CalArts Animation Grads Have Brought $30 Billion To Hollywood Studios

This interactive graphic shows how films directed by animation alumni of the California Institute of the Arts, from Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure to Frozen, have raked it in for the movie industry.

So much for the stereotype that getting a degree in the creative arts has limited practical value: The California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) has published an interactive graphic demonstrating that since 1985, graduates of the school’s programs in character and experimental animation have brought Hollywood $30.6 billion in worldwide box office revenue as directors of feature films.


The graphic illustrates how varied and prolific the careers of CalArts grads have been, both in animated and live-action films. In addition to feeding scores of animators to studios for decades, CalArts boasts a number of famous director alumni including Tim Burton, Brad Bird, and Disney/Pixar chief creative officer John Lasseter; Burton’s 2010 version of Alice in Wonderland and CalArts grad Chris Buck’s 2013 mega-blockbuster Frozen have pulled in more than $1 billion each alone. But the school was once also home to absurdist animators-turned-cult-directors like Savage Steve Holland, whose mid-’80s teen classics Better Off Dead and One Crazy Summer earned $10 million and $13 million, respectively (note to Savage Steve fans: After working exclusively in television for the past 30 years, Holland just announced a return to feature-length teen comedy with the upcoming Multiplexing).

Cumulative box office revenue of films directed by alumni of CalArts’ Character and Experimental Animation Programs (1985 – 2014)

Considering the current prominence of animation in mainstream Hollywood, not to mention the leading role that design is taking in tech innovation, it’s clear that for those with an artistic bent, a creative degree can make as much business sense as one in engineering or computer science.

About the author

Evie Nagy is a former staff writer at, where she wrote features and news with a focus on culture and creativity. She was previously an editor at Billboard and Rolling Stone, and has written about music, business and culture for a variety of publications.