Benson Shum

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What is your name and your current occupation? 
Benson Shum. Animator at Walt Disney Animation Studios.
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation? 

Mmm, I don’t know if its crazy haha, but I was a sweeper at the local fair during the summer, griller/cook at a restaurant and burrito maker 🙂

What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of? 

Some of my favourite projects are most recently Frozen and Wreck-it Ralph.  I feel very fortunate to be able to work on such compelling stories and characters.  Hotel T and the Smurfs were also something I loved working on.  oh, and Harry Potter and the goblet of fire, because I’m such a fan of the books!

Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I was born and raised in Vancouver, BC.  When I was starting to do research on Animation, Capliano College just opened up a Commerical Animation program in North Vancouver.  I remember seeing a clip of it on the local news. I was so excited, so I got my portfolio together and applied after high school. Unfortunately I didn’t get in, so I ended up getting a job, while working on my art skills after work and applied the following year and was (to my surprise) accepted!

What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
My typical day, I get into work, get my scenes set up to work.  Then I take a look at some inspiring work, whether its animation, film/video, something to get the juices going. Then I dive into my work, thumbnailing, getting out of my desk to act out what I’m trying to animate. show the supervisors and co-workers to get notes, then go back to work. I try to take a break from time to time, whether to chat with co-workers, get some air, then come back with some fresh eyes on my scene.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
The best part would be being surrounded by the most talented artists in the world, and you can just pop in their office to chat!  Thats pretty amazing.

What part of your job do you like least? Why?
The hours can be tough, but I understand thats how production works, so as long as its not too long, I’m fine with that! I feel when you are in a crunch, you also tend to bond with each other more, cause you are all on the same boat, trying to do the best that you can in a short amount of time.

What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis, how has technology changed in the last few years in your field and how has that impacted you in your job?
I work in Maya on a daily basis, I sometimes use Photoshop as well.  I believe animators are pretty lucky that when its comes to updates with software technology, the animation tools don’t change a whole lot, compare to other departments where you have to keep catching up on whats the next tool.  Sometimes studios have their own proprietary animation software, then you would have to learn it, but in the end, its just a tool.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?  

 The most difficult would be having to uproot and move locations and look for the next gig. Its really unfortunate that most of the work we do tends to be really short contracts.  Especially if you have families/partners.  Its not like that for every studio though.  Some studios have artists thats been there for a long time, and thats really something I love seeing.  On the upside of that, it gives you an opportunity to travel and see the world!  Thats not something everyone can do.

If you could change the way the business works and is run how would you do it?
Mm longer contracts for everybody! haha.  More stability would be nice, but I wouldn’t know how to change that.

In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
Yes, currently at Disney everybody is of greatness. I’m would go into Mark Henn’s office (Jasmine, Mulan, Simba) and he would go over my scene and do draw overs!   Sometimes I still can’t believe it.  I would walk down the hall and see Eric Goldberg (The Genie in Aladdin, Get a Horse), John Musker and Ron Clements (The little mermaid) and many many more.  I also was fortunate to meet Glen Keane. I also had a chance to work briefly with Adam Valdez (Lord of the Rings trilogy) at MPC in London, England.  That was pretty cool.

Describe a tough situation you had in life. 
I was in the middle of buying my apartment and got a call from Animal Logic to work on Happy Feet. I was so excited to work and live there! but I ended up turning down the offer and bought my apartment instead.
Any side projects you’re working on that you’d like to share details of?
I love doing illustrations when I have some free time. I’ve done card designs, wedding invitation and some paintings for galleries.
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
haha..unusual I eat really fast. I don’t know if thats a talent, or me just being a pig and inhaling my food quickly.  no offence to pigs! I love pigs!! 😀
 Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business? 
I would say keep the passion going even if its hard.  There is so much inspiration out there. It’s not an easy industry, but if you work hard and keep a good head on your shoulders, you’ll be fine.  We all have our ups and down, but work through it and you’ll come out on top!



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