Going to the Character Animation program at CalArts for my BFA was one of the best experiences in my life.
The teachers I had were so inspiring.
One of the most inspiring teachers I studied with was Corny Cole (1930-2011).
Corny Cole was a seasoned veteran in the animation industry. Having worked as an animator and production designer on countless animation productions. From Looney Tunes as an animator, storyboarding on Raggedy Ann and Andy, and Production Designer for Chuck Jones on Gay Purr-ee. Among many many other projects.
One of my favorites of Corny is the production design work he did on Chuck Jones’ Gay Pur-ee:
Here’s a link to Corny’s IMDB to get an overview of everything he worked on in his animation career.
Here’s Corny’s animation reel:
Corny approached all his work, from concept to final animation with incredible drawing sensibilities, and used only traditional techniques. Nothing more than simple ballpoint pens and graphite pencils.
At CalArts Corny taught life drawing and animation. Which is where I first met Corny.
Taking Corny’s life drawing class during my second year at CalArts. It was a really casual class where Corny would sit on the floor with everyone else and draw from the model. He was always telling stories and announcing different drawing tips throughout the day. Every class was casual and insightful.
Corny’s drawings were amazing. He kept a box of large uncut matte boards in the classroom he would use everyday. Drawing layer after layer in every which direction. Over the course of the year he would draw on these same matte boards again and again. Resulting in beautiful life drawings that had so much motion and movement.
These images are from Duck Walk:
From Corny’s life drawings classes, I learned to loosen up how I drew. Relaxing as I explored the model with each line I placed on the paper. Which helped tremendously as I moved through the Character Animation program.
I remember one day, Corny took my to his back office and showed my a silverpoint drawing he did of his mother. It was the most beautiful drawing I have ever scene. The thousands of lines capturing the image of his mother were so delicate – but full of motion as well.
Corny was always so generous in sharing his work and the many stories from his lifetime of experiences.
Corny was one of the first surfers in the Santa Monica and Malibu areas. His twin brother, Peter Cole, moved to Hawaii, and became an accomplished big wave surfer.
Photo of Peter Cole from Neil Cole’s website:
After telling Corny about myself being from San Diego and surfing he shared many of his water stories with me.
He said when he was doing water training in the military, one of the drill sergeants was picking on a recruit who couldn’t swim. Picking on him to the point of almost drowning him. Corny being a strong swimmer from years of surfing went over to the sergeant and put him under water. Holding the sergeants head underwater between his knees as punishment for picking on the recruit who couldn’t swim.
Corny had the personality of never putting up with anyones shit, no matter their status or popularity.
But more importantly, he looked out for and remembered everyone.
For my 2nd, 3rd, and 4th year – along with his animation class – I also took Corny’s all day animation class every week. Where we would all sit around with our animation discs and animate without a light for eight hours.
Corny’s approach to animation was unique as well.
If you look at his work, you’ll see he animates the camera a lot. Which means animating the truck-ins and -outs, and -arounds during a scene. Look for it in his animation reel above. Really amazing to see when you understand the amount of work it takes.
His approach to animating was also more based on feeling and understanding the motion. Not so much about tracing the image before it. Which is why he never used the light under the animation disc while animating.
Some of his commercial animation projects where he had full reign creatively ARE fine art.
His storyboards were works of fine art too.
Here are some of his storyboards from Raggedy Ann and Andy I found of his on Michael Sporn’s blog:
Here are some additional boards by Corny Cole I found on Hans Bacher’s blog:
There’s no doubt Corny helped and connected with hundreds of artists. From his career in animation to his many years of teaching in art school in and around
Here’s a few links to what others have wrote about Corny.
- Floyd Norman shares his Very Corny Story
- A great interview with Corny Cole by Michael Barrier and Milton Gray here
Whenever I feel stuck with my drawings, I always find myself asking how would Corny approach this. Always keeping my work loose, and remembering to draw in my own unique way.
When giving advice to his students about starting their careers in commercial art and animation, he always told us:
- always get credit for your work
- never work for free
- always work in your own style
- don’t put up with anyone’s shit
Corny was generous so kind hearted and generous with his time and knowledge with everyone. I’m thankful I met and studied with him.
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