CalArts Mourns the Loss of Longtime Character Animation Faculty Member Leo Hobaica Jr.

Longtime faculty member Leo Hobaica passed away on Dec. 30.

*Update 2/10/2015: A memorial for Leo will be held on Feb. 22 at noon in the Bijou Auditorium. Please RSVP through this link. 

In addition, CalArts is establishing the Leo Hobaica Jr. Scholarship fund to “continue Leo’s legacy of working to change CalArts students’ perceptions and challenging them to look inside themselves, to help them clarify or illuminate their personal voices—helping ensure CalArts students become the best artists they possibly can be.” Donations may be made through this link.

CalArts was saddened to learn that Leo Hobaica Jr., 68, former assistant dean of CalArts School of Film/Video and longtime faculty member, passed away in Utica, NY, on Dec. 30 after a long illness.

Hobaica began teaching in CalArts’ Character Animation Program in 1996, focusing on the Color and Design course required for all first-year animation students. Hobaica quickly became a mentor to many animators and a champion for all students. He also worked with the burgeoning artists of CalArts’ CAP program, most recently serving as the site director at InnerCity Arts and at Sony Pictures Media Arts Program. In 2005, he was named Assistant Dean of the School of Film/Video.

Each fall semester, Leo was especially known around CalArts for two things: His annual welcome lecture-performance during new student orientation and art in silhouettes from his first-year students.

Work by Leo Hobaica

Work by Leo Hobaica

“Leo’s life was complete at CalArts. He loved being able to feel the effects of his efforts, experience and the ability to push creativity,” his brother Robert Hobaica wrote in an email. “He loved watching it flourish in the students and prided himself on being what has been referred to as the ‘Mother Hen.’ He was fortunate to have worked in a place that allows so much support of creative energy. The world will be less interesting because he is gone.”

In addition to his teaching, Hobaica was also a practicing artist, often working in mixed-media formats, fabricating sculptural objects and creating temporary site-specific installations. He completed his BA degree in Literature, Philosophy and Religion from La Moyne College, and received an MFA degree in Fibers/Mixed-media Sculpture/Installation from Lone Mt. College, San Francisco, through Fiberworks, Berkeley, CA. 

A proponent of interdisciplinary work, Leo often collaborated with faculty from other departments and worked on several international collaborative projects. Leo received numerous awards and grants throughout his career, including a Fulbright Scholars’ Grant in 2005 and a visiting professorship at Istanbul Kultur University in Turkey in 2006.  Other honors included artist-in-residencies in France (2003, 1997), a public art commission for the city of Oakland, Calif. (1994-95), a Scaggs Foundation Grant (1987) and a California State Visiting Artists’ Grant (1986).

Maija Burnett, director of Character Animation program, said that a memorial is being planned, with details forthcoming. Of her colleague, Burnett said, “Leo was a free thinker, an innovative artist, someone who was unafraid to challenge the status quo. He was brave, kind, bold, generous, and fiercely intelligent. Leo was a mentor to so many students, both at CalArts and CAP; he was a wonderful and cherished colleague. There are no words for how much he will be missed.”

Leo Hobaica's New Student Orientation lecture in 2009.

Leo Hobaica’s New Student Orientation lecture in 2009.

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  1. CalArts Students // //

    what a lovely person i’m sure everyone has fond memories of this extraordinary human being. He was the greatest. Everyone who had him as a teacher owes this man their career. He was our Walt Disney! I’m sure everyone would agree. One of the greatest artists, animator filmmaker and compassionate understanding people ever. All the teachers and faculty loved him such a kind man! He was the new Walt Disney of Calarts!

  2. Dave // //

    His color and design class was incredible. He revolutionized everything that disney, dreamworks and pixar do. He was such a great animator. All the students would be in awe as he drew amazing lines on paper. What an artist! We all said…If we could just draw like him…the world would be ours. not only that he was patient and had the nicest things to say to everyone he met. Its this guy ladies and gentlemen he’s the genius! Those silhouette construction paper cutouts he made his students do is the backbone of the animation industry. I’m sure Corny Cole and Leo are in a room together exchanging pleasantries.

  3. Berenice Reynaud // //

    I miss you so much, dear Leo. You were a great guy. Words fail me to express my sorrow. But you know, you live through the minds of so many young people you inspired, and in the hearts of so many people who loved you.

  4. Lawrence Shapiro // //

    Please let me know about a memorial for Leo I worked with him for many years in the CSSSA summer program and because good friends with him.

  5. Jennifer Penton // //

    I am deeply honored to have called Leo my mentor and my friend. He was the kindest, most supportive, human being I have ever met. He was my advisor for my MFA Thesis and I worked with him at CAP for years. In the twelve years that I knew him, he brightened up my universe with his brilliance, his advice, and his beautiful sense of humor. He was my champion, always helping me to succeed in any way that he could. I can still hear his sweet voice speaking to me. During his illness, he never failed to be the loyal friend that he had always been, even calling to wish me a happy Mother’s Day last May. Dearest Leo, you will live forever in my heart. XXXOOO, Jennifer

  6. Ellie Greenwood // //

    It is wonderful that Leo found his way to a happy career. In the early 1980s, Leo taught at Syracuse in the Fiber Arts department when I was a student there; although he was bubbly, students did not warm to him. I liked that he wanted to step out of the normal bounds of what materials could do, but it was a conservative environment. He lacked basic skills in textiles and after a student petition protesting his continued employment was given to the Department Chair, he was let go. I have always wondered what happened to him and if he found a way to connect with students. It makes me very happy that he found his place in this world and was so loved.