I moved up North to Pixar Animation Studios in 1997 but it was hardly the first time I had worked with former Cal Arts students. As you probably know, California Institute of the Arts was a pet project of Walt Disney. Because of that, a group of us old Disney veterans often made trips to the fledgling art school. The school that was borne out of what used to be known as, Chouinard. The Old Maestro had great plans for the art school and at one time it's location was going to be in nearby Hollywood. It would be an institution that nurtured and celebrated the arts. It didn't exactly work out the way Walt had planned, but Cal Arts did finally open its doors and in time gave us a new generation of animation professionals.
The Cal Arts Animation Program had annual film shows where talented students could show case their animation skills. Studios both huge and tiny could take this opportunity to shop for talent and that included insignificant little production companies such as Vignette Films, Inc. Vignette was founded by four young men back in the sixties when animation was on the rise. We maintained a suite of offices in the Wilshire district of Los Angeles and we produced both animation and live-action motion pictures. Nothing big, mind you. We were just a little production company snatching “scraps” the big Hollywood studios dropped from their richly appointed tables.
On this particular evening Cal Arts had another student screening and the studio bosses were sniffing about searching for talent. Two of the student films impressed my partner and I, so we went about searching for the two filmmakers. The two young men were as different as you could ever imagine. The first young man was totally sixties counter-culture. He wore a red bandana around his shaggy long hair and his wardrobe was vintage thrift shop. The second young man was “Beach Boy” conventional with close cropped blonde hair and wore crisp cotton shirts. The two young artists were pals, but their appearance was night and day.
Our company, Vignette Films, Inc. hired both young men and we were continually impressed by their talent and versatility. Not only could they create animated films they were no slouches when it came to live-action either. We made cartoons in house and on occasion took to the Los Angeles streets to shoot live-action footage. One afternoon while filming a sequence in Hollywood a large black automobile drove past. The filming suddenly stopped while we watched in awe as our hero drove past. Stiffly seated in the back seat of the limo was a stern faced, portly gentleman. “It's Hitchcock!” The kids shouted. “It's Alfred Hitchcock!” We continued to mentor our young employees through a number of exciting projects and they were as eager to become filmmakers as we were.
Eventually, our little filmmaking experiment came to an end, and all of us headed back to jobs in the factory like studios of Hollywood. I returned to Disney and lost track of our young employees. Many years would pass before I would eventually make my way to Pixar Animation Studios in the Bay Area where a new group of former Cal Arts students would have a new mentor. It was nothing new, of course. I had done it all before.