavine said.

“Since graduating from the Character Animation Program in 1979, John has brought joy to millions of people throughout the world. As an artist and executive, John is responsible for creating many of the world’s best-loved and most successful films,” he added. “John’s groundbreaking work ranges from his first feature as a director, Pixar’s revolutionary computer animated Toy Story, to serving as Executive Producer of this year’s Oscar-winning animated feature, Disney’s Frozen.”

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CalArts Awards Disney, Pixar Exec With Honorary Doctorate

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Perry Smith is a print and broadcast journalist who has won several awards for his focused, hyperlocal community coverage in several different regions of the country. In addition to five years of experience covering the Santa Clarita Valley, Smith, a San Fernando Valley native, has worked in newspapers and news websites in Los Angeles, the Northwest, the Central Valley and the South, before coming to KHTS in 2012. To contact Smith, email him at
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