Santa Clarita Valley History In Pictures
The CalArts Story
Walt Disney Productions, 1964


Debut August 27, 1964

This short film was made by Walt Disney Productions for California Institute of the Arts in 1964, seven years before its permanent campus opened in Valencia. Disney first presented the film at the Aug. 27 Hollywood premiere of "Mary Poppins."

Like the blockbuster movie, in hindsight, some aspects of the short film proved to be fantasy — a Hollywood Hills location for the art college, a motion picture museum in Los Angeles — but with the L.A. Music Center finally under construction (as seen here) and Los Angeles emerging as an important cultural center, anything was possible. The vision and principles expressed in the film held true as the college honed the skills and birthed the careers of some of the biggest names in modern film, music, theater, dance and visual arts.

Finally in November 2003, CalArts realized the 1964 vision of a permanent presence in downtown Los Angeles with the opening of the Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater (REDCAT) in the Walt Disney Concert Hall complex.

Today (2012), California Institute of the Arts houses six schools — Art, Critical Studies, Dance, Film/Video, Music, and Theater — and offers internationally acclaimed degree programs across the range of visual, performing, media and literary arts, and CalArts leads the county-wide Community Arts Partnership (CAP) youth arts education program.

About California Institute of the Arts.


The physical buildings are one thing, but CalArts actually started in 1961, ten years before it had a permanent place to call home, with the merger of the Chouinard School of Art and the Los Angeles Conservatory of Music and Arts.

The L.A. Conservatory had started in 1883 at Fourth and Main Streets in L.A.; Chouinard Art School started in 1921 near MacArthur Park. Under the umbrella of CalArts, a few hundred students (485 in 1965-66) took classes at each location (mostly at Chouinard) while the Institute's board of trustees pursued a new, modern facility with room to grow.

Initially the trustees set their sights on the Hollywood Hills across the highway from the Hollywood Bowl, but by 1966 they were preparing to build a campus on The Walt Disney Co.'s Golden Oak Ranch property in Placerita Canyon. Walt Disney Productions donated 38 acres to the effort, and it seemed all systems were "go" — until unforseen geological problems with the Placerita property dashed those plans (see Ruth Newhall 1992:241-242). But change was afoot in the Santa Clarita Valley, and a top-flight art school meshed nicely with The Newhall Land and Farming Co.'s vision for its "New Town" of Valencia. An even bigger 60-acre site and attractive freeway alignment were just what the doctor ordered.

In 1969 the CalArts board launched a $54 million building campaign and planned to have its new campus ready for students in the fall of 1970. That proved a bit too ambitious, so classes were held in 1970 at a temporary campus in Burbank. (CalArts considers 1970 its opening year.)

In 1971 the Institute moved to its new, permanent home in Valencia where it recruited some of the top creative minds in their respective fields — from Disney animator Jules Engel to sitar impresario Ravi Shankar; from Swing Era jazzman Mel Powell to conceptual visual artist John Baldessari. With more Grammys, Oscars and other peer recognition to their credit than can be enumerated, CalArts alumni have stretched the limits of creative imagination.

Offering rigorous undergraduate and graduate degree programs through six schools — Art, Critical Studies, Dance, Film/Video, Music, and Theater — the Institute first envisioned by Walt Disney encompasses a vibrant, eclectic community with global reach, inviting experimentation, independent inquiry, and active collaboration and exchange among artists, artistic disciplines and cultural traditions.

Admission to CalArts is competitive and considered mainly on the basis of demonstrated artistic merit, as assessed by the faculty of the individual programs. Other important considerations include educational records, recommendations, and artist’s statements by applicants.

Based in Valencia, north of Los Angeles, CalArts further extends its commitment to the arts through the Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater (REDCAT) in downtown Los Angeles and the nationally emulated Community Arts Partnership (CAP) youth arts program.

• Early CalArts
• CalArts Faculty
• Alumni-Film/Video
• Alumni-Music
• Alumni-Theater


The CalArts Story 1964
Placerita Campus Plans 1965-66

Buildng Fund
3-19-1969 x3

Groundbreaking Program 5-3-1969

Construction 1969

Burbank 1970

Dr. Robert W. Corrigan, President

Harrison A. Price,
Board Chairman

Roy O. Disney, Trustee

G. Robert Truex Jr.,
Development Chair

RETURN TO TOP ]   RETURN TO MAIN INDEX ]   PHOTO CREDITS ]   BIBLIOGRAPHY ]   BOOKS FOR SALE ] is another service of SCVTV, a 501c3 Nonprofit • Site contents ©SCVTV • Additional copyrights apply