Academy of Art and the Pixar classes

Many students have been asking what happened to the 3 classes at the Academy of Art in San Francisco that were taught by Pixar animators. I wanted to talk a bit about it, having taught there for 7 years and having many students of the program working here. I cant speak for Pixar, or the other teachers. What I am saying mostly comes from how I saw things. The basic problem is that the students that were coming into the “Pixar classes” were supposed to be the creme of the crop of the Academy, which in itself is a problem. The fact that the students were not getting a good education in animation unless they hit those classes really bothered me. I had the opportunity to teach all three levels of the class. One thing I have to say about the academy students is that they are driven. I have seen many students with loads of talent, but no drive. I never really had a problem with a student not doing the work. They were hungry.  The problem was that we were teaching basics which they should have already had.  It seemed to me as if many of the students coming into the class just wanted to be “shot animators” Animators who could be trained and then put on a film. Students that just wanted to work for Pixar.  That’s fine, but we felt they were missing out on making their own films. Taking a pre-built character and doing exercises is important, and we have amazing animators here that were hired based on those assignments. The big issue is more about how the rest of the curriculum supports the student to not only be an animator but a film maker. We were not seeing those skills taught. I think a place like Cal Arts supports this. I have also  heard from Calarts students that they wish they had more classes where they could learn more advanced 3d character animation skill, like polish and so forth… The good thing that has come out of this is that the Academy has taken notice and wants to fix things. Alot of it comes down to the quality of the teachers. I’m not sure how long it will take or when and if the “pixar classes” will return. In the end, we care most about the students. For me, I wanted to teach at a place where I could know every student, which is one of the reasons why I went to CCA. I personally also got a bit burnt out from teaching 3d. I can’t speak for the other teachers, but I have a feeling that some of the guys just needed a break and also wanted to see things change for the better. The thing that I miss most about teaching at the Academy is the students and the great work that was produced by them. They inspired me. All I want is the best for the students. I expect things to change for the better soon and look forward to helping them in any way I can.


This email does not reflect how Pixar or the other teachers feel about this issue and is only the opinion of Andrew Gordon. I would love to hear any comments students have about the program and things that could make it better or general comments…