Animation Adventures

The Rise of CalArts Style: An Influential Animation Technique

CalArts Style in Animation: The Most Successful Style of the 21st Century

For people who have enjoyed animated shows and movies in the past, you may have noticed that the animation quality evolving over time. A new style, known as CalArts Style, has recently become increasingly popular and successful.

This article aims to provide an informative overview of this unique animation style, including its definition, characteristics, and background.

CalArts Style – Definition and Characteristics

The CalArts Style of animation is known for its thin-line animation, sharp shapes, and bold colors. The style has a distinctive look that sets it apart from other animation styles.

Animators using CalArts Style typically use a limited number of colors, creating a flat, vibrant look. They also employ a lot of geometric shapes, which is one of the style’s defining characteristics.

The angles and edges that the animators use create a distinct contrast between the characters and the backgrounds, making the characters pop. Characters are usually drawn with big heads, small bodies, and large expressive eyes.

Origins and Popularity

CalArts Style emerged from the California Institute of the Arts, hence the name of the style. CalArts began developing student programs that were anime-influenced in the 1970s and 1980s.

This led the animators to create the bold and expressive style that audiences see today. Over time, the style became cheaper to develop, making it the preferred option of many studios.

The popularity of CalArts Style lies in its ability to modernize cartoon production while remaining cost-effective. Additionally, the animation style is perfect for children’s programming, providing memorable and relatable characters.

Shows such as Adventure Time, Gravity Falls, and Over The Garden Wall have all used this style and are considered some of the most successful animated shows of all time.

Criticisms and Evolution

Critics argue that CalArts Style productions fall short on creativity since the characters in the shows look remarkably similar. Critics have gone as far as to call the style “lazy” since it requires minimum effort and innovation to develop the design of the characters.

However, others argue that the animation style’s popularity is evidence that it is a successful technique. The use of this technique leads to controversy and criticism that animators have faced.

The style has continuously evolved over time, giving animators new techniques to incorporate into their work. It now includes new ways to use geometric shapes and colors in animation.

By using background color blending and more detailed shapes, animators can create a more seamless viewing experience. In conclusion, CalArts Style holds a significant potential for growth and evolution as animators continue to experiment with it.

Animators and Shows

Shows Using CalArts Style

Suppose you have ever enjoyed animated shows; chances are, you have come across a show that uses CalArts Style without realizing it. Adventure Time, Gravity Falls, and particularly Over The Garden Wall are examples of popular animated television series which use this style.

The shows are popular with audiences due to the distinct character designs that make the characters easy to recognize and lovable.

CalArts Alumni and Evolution of Animation

CalArts Animation graduates dominate Hollywood today, with many being at the forefront of the new-age animation that the entertainment industry is experiencing. CalArts has informed many shows, not just in design but storyboarding, editing, and production as well.

The style has also been used to improve old cartoons, with the alumni ensuring classic cartoons like The Powerpuff Girls, and ThunderCats harness this style to remain relevant and fun.

Other Animated Shows Incorporating CalArts Style

Aside from the shows using CalArts Style, other animated shows have incorporated this style for parts of their shows. Though these shows are not primarily dedicated to CalArts Style, these parts are quite distinct and help to highlight ideas or characters.

Examples of such animated shows would be Powerpuff Girls and ThunderCats.


In conclusion, CalArts Style is undoubtedly one of the most successful styles of animation in the 21st century. Its origin, popularity, and influence on current animation are solid indications of its success.

The CalArts Style has some criticisms surrounding it, but it has continuously evolved over time, providing animators the freedom to experiment and create something new. Current and upcoming shows appear to be adopting the CalArts Style and its popularity seems only to grow.

3) Animation Techniques

Animation is a type of visual art form that brings life to inanimate objects through techniques that make things appear as if they are moving. Over the years, animation has evolved significantly, and animators have come up with different techniques to improve the quality of their work.

In this article, we will explore some of the animation techniques widely used in the industry, starting with thin lines and primary colors to animation smears.

Thin Lines and Primary Colors

Thin line and primary colors are animation techniques that are quickly becoming increasingly popular in the industry. They are a crucial part of CalArts Style and are the hallmark of 2D animation.

Thin lines, as the name suggests, refer to the delicate and wafer-thin outlines that animators give to their characters and objects, giving them a unique look. The lines used in animation are not just any line.

They are structured to convey different emotions, such as happiness, anger, or sadness. Primary colors, on the other hand, are the essential colors of the spectrum, namely: blue, red, and yellow.

These colors are combined to make secondary colors such as purple, pink and green. The use of primary colors and their combinations are a defining feature of CalArts Style of animation, where colors such as pink, yellow, and purple are widely used.

Thin lines and primary colors have some advantages as an animation technique. The thin line gives animations a sense of consistency and enables the animator to create even fewer frames to show movement while keeping the animation clear.

The use of primary colors, when done correctly, creates a cohesive look and helps the viewer to focus on the character’s faces.

Other Animation Techniques

Aside from thin lines and primary colors, there are other animation techniques used to create 2D animation designs. These techniques have also been used in CalArts Style.

One of these techniques is animation smears. Smears are stretched-out parts of the animation that is considered standard in 2D animation.

They are used to emphasize speed during motion, making a character or object move faster. This effect is achieved by creating a smear frame where the character’s crucial traits like their eyes, ears, and nose are compressed.

It, in turn, creates a smear effect, making the character appear to move swiftly. Another technique commonly used in animation is the use of timing.

Timing is the change in intervals of a moving object to make it appear more realistic. Timing is particularly vital when showing movements like jumps and running.

Animators have to match the timing of animations with the timing of the sound effects to provide a more cohesive and realistic experience.

4) Criticisms and Popularity

Criticisms of CalArts Style

One of the criticisms of CalArts Style is that it appears “lazy.” Critics argue that the style of animation looks remarkably similar throughout different shows as opposed to other animation styles that lead to more creativity. However, advocates for CalArts Style argue that the effectiveness and popularity of this style overshadow criticisms.

Another criticism is the challenges associated with creating distinct characters with compelling personalities, as characters in shows incorporating CalArts Style are often designed similarly and are relatively flat.

Popularity and Adaptability

CalArts Style is one of the most popular animation styles in recent years. Shows such as Gravity Falls, Steven Universe, and The Amazing World of Gumball are all great examples of shows that have successfully woven CalArts Style into their animations.

One of the reasons for the popularity of the CalArts Style is its adaptability. Its popularity has not just been restricted to children’s shows but is progressively becoming a staple in young adult animated shows as well.

Furthermore, since CalArts Style animation is relatively cheap to produce, it has opened up doors for indie animators to make their mark in the industry. An example of this is the animated series Hazbin Hotel by Vivienne Medrano.

Medrano’s cartoon gained popularity and recognition for its captivating story and the stunning use of CalArts- influenced animation style. The rise of indie animators is one of the significant factors responsible for the widespread adaptation of CalArts Style.

Overall, the CalArts style of animation has become a cultural phenomenon that is hard to ignore. Its popularity is undeniable, and adaptability and creativity will continue to help evolve the animation techniques for a long time to come, making it increasingly possible for animators to create more brilliant works that break new grounds and defy the norm.

In conclusion, animation has come a long way since its inception, and animation techniques such as thin lines and primary colors have revolutionized the industry. CalArts Style is one of the most successful and popular styles of animation today, and while it has its criticisms, its adaptability, creativity, and popularity show no signs of slowing down.

FAQs covering key topics are provided below to answers common questions or concerns that readers may have. FAQs:

Q: What is CalArts Style?

A: CalArts Style is an animation style that is known for its thin-line animation, sharp shapes, and bold colors.

Q: What are thin lines and primary colors in animation?

A: Thin lines refer to the delicate and wafer-thin outlines given to characters and objects in animation, while primary colors are the essential colors of the spectrum that are used to make secondary colors. Q: What are some other animation techniques?

A: Animation smears, timing, and spacing is other animation techniques that are widely used. Q: Why is CalArts Style under criticism?

A: CalArts Style is criticized for its lack of creativity and flat character designs. Q: What makes CalArts Style popular?

A: CalArts Style is popular due to its adaptability, creativity, and low-cost production value. Q: Can indie animators use CalArts Style in their animations?

A: Yes, indie animators can use CalArts Style in their animations, as it is a cost-effective option that has helped many animators to make their mark in the industry.

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