CalArts, A113, and Bill Moore

The March issue of Vanity Fair has an article about the the early character animation program at California Institute of the Arts, better known as CalArts.  It focuses mainly on the students who attended when the program first started in 1975 and a few years afterwards. Even if you’re not in the animation business you’ll recognize some of these names: Tim Burton, John Lasseter, Brad Bird, Glen Keane, Nancy Beiman, Jerry Rees, Mike Giaimo, John Musker, to name a few.  It really is amazing all that talent came from a small art school within the span of a few years.

The article gives the reader some behind-the-scenes glimpses into life as a character animation student at CalArts; the life drawing classes (which for many students was their first introduction to nude models), the infamous Halloween parties, the meaning behind the room A113, and the profound impact one of the teachers had on so many of the students.

That teacher was Bill Moore.  Formerly from the famous Chouinard Art Institute, he taught color and design and was the one who influenced so many of the students in the character animation program.  I attended CalArts in the early 80’s and had Moore as my teacher during my first year, the last class he taught before becoming ill.  As the article mentions, he was quite a character and very intimidating.  I remember agonizing over projects and the fear which would fill the classroom when he walked in to review our efforts, hung on the wall for review.  We all had heard the legend of Bill Moore (who always had a lit cigarette in his hand) setting on fire any work he didn’t like.  But he was a wonderful teacher.  I learned everything I know about design from Bill Moore.  And even though he sometimes came across as too tough, too insensitive- I still have a vivid memory of him briefly letting his cranky persona down.

At the end of particularly stressful design class my classmates and I retreated to our animation desks to resume work on our pencil tests and lick our wounds.  My friend and cubicle mate, Lynette was especially irritated with Moore that day and decided to challenge him as he walked looking around as he did occasionally after class.  Why do you act that way when you teach, she asked him.  Do you have to be so rude?  I expected him to reply with his usual one-liners but instead his expression softened and said “because when you get out there it’ll be much worse”.

BillMoore1stClassNotesNotes from my first day in Bill Moore’s class

BillMooreProject1983A design assignment for Bill Moore’s class- 1983  (I recall him not being particularly impressed)


  1. Nancy Beiman says:

    Dear Anne,
    I forgot that you also attended Cal Arts. How great that you had Bill as a teacher…and I”m sorry we did not meet when I was there, chances are I just missed you. And it is a damn shame that you weren’t contacted by Vanity Fair as well. So many good people went to that school, it’s amazing. I’ve always loved your work.

    • Ann Telnaes says:

      Nancy- so nice to hear from you! No, we missed each other by a couple of years. I started in 82′ and finished in 85′ since I came with enough credits. I remember watching your great student film (4th year?) many times for inspiration; one of the characters in my 2nd year film was a pony and someone- Bob McCrea?- suggested I watch your film.
      I so enjoyed reading that article; loved your “you could either get drunk, wasted, or work. I chose to work.” line!

  2. ed rivera says:

    Hi Nancy,
    You took the words right out of my mouth.
    That’s exactly the way it was with Bill.
    Sitting on his stool with his leg crossed holding his cigarette is how I remember him. (and ripping work off the wall).
    As a wet behind the ears kid from Arizona, I learned so much from his class
    on how organic and geometric design relates to life…
    Also the ying yang effect, opposition with harmony.
    Because of him I was able to handle whatever the client tossed at me.
    He used to tell us,” when you leave here, no one will be able to contradict you because they don’t know as much as you do”
    In other wards you won’t be intimidated.
    And sure enough, when the client questioned why I did what I did, I had an
    answer to qualify it. it didn’t help that I looked like a 15 year old at the time.

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