In Memoriam: Cornelius ‘Corny’ Cole (1930-2011)

Corny Cole: mentor, teacher, colleague and friend | Photo: Jon Gomez

CalArts learned Monday of the passing of Cornelius  “Corny” Cole III at the age of 80. A beloved member of the School of Film/Video’s faculty for more than 15 years, the Character Animation legend was also an accomplished illustrator, painter and graphic designer.

A native of Southern California, Cole studied at Chouinard Art Institute, and began his long career in animation as an “in-betweener” on Lady & the Tramp for Walt Disney. Best known for the personal touch he brought to animated TV shows such as The Chipmunks (1983), The Pink Panther (1969), and My Little Pony ‘n Friends (1986), Cole’s feature films for Chuck Jones include Gay Purr-ee (1962) and The Phantom Tollbooth (1970).

At CalArts, where he taught since 1992, Corny Cole will always be remembered as a mentor, friend and teacher. He taught Life Drawing and Skill Enrichment for Animators to many of today’s leading artists in the animation industry and was often cited as an important influence among student animators interviewed for 24700.

From Don Hall, co-director of this summer’s Winnie-the-Pooh: 

I think my favorite memory from CalArts was the salute to Corny Cole we did my senior year (2005). bunch of us got together AFTER we turned our films in for the Producer’s Show, and animated 15 little “Corny Moments” that played as interstitials throughout the show. They were a huge hit, and the best part is, we kept it a secret from Corny, so we got to watch him enjoy them at the show. Awesome moment….

From ‘Subway sketch artist’ Eric Molinsky:

 Molinsky still remembers CalArts animation faculty member Corny Cole telling him that his drawings used too many formulas, so Cole made him draw with a pencil attached to a stick in his left hand (Molinsky is right-handed) in order to draw more “honestly and sincerely.” He now illustrates his subway sketches using another crude instrument—his index finger on the iPhone.

“Everything I do, I’m using the skills I learned at CalArts,” he said. “I may still use formulas in my drawings, but I use them a lot less.”

CalArts sends its condolences to the Cole family. Numerous other tributes are pouring in from his former students, colleagues and friends on social media sites. Please feel free to leave your fondest remembrances in the comments section below or on Facebook or through Twitter.

The Cole family requests that messages of sympathy and condolences be sent to:

Character Animation Office
24700 McBean Parkway
Valencia, CA 91355
or email:

Aug. 11 Update

A scholarship fund has been established in honor of Corny’s extraordinary educational legacy to benefit animation students in the School of Film/Video.

Memorial gifts may be made online (note “Corny Cole Scholarship” in the special instructions box) or may be sent to:

The Corny Cole Endowed Scholarship Fund
Office of Advancement
24700 McBean Parkway
Valencia, CA 91355

Here’s the trailer from the 1962 animated film Gay Purr-ee, starring Judy Garland, which featured Cole’s production design.

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  1. Elyse Lewin // //

    I am probably one of the few people who knew him in the 50’s. He was not only very, very handsome , but so nice and kind and fun to be with. He was always a favorite of mine. He was a good surfer and a good pal to all of us who hung out in Santa Monica with those good looking life guards and surfers.
    Those were golden days and he was one of the most Golden.

  2. ROBERT SLEDGE // //

    I just learned today of Corny Coles Passing,I was so sad to hear this.I knew corny when only a young artist of 14 or 15
    when i started to take a class he offered to teach animation free of charge to a group of young artist at night after his full time job ended once a week at the Marvel studios. we all meet up and worked on our films discussed art and created meaningful friendships and memories.It was Corny wo got a assignment for a commercial to be inbetweened and cleaned up,and let us young guys have the job we worked all night and finished it tired but happy and thankfull at Cornys loving act to nurture us in the animation process,When the check came for the scene we did Corney paid us all.He did so many things like this for not only us but people everywhere he meet. what a talent and mentor to so many.

  3. The Pink Panther // //

    The Pink Panther is one of my favorite cartoon characters! Corny also designed graphics for another of my favorite cartoons, “The Ant and the Aardvark”. He also directed a couple of TV movies starring Flip Wilson.