Press Releases

How to Dress the Stylish Toon: CalArts’ Students Explore Costume Design for Animation

How to Dress the Stylish Toon: CalArts’ Students Explore Costume Design for Animation
CalArts’s students create period costumes for animated characters in the class Costume Design for Animation. Photo: Nicolas Savignano. Courtesy of CalArts.

Trending: as animated and digital worlds become increasingly realistic, productions will require skilled costume designers. 

Valencia, CA, March 4, 2019—Costume design for animation is among the newest career paths in the age of digital production—and the topic of a current class taught in the Costume Design Program of the School of Theater at California Institute of the Arts (CalArts).

CalArts, with its future-directed approach, is training student animators and designers to create characters through costume in animated features. In the class, Costume Design in Animation, student designers learn about the art of animation, and animators are introduced to the principles of costume design.  

Instructor, Camille Benda, is an insightful voice on training students for this burgeoning field and on future applications of costume design. “Contemporary blockbusters employ up to 70-100 members of a freelance costume design team to work on a wide variety of visual details,” she noted. “Higher image resolution in animation, and other mediums, requires a new attention to detail in costuming. As the visual worlds of animation and gaming grow in complexity, costume designers will be needed in these fields. This expands opportunities for designers to practice their art—creating garments that define character and enhance the world-building of virtual spaces.”

Currently, students are developing period characters and their costumes. The remainder of the class revolves around collaborations between animators and designers. For a Future Presidents assignment, designers will develop maquettes and sketches based on animators’ concepts. For the final project, students collaborate on Future Villains with animators providing turnaround renderings, animations, or puppets based on designers’ visions.

Early examples of the trend of costume design for animation: Walt Disney Animation Studios designated visual development artist, Neysa Bové, to design the costumes for Moana, and Jean Gillmore created costumes for Frozen.

The Costume Design MFA Program at CalArts is among The Hollywood Reporter’s Top 10 Costume Design Schools for 2019. The program emphasizes critical thinking and focuses on the designer’s contribution to the collaborative process, not just as a costume designer, but as a critical aesthetic voice in the development on any given project.

Dedicated to the development of new voices and new forms, the School of Theater at CalArts is one of the preeminent theater training grounds in the country, designed to educate the whole person and to prepare fully equipped theater artists to transform the field.