California Institute of the Arts president Steven Lavine has bequeathed Disney-Pixar chief creative officer John Lasseter with the 2014 honorary Doctor of Arts degree in celebration of his originality, creativity and extraordinary contributions to the art of animation and contemporary filmmaking.
Lasseter, who graduated from CalArt’s Character Animation Program in 1979, addressed the class of 2014 on May 16 in a heartfelt speech describing the impact of CalArts on his life and work. He shared two key insights inspired by his time at the Institute:
“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.” And, “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.”
Lasseter fondly recalled his teachers and describe the celebrated first graduating class of CalArt’s Character program which also included two-time Oscar winner Brad Bird, Tim Burton, John Musker, Chris Buck and Michael Giaimo.
“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. 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.”