The California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) in Santa Clarita, California is a private art school that some of the most talented artists in the film and television industry have studied at. So many artists, animators and directors have come from this school that chances are some of your favorite movies and shows have some connection to CalArts, and you will definitely recognize some of the names of the over 150 people I list in this article.

History of CalArts

The school first came together when Walt Disney helped guide a merger between the Chouinard Art Institute and the Los Angeles Conservatory of Music in 1961.

South Pasadena artist, teacher and Pratt Institute grad Nelbert Chouinard founded the Chouinard Art Institute with the goal of providing a hub for educating aspiring artists around the world.

Walt Disney used Chouinard as a breeding ground for talent. Some of his most skilled employees attended Chouinard, including Frank Thomas, Ollie Johnston, Woolie Reitherman, Retta Scott, Maurice Noble and Mary Blair. And in 1929, Walt Disney started sending his less experienced animators to the art school to polish their skills and he later hired a Chouinard teacher to come to the Disney studio and teach his employees at work.

In the 1950s, Nelbert Chouinard was unable to run the school anymore due to medical problems so Walt Disney, who was always grateful to Nelbert for opening her school to him, took over administrative duties and continued to finance it. The Los Angeles Conservatory of Music was also struggling financially and Walt pulled strings to help that school as well. And this inspired Walt, who was ever the ambitious dreamer, to merge the two schools into one and turn it into what he called a “city of the arts.”

Walt Disney and Roy O. Disney, plus Lulu Van Hagen and Thornton Lasky of LA Conservatory of Music, guided the complex merger over the course of several years. The original board of directors included Chouinard alum and Looney Tunes director Chuck Jones, Mary Costa (voice of Aurora in Sleeping Beauty), Disney animator Marc Davis, conductors Henry Mancini and Nelson Riddle and other artists of various backgrounds.

Today, true to Walt’s vision of a place where artists around the world could gather to hone various crafts, schools at the CalArts campus include the School of Art, the School of Critical Studies, the School of Film/Video, the Herb Alpert School of Music and the Sharon Disney Lund School of Dance, and the university offers degree programs in art, music, dance, theater, puppetry, film and animation, the institute’s mission being to develop professional artists who excel in their fields.

Walt Disney in fact previously implemented similar ideas (taking artists of various backgrounds and skill sets and making them collaborate to create great things) first at his own studio when working on Fantasia and later in Walt Disney Imagineering when creating Disneyland.

Walt said he wanted the artists who graduated from CalArts to “really be able to do things” and that he wanted them to be capable of “going in and doing a job” when they got hired. Of course we now see that Walt’s vision became a reality. He envisioned CalArts as a place to develop the talent of the future and it has now become a legendary breeding ground for some of Hollywood’s most creative talent.

I like to think that Walt perhaps thought of CalArts as a way to extend his influence on the film industry far into the future, but whether or not that was the case, it is undeniable that’s what ended up happening seeing as how the Disney Renaissance of the late eighties and early nineties, which brought forth movies that reminded many people of Walt Disney’s own films (The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King) was creatively helmed by many people who attended the school Walt helped establish.

Of course, as you will soon see with this list of CalArts alumni, Disney artists weren’t the only people to hail from the school. Many students would go on to work for Warner Bros., DreamWorks, Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, Klasky Csupo, Ralph Bakshi and others.

List of CalArts Alumni

Here is a select list of former CalArts students who you may know.

Laraine Newman – cast member on Saturday Night Live

Paul Reubens – actor who plays Pee-Wee Herman

Katey Sagal – actor from Married…with Children, Futurama and Sons of Anarchy

Michael Richards – actor from Seinfeld

David Hasselhoff – actor from Knight Rider and Baywatch

Don Cheadle – actor from Boogie Nights, the Ocean’s trilogy and House of Lies who also plays War Machine in the Marvel Cinematic Universe

Alison Brie – actor from Mad Men, Community and BoJack Horseman

Eliza Coupe – actor from Quantico and Future Man

Michael Cudlitz – actor from The Walking Dead

Ed Harris – actor from Westworld

Cecily Strong – cast member on Saturday Night Live

Bill Irwin – actor from Sesame Street and Law & Order: SVU

Julie Taymor – director of The Lion King stage play

Sean Daniel – producer of Dazed and Confused, Mallrats, The Mummy and The Scorpion King and executive producer of The Expanse and The Witcher

Tim Burton – director of Beetlejuice, Batman, Edward Scissorhands and Frankenweenie

Rick Heinrichs – production designer for Tim Burton

Frank Darabont – director of The Shawshank Redemption and producer of The Walking Dead

Sofia Coppola – director of Lost in Translation

Kerry Conran – director of Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow

David Frankel – director of The Devil Wears Prada

James Mangold – director of Logan and Ford v Ferrari

James Marsh – director of Man on Wire and The Theory of Everything

Kirby Dick – director of The Invisible War and Allen v. Farrow

Richard Jefferies – co-writer of Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer and Tron: Legacy

Chris Innis – co-editor of The Hurt Locker

Michael Pressman – director on Law & Order: SVU and Blue Bloods

M. David Mullen – DP on The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and the Steven Spielberg-produced shows United States of Tara, Smash and Extant

Adam Beckett – head of animation on Star Wars

Donna Tracy – visual effects artist on the Star Wars, Terminator, Harry Potter and Spider-Man films

Hal Hickel – lead animator on The Phantom Menace and animation supervisor on the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy, Iron Man and The Mandalorian

Randy Fullmer – producer of The Emperor’s New Groove and Chicken Little who started out as an effects animator for Don Bluth, Filmation and Disney

John Musker – co-director of The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Hercules, Treasure Planet, The Princess and the Frog and Moana

Jerry Rees – director of The Brave Little Toaster and animation producer on Space Jam

Joe Ranft – writer on The Brave Little Toaster, Oliver & Company, The Rescuers Down Under, Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, Toy Story, A Bug’s Life and Cars

Michael Giaimo – designer on The Brave Little Toaster, FernGully, Pocahontas and Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi

George Scribner – director of Oliver & Company

Hendel Butoy – co-director of The Rescuers Down Under and director of the Pines of Rome and Piano Concerto No. 2 segments from Fantasia 2000

Kirk Wise – co-director of Beauty and the Beast, The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Atlantis: The Lost Empire

Gary Trousdale – co-director of Beauty and the Beast, The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Atlantis: The Lost Empire

Fred Cline – production designer on Rover Dangerfield, Bebe’s Kids and Space Jam

Henry Selick – director of The Nightmare Before Christmas, James and the Giant Peach and Coraline

Rob Minkoff – director of Mr. Peabody and Sherman and co-director of The Lion King

Kevin Lima – director of A Goofy Movie and Enchanted

Mark Dindal – director of Cats Don’t Dance, The Emperor’s New Groove and Chicken Little

Tony Bancroft – co-director of Mulan and Animal Crackers and supervising animator of Pumbaa in The Lion King and Kronk in The Emperor’s New Groove

Brenda Chapman – co-director of The Prince of Egypt and Brave

Chris Buck – co-director of Tarzan, Surf’s Up and Frozen

Brad Bird – director of The Iron Giant, The Incredibles and Ratatouille

Chris Sanders – co-director of Lilo & Stitch, How to Train Your Dragon and The Croods

Kelly Asbury – co-director of Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron and Shrek 2 and director of Gnomeo and Juliet, Smurfs: The Lost Village and UglyDolls

Ben Gluck – director of Brother Bear 2, head of story on 9 and Bambi II and story artist for Dinosaur, The Emperor’s New Groove, Home on the Range, Piglet’s Big Movie, Yogi Bear and The Prophet

Steve Anderson – director of Meet the Robinsons and co-director of Winnie the Pooh

Sergio Pablos – director of Klaus and supervising animator of Tantor in Tarzan and Dr. Doppler in Treasure Planet

Glen Keane – director of Over the Moon and supervising animator at Walt Disney Animation Studios who helped bring Ariel, Beast, Aladdin, Pocahontas, Tarzan, John Silver and Rapunzel to life

Mark Henn – supervising animator of Jasmine, young Simba, Mulan and Tiana at Walt Disney Animation Studios

Dave Pruiksma – supervising animator of Mrs. Potts in Beauty and the Beast, the Sultan in Aladdin, Flit in Pocahontas and Victor and Hugo in The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Tony Anselmo – animator of the Wardrobe in Beauty and the Beast and voice of Donald Duck

Anthony DeRosa – supervising animator of adult Nala in The Lion King, Zeus in Hercules and Mole in Atlantis: The Lost Empire

Ellen Woodbury – supervising animator of Zazu in The Lion King and Pegasus in Hercules

Michael Cedeno – director of Oilspot and Lipstick and supervising animator of Kocoum in Pocahontas and the Atlantean King in Atlantis: The Lost Empire

Russ Edmonds – supervising animator of Phoebus in The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Kala in Tarzan and Vinny in Atlantis: The Lost Empire

James Lopez – supervising animator of Pain in Hercules and lead animator of Tipo in The Emperor’s New Groove

Nancy Beiman – supervising animator of the Fates in Hercules and Billy Bones in Treasure Planet

Tom Bancroft – supervising animator of Mushu in Mulan

Mike Nguyen – supervising animator on Quest for Camelot, The Iron Giant and Osmosis Jones

Shane Prigmore – animator on The Iron Giant, Osmosis Jones, Eight Crazy Nights, Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas, Looney Tunes: Back in Action and The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

Susan Goldberg – art director on the Rhapsody in Blue and Carnival of the Animals segments in Fantasia 2000

Dave Bossert – special effects animator at Disney and co-director of One by One

Stevie Wermers – co-director of Prep & Landing, Olaf’s Frozen Adventure, How to Hook Up Your Home Theater and The Ballad of Nessie

John Lasseter – director of Toy Story, A Bug’s Life, Toy Story 2, Cars and Cars 2

Pete Docter – director of Monsters, inc., Up, Inside Out and Soul

Andrew Stanton – director of Finding Nemo, WALL-E and Finding Dory

Mark Andrews – co-director of Brave and director of One Man Band

Pete Sohn – director of The Good Dinosaur and Partly Cloudy

Ralph Eggleston – art director on FernGully, Toy Story and The Incredibles and director of For the Birds

Doug Sweetland – co-director of Storks and director of Presto

Teddy Newton – artist and character designer on The Iron Giant and director of Day & Night

Lou Romano – visual development artist on The Iron Giant, Monsters, Inc. and Paperman and production designer on The Incredibles and The Little Prince

Jeff Pidgeon – story artist at Pixar

Matthew Luhn – animator on The Simpsons and various Pixar films

Rich Moore – director of Wreck-It Ralph, co-director of Zootopia and Ralph Breaks the Internet and director on The Simpsons, The Critic and Futurama

Klay Hall – director of Planes and episodes of King of the Hill and Father of the Pride

Eric Darnell – co-director of Antz and the Madagascar trilogy

Conrad Vernon – co-director of Shrek 2, Monsters vs. Aliens, Madagascar 3, Sausage Party and The Addams Family

Tom McGrath – director of Megamind and The Boss Baby and co-director of the Madagascar trilogy

Chris Miller – director of Shrek the Third and Puss in Boots

Mark Osborne – director of Kung Fu Panda and The Little Prince

Mike Mitchell – director of Shrek Forever After, Trolls and The Lego Movie 2

Jill Culton – director of Abominable and co-director of Open Season

Anthony Stacchi – co-director of Open Season and The Boxtrolls

Ash Brannon – director of Rock Dog and co-director of Surf’s Up

Kyle Balda – co-director of Minions and Despicable Me 3

Bob Persichetti – co-director of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Andy Schuhler – layout artist on The Simpsons and Dilbert, animator on The Iron Giant, Eight Crazy Nights and Curious George and designer of the fantasy sequence from The Boss Baby

Mike L. Murphy – animated sequence director on Diary of a Wimpy Kid

Sara Gunnarsdóttir – animator on The Diary of a Teenage Girl

David Daniels – animator on Pee-Wee’s Playhouse and Peter Gabriel’s “Big Time” music video and originator of the M&M’s commercials starring the CG versions of Red, Yellow, Green and Blue

April March – animator on Pee-Wee’s Playhouse, The Ren & Stimpy Show and the title sequence of Who’s That Girl

Jim Reardon – writer and director on Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures, writer on Tiny Toon Adventures and director on The Simpsons

Wes Archer – director on The Simpsons, King of the Hill, Bob’s Burgers and Rick and Morty

Mark Kirkland – director on The Simpsons

Michael Marcantel – director on The Simpsons

Arlene Klasky – co-founder of Klasky Csupo and co-creator of Rugrats, The Wild Thornberrys and Rocket Power

Peter Chung – creator of Æon Flux

Bill Kopp – co-creator of Eek! the Cat and Toonsylvania

Donovan Cook – creator of 2 Stupid Dogs

Rusty Mills – director on Animaniacs and Pinky and the Brain

Mark O’Hare – director on Rocko’s Modern Life, SpongeBob SquarePants and Camp Lazlo

Brett Haaland – director on The Critic and Futurama

Genndy Tartakovsky – creator of Dexter’s Laboratory, Samurai Jack and Primal and director of Hotel Transylvania

Scott Morse – art director on Cow and Chicken and I Am Weasel and artist on Your Friend the Rat

Mitch Schauer – creator of The Angry Beavers

Jeff Degrandis – producer of Toonsylvania, Dora the Explorer and God, the Devil and Bob

Craig McCracken – creator of The Powerpuff Girls, Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends, Wander Over Yonder and Kid Cosmic

Randy Myers – director on The Powerpuff Girls, Samurai Jack, The Fairly Oddparents, My Life as a Teenage Robot and The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy

Stephen Hillenburg – creator of SpongeBob SquarePants

Jay Lender – director on SpongeBob SquarePants, Phineas and Ferb and The Loud House

Steven Fonti – writer and storyboard director on SpongeBob SquarePants and storyboard artist on The Simpsons, Futurama, Family Guy, American Dad! and various animated films from Disney, DreamWorks, Warner Bros. and Sony Pictures Animation

Paul Tibbitt – writer, director, producer and storyboard artist on SpongeBob SquarePants

Aaron Springer – writer and storyboard artist on SpongeBob SquarePants and creator of Billy Dilley’s Super-Duper Subterranean Summer

Brian Sheesley – director on Futurama, The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy and Camp Lazlo

Zac Moncrief – director on Family Guy and Phineas and Ferb

Savage Steve Holland – creator of Sabrina: The Animated Series and director on Even Stevens, Lizzie McGuire, Phil of the Future, Unfabulous, Zoey 101 and Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide

Chris Bailey – director of Runaway Brain and episodes of Clerks: The Animated Series and Kim Possible

Timothy Björklund – director on Teacher’s Pet and Brandy & Mr. Whiskers

Gary Conrad – director on Dora the Explorer, The Fairly Oddparents and Danny Phantom

Bruce W. Smith – creator of The Proud Family and supervising animator of Kerchak in Tarzan, Pacha in The Emperor’s New Groove and Dr. Facilier in The Princess and the Frog

Dave Wasson – creator of Time Squad and director on The Buzz on Maggie, Mickey Mouse and Star vs. the Forces of Evil

Butch Hartman – creator of The Fairly Oddparents and Danny Phantom

Rob Renzetti – creator of My Life As a Teenage Robot and director of various Cartoon Network shows

Darrel Van Citters – supervising director of Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi

Carlos Ramos – creator of The X’s

Jorge Gutierrez – co-creator of El Tigre and director of The Book of Life

Q. Allan Brocka – creator of Rick & Steve

Cynthia True – co-creator of The Mighty B!

Erik Wiese – co-creator of The Mighty B!, writer and artist on SpongeBob SquarePants and Samurai Jack and supervising producer and director on Dawn of the Croods

Thurop Van Orman – creator of The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack

Pendleton Ward – creator of Adventure Time and Bravest Warriors and co-creator of The Midnight Gospel

Adam Muto – supervising producer of Adventure Time

J.G. Quintel – creator of Regular Show and Close Enough

Lauren Faust – creator of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic

Alex Hirsch – creator of Gravity Falls

Pete Browngardt – creator of Uncle Grandpa and creative director of Looney Tunes Cartoons

Paul Rudish – developer of Mickey Mouse and The Wonderful World of Mickey Mouse

Patrick McHale – creator of Over the Garden Wall

Skyler Page – creator of Clarence

Daron Nefcy – creator of Star vs. the Forces of Evil

J.J. Villard – creator of King Star King and J.J. Villard’s Fairy Tales, writer on Clarence and artist at DreamWorks

Benny Zelcowicz – supervising animator on Robot Chicken and SuperMansion

Eddie Rosas – director on Trash Truck, animator on The Iron Giant and Osmosis Jones and layout artist on The Simpsons and Futurama

Michael Patterson – creator of MC Skat Kat

Lorne Lanning – co-creator of Oddworld

Gregg Vanzo – founder of Rough Draft Studios