Cartoon Network has a long and successful history with graduates of the prestigious animation school at CalArts: Genndy Tartakovsky (“Dexter’s Laboratory,” “Samurai Jack,” “Star Wars: Clone Wars”), Craig McCracken (“The Powerpuff Girls”) and Pendleton Ward (“Adventure Time”), just to name a few.
So now, after a relationship of many years, Cartoon Network, which just celebrated its 25 anniversary last fall, has worked with the school to create an annual scholarship totaling $15,000 for pair of deserving students with an eye toward keeping the animation talent well filled.
“We tap into talent from everywhere, but a lot of the CalArts talent in particular has risen up to places of show creators like Genndy and Craig,” says Cartoon Network senior VP and general manager Brian Miller. “And that list continues to expand with people like Pen Ward and J.G. Quintel (“Regular Show”), and further from there to Daniel Chong (“We Bare Bears”), and it just continues.”
The first recipients of the Cartoon Network scholarship are Michelle Lam and Mariana Yovanovich. Lam is completing her fourth year at the school, while Yovanovich is in the last semester of her third year.
“We have this very long history of talent coming from CalArts,” notes Miller. “It was probably about 2015 when we started talking to them about a scholarship as a way for us to pay back for the great relationship and great talent we’ve received from the school. They came up with a proposal for the scholarship program, explained to us how it would work and we were completely on board. Now we’re about to enter the second year of the program.”
“We had kind of an informal relationship (with Cartoon Network) for years,” said School of Film/Video Dean Leighton Pierce. “Many, many alums go to Cartoon Network, so we wanted to take the relationship a step further.” He explained that there were a series of meetings to figure out what would be best for the students and Cartoon Network. “It wasn’t like someone called and said ‘Let’s do this!’ It’s more like we said, ‘Let’s meet and talk about how we can make this a more robust and solid relationship,’ and it grew from there.”
The scholarship is merit based, and neither Lam nor Yovanovich had any inkling that they would be getting these funds when they opened emails telling them they were selected as recipients.
“There’s no application process,” explains Pierce. “What we do is nominate based on merit and people who have done, ideally, an internship at Cartoon Network. We have a very robust mentoring program, so we have a pretty intimate knowledge of what’s up with the students, and these two have been exceptional students.” Lam had interned at Cartoon Network, but Yovanovich had not.
“I felt very honored because Cartoon Network was my first internship. Not only did the scholarship help me with tuition and continuing my time here at CalArts, but it felt like I was somewhat accepted by the industry, or that there is a chance or hope for me to enter an industry that I’ve dreamed of being a part of since I was a little kid,” says Lam about hearing she’d been awarded the scholarship.
For Yovanovich, the scholarship was particularly timely because the Brazilian animator wasn’t sure she’d be able to come back for another year at CalArts. “Because I’m an international student, I don’t have many options for scholarships besides what the college can give me. For me, this was such a financial relief. I’m never quite sure if I’m going to be able to come back for another year,” she says. But the scholarship took care of her for this third year. “I have another year to go,” she says. “I think I will be able to come back for a fourth year and graduate. Fingers crossed.”
Pierce acknowledges how expensive it can be to attend a private school like CalArts and is glad this scholarship was able to help someone like Yovanovich. “It’s really great when a student actually stays in the school because they’re able to get a scholarship. And it’s great that Cartoon Network supplied this for us.”
The scholarship will be awarded again later this year.