What is your name and your current occupation?
Jay Shultz Background designer and layout artist for Dora the Explorer and Go Diego Go
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
Well I got into animation pretty early, when I was 21 so there’s not to much craziness that went down. I grew up in a pretty small town in Ohio and there wasn’t that much art to do. I painted lots of murals for the local high school, restaurants, football t-shirts, band logos, jacket patch designs, backdrops for theatres and photo studios, signage for businesses, basically anything that involved some form of art I tried it. I took it all very professional and I knew when to say no to a job that would later turn out to be a pain.
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
It would have to be my first job at Fox Feature animation doing storyboards for Anastasia. It was an amazing learning experience both professionally and personally. It was scary that everything was so new and everyone was better than me but man did I learn quick and I got to work with one of my favorite animators/directors Don Blueth. My other favorite project would have to be my own Doodle A Day project. Where I am still to this day drawing and painting my own ideas and stories and posting on lines through blogs, and art site. I love the absolute freedom that it gives me.
How did you become interested in animation?
I started drawing around seven years old before that I scribbled a lot but I was always interested in art. As a kid I watched a lot of cartoons. I watched anything I could that was animated but mostly the classic Warner Brothers cartoons of the 1950’s. Still my favorite toons to this day. So I could say I was always interested in animation. I would make flipbooks; draw cartoon characters and over dose on the Wonderful World of Disney and drool as Walt talked about animation and the creative process. It wasn’t until I was thirteen that I officaly decided I wanted to work in animation. So basically I kinda knew all along.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I’m originally form a small town called Bellaire Ohio nestled in the hills of the Ohio valley in the tri-state area where Pennsylvania and West Virginia meet. I got my big break in animation in my junior year at the Columbus College of Art and Design. I was taken out of school and put to work. It was the time in the early 90’s when every major studio wanted and animation production house. 20th Century Fox was one of the many at the time who came to our school. By that time I realized that animating bored the Hell out of me so I went into storyboarding because it was more fluid and fast paced and I loved telling stories. So anyways Fox came to my college, I showed them my work, they sent me a test. I took it they liked it and before ya knew it I was living in Phoenix working. After that I worked a little on Titian A.E. then quickly came to L.A. to work in the business.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
I tend to bounce between the two jobs. I’m either designing backgrounds or laying them out for the background painters to finish. So my day can vary from reading scripts and breaking them down to the basic parts of what location I’ll need to create. It takes about a week to design a show. Then there’s days where we’ll break down a storyboard and find the key locations we need to draw out and clean up to get them ready to be painted. Because we have our Korean studio finish most of the animation we pick the key areas and draw them out. From there they’ll use these keys as their reference point to draw the rest of the backgrounds from. All the while as this is going on they’ll be various revisions to fix from shows that are still in the development phase or in the layout stage.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
Oh I always love the design part. That’s where the real creative stuff happens. I like researching new things and how they work and what they look like and then find interesting ways to make them look all cartoony. The layout part is all mechanical with little to creatively involved because most of it is roughed out from the board. At that point you’re just making it look pretty by add more details and cleaner lines.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
I don’t care for lots of meetings or unnecessary revisions. Sometimes you get a lot of chiefs in the process of making a cartoon that don’t always have the best plan or course on how to make something great in terms of animation and storytelling and there’s times you have bite your tongue and just look at it as a job and not an art form.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
Well there are a lot of things that frustrate me about the business, like how people in production don’t get any piece of the product they make. The show I’m on makes a ton of dough and I don’t see any of those residuals even when I’ve seen toys based off my designs. I don’t care for how some shows are past on because the people you pitch too don’t have a clue what’s cool in the world of film or animation. I mean there’s a huge list but the rest would just sound like bitching and ranting.
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?
I mainly work in Photoshop using a Wacom Cintiq drawing monitor. We still actually draw by hand on this show, well sort of. I love these tools and any artist that wants’ to be in the business should get one.
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
Well my first job was with Don Blueth and Garry Goldman. That was a good start. I worked with Richard Rich for a brief time (Swan Princess) And currently my boss is Jeff DeGrandis who was the producer on Tiny Toons, and The Anmanicas and who has done many a project with Chuck Jones. I’ve meet lots of the greats from both TV. and feature film that have made many of the cartoons that kids are watching today, but the above mentioned are the ones that I worked with on a day to day basis.
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
I was out of work for over a year when I first moved to L.A. and had to take up a job doing security guard work. The pay sucked but I was guarding movie sets and actresses. It wasn’t that bad really. I meet tons of cool fun people and I just had to make sure no one stole anything or messed with the actors. All I had to do was watch everyone and everything, and so I did. I watch the director the producers, the script coordinators, the grips, the cameramen the best boys, the electricians. I watch and learn as much as I could. I watch every single aspect on how a major motion picture was run and somehow nothing was stolen! It was a hard year financially for me and I almost had to quite everything and move back to Ohio, a fate worst than death as far as I was concerned. Well I keep applying to places till I eventually was hired at Nickelodeon and have been here since.
Any side projects you’re working on you’d like to share details of?
I’m always creating or pitching shows, sometimes with partners or on my own. Nothing I can share just yet but I do have my Doodle Day blog in which I post what I have drawn up for that week and talk about what’s going on in the world of animation and art or I talk about what’s on my mind towards drawing, painting or whatever is inspiriting me that week.
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the Business?
Here are a few things they can do. Draw as much as possible and whenever you have a free moment. Draw people, animals and landscapes but do it in a way that it tells a story or gives a mood or emotional reaction. Learn human anatomy, perspective drawing, and how to design compositions that can lead a viewer’s eye. Study every art of animation book out there today. Just go to the bookstore get a cup of coffee and sit on the floor and look and learn. Study how those artist use shape and form to convey emotion through acting and action. Your work should be on that level. If it’s not then you need to spend more time at the drawing board. Don’t worry I need to do that too.