By the 1930s, the motion picture industry was recruiting Chouinard alumni in increasing numbers and in a wide variety of departments, from art direction to costume design to animation. Walt Disney in particular took an interest in the work being carried out at Chouinard, and many of the animators who worked on early Disney classics such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio and Bambi were Chouinardians. They included members of Disney’s fabled Nine Old Men.” Animators also excelled at a number of other prominent studios, most notably Chuck Jones at Warner Bros. In time, Walt Disney himself became a financial backer of the school.
In the 1950s and ’60s, Chouinard became known as a progressive fine arts school and its graduates turned up at the forefront of the Light and Space and Finish Fetish movements (Robert Irwin, Larry Bell, Billy Al Bengston). Others explored assemblage techniques (Wallace Berman, Llyn Foulkes, Noah Purifoy) or became early standard-bearers of photo-conceptualism (Ed Ruscha, John Baldessari).
Following the 1961 merger with the L.A. Conservatory of Music to form California Institute of the Arts, Chouinard continued to operate at its Westlake location for the rest of decade until CalArts opened its doors in 1970.