What is your name and your current occupation?
Shaun Cashman and currently I’m the Supervising Director on a new Disney series being produced at Titmouse, Inc. called “Randy Cunningham: 9th Grade Ninja”!
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation? Before animation I was a working artist back East in Connecticut, working at a newspaper in the advertising and marketing department designing ads, campaigns and marketing materials and doing some freelance illustrations as well. But right out of art school I was a construction laborer for a few years, short-order cook, worked in a retail and also ran lights and the sound board for a couple of local, hometown bands on the weekends. I did have a brush with the world of film production when I was an Associate Producer, sound man, 2nd unit photographer, set builder and driver for a small live-action company.
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
Right off the bat, my first gig in the business was on “The Simpson’s” and I was lucky enough at that time to have been at Film Roman when Phil Roman still ran the place and it was a place where you had opportunity to learn, advance and grow, especially on that show. I came on 5th Season in 1993 with NO actual animation production experience and eventually worked my way up through the ranks of being able to direct my first episode and from that point I was offered to direct fulltime on “King Of The Hill”, also being produced at Film Roman. So my time on “The Simpson’s” will always hold a special place in my heart as my entry into the business and as my on-the-job-training! But, my favorite experience, both personally and professionally, was my time as a Director and Supervising Producer on “The Grim Adventures Of Billy & Mandy”! Show creator Maxwell Atoms has essentially ruined me for anything else that will come down the path in my career as he was, without a doubt, the most generous, trusting, friendly and encouraging show runner, or guy, that I’ve worked with up to this point! It was an artistically liberating and happy experience for me there at Cartoon Network and I was nominated twice for an Annie for directing on it and winning once. We had an awesome, tight-knit and friendly crew that really was a family, you don’t get that too often in this business and we were at times envied by other crews as to how tight we all were!
How did you become interested in animation?
Always was, from a VERY early age! I think the actual thing that put the hook in me was watching Walt Disney on an episode of “The Wonderful World of Color” explain their process of creating cartoons and he put a cel of Donald onto a background on an animation camera, take a picture, replace the cel and son and son on, and eventually showing it move and that was it, I was all done with any other idea of what I wanted to do in life after that – much to the chagrin of my Dad who was hoping that my earlier desire to be a doctor was going to pan out!
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I’m from Middletown, Connecticut. And after reaching a certain age and having been working as an artist in the advertising field and doing some freelance illustration for some years, my desire to get into animation, anyway I could, was just too strong and I wanted to give it a shot before I felt I was too old or just would never actually make the move to do it, so once I was vested in my pension in my Connecticut job, my then girlfriend and I cashed-out and made the trek out West. I gave myself a year to get in and it took exactly 11 months to get that first job offer!
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
Well, at the moment we’re not in production yet, so it’s quiet.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
The part that I know I’ll be liking is the opportunity to help shape a new show from the beginning stages on my end of things working closely with the show creators. I’ll essentially set the visual style of the show’s animation and timing by directing the first episode and then supervise the other directors and board artists as we get into episodic production.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
On this one? Don’t know yet.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
In general I’d have to say the long hours that you have to put in to make deadlines or revisions sometimes. I have two small children and I really don’t like to stay away from them too much if I can avoid it, but I manage to juggle fairly well so that I can do both as best I can, but any parent in this business knows what I’m talking about! I have to say that being in this business hasn’t been too difficult at least as far as how much I’ve worked. I’ve been VERY fortunate to have landed on a lot of shows that have had “legs” and afforded me long periods of employment.
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?
Bridge, Photoshop, Premiere, Final Cut Pro, Avid and the ever present Cintiq!
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
Absolutely! When I first moved out here in 1992, I was able to meet Chuck Jones at a gallery on Melrose. I attended one of the early Richard Williams seminars up in San Francisco some years ago and had plenty of opportunities to sit and chat with him. Also, through some friends of mine on “The Simpson’s”, had lunch with Corny Cole and thankfully, through the Howard Lowery Gallery’s many book signings, was able to meet Maurice Noble, Ward Kimball, Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnson! You have to understand that for a kid from Middletown, Connecticut, this was big stuff, even as an adult!
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
Personally, I’d have to say the divorce of my parents when I was about 9 years old. That kind of thing just has lingering effects. Our home life was not good and caused riffs between everyone, especially my younger brother and I which thankfully we were able to get through after some rocky years! Professionally, I’d have to say it was when I had a position on a new show at another studio where I was brought as a Supervising Producer to sort of help along and be involved with the start-up of a new series by a new creator/show runner, but ultimately it wasn’t a good mix and I had a two year contract to honor, so it was a very stressful time for me and really took it’s toll, of which the effects took quite a time to get over. The thing that I’m most proud of from that time is that the two main Director’s I hired for the show went on to win Daytime Emmy’s for their work!
Any side projects you’re working on you’d like to share details of?
I’ve been toying with ideas at the moment for an animated short as well as doing some writing, but with a 6 and a 3 year old, I don’t get much of a chance! Any of you animation fathers out there have any advice for me?
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
Be persistent, explore all avenues and opportunities and trust in your work, it will show! If you have an idea in your head of what you want to be in this business, do what you have to do to get there and be that! Work hard, get along with people and establish a good reputation for yourself, because after time, THAT’S what will count as much as how good you are at your job if people are thinking about hiring you!