A Gay CalArts Teacher Who Shaped a Generation of Animators Also Inspired The Flintstones' Great Gazoo

2.24.2014

By Jerry Portwood

CalArts design prof Bill Moore helped influence the talents of Tim Burton, John Lasseter, Brad Bird & others

The CalArts class of '76 produced some of the most memorable (and profitable) films since 1985, including The Little Mermaid, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Toy Story, The Incredibles, and Coraline (generating more than $26 billion at the box office, according to the Los Angeles Times). As Sam Kashner explains in the March issue of Vanity Fair in his story titled "The Class that Roared," the teacher at the school that had the biggest influence on the students at that time was Bill Moore, a design teacher who had been a professor at the school's previous incarnation, Chouinard Art School, before it was subsumed into CalArts.

As Henry Selick (Coraline, James and the Giant Peach) explains: "Bill Moore was exceptional—a wake-up call, especially for some of the kids right out of high school. He was clearly gay, and this was a time when people from Iowa would say, 'What the hell? What's with that guy?' And he was flamboyant."

Michael Giamio (art director on Pocahontas and Frozen) says that Moore "took you to the edge of anxiety, fear, and frustration, and then you learned. He had an amazing style. He was politically incorrect with his approach, his language."

John Lasseter (Toy Story, A Bug's Life) credits him with being one of the biggest influences on his life, saying he was "legendary for being extremely difficult. Very, very critical and very hard. As Giamio explains, at one point Moore considered Lasseter's work "the genius of the day" for almost three weeks straight. After that streak, Moore criticized Lasseter's work as "true shit," and Lasseter was crestfallen. Seeing his state, he then told him "'John, you can't wake up with a hard-on every morning.

While Kashner ponders whether Moore was the inspiration for Mr. Rzykruski in Tim Burton's Frankenweenie or Anton Ego in director and writer Brad Bird's Ratatouille, Bird denies that association. But Bird—who says that everyone was terrified of Moore the first couple of classes before they ended up "loving him—I mean, loving him like take a bullet for him"—does admit "there are some similarities—the fear they inspire, their genuine love of art—but there is an animated character who actually was based on Bill Moore before Chouinard became CalArts: the tiny [green] alien, the Great Gazoo, on The Flintstones. No kidding."

Tags: Popnography
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