4. Higher Education
One of Disney’s lesser known innovations — unless, perhaps, you live in California — was his contribution to higher education. Disney was the visionary behind the development of the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts).
Disney had a long history of commitment to artists’ training. From the early days of the Disney Studios, he teamed up with the Chouinard Art Institute to hold regular classes taught by masters of various media. Zookeepers often brought live animals in for the animators to learn how to replicate natural movement.
At the same time that the Disney Studio was experiencing unprecedented success in the early ’60s, Chouinard had fallen on hard times. Disney developed a vision for a school that would provide comprehensive arts training. “A school should offer a kind of cross-pollenization that would develop the best in its students,” he said, and he came up with the idea of combining Chouinard with the Los Angeles Conservatory of Music, another school that was in danger of folding.
After months of research and consultation, Disney felt he had a concept for what would become CalArts. He presented this plan to the public for the first time in a short film (below) that accompanied the Hollywood premiere of Mary Poppins in 1964.
Though Walt Disney would not live to see CalArts’ opening, the school maintained his vision of an interdisciplinary arts education. CalArts opened its doors in 1970 at a temporary location before moving the following year to a permanent campus in Valencia, CA, on land donated by the studio. To this day, CalArts is one of America’s preeminent educational institutions.