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Thursday, December 15, 2005


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Birth: 12 November 1908, Ware, Massachusetts, USA

Death: 2 February 1996, New York, New York, USA


Animator, Director, Writer, Producer, Studio Head, Union head

Bio Summary

Born in Massachusetts, worked in NY in twenties, moved to LA in 1930s,To Florida for Fleischer Studio in 1939. back to LA for Walter Lantz, after WWII to New York to participate in early TV advertsing. Settled in NY and started own studio. Retired in 1979 and wrote two successful books. Celebrated in his time as the elder statesman of NY animation. He died at age 88 from complications of diabetes and heart disease.

Early Life/Family

Born James or Jimmy Culhane in a French Canadian/Irish family. Went Gaelic with his name in the 1940s, changing it to Shamus. Married several times, including Maxine Marx, the daughter of Chico Marx. His last wife was Juanna Culhane, an author/ practising psychologist. Two sons- Brian and Kevin.


Just some academic classes in High School before he began working, Shamus gave much credit for his training to the Don Graham courses of Chiounard that Walt Disney paid for for his staff.

Career Outline

Shamus began at J.R. Brays studio as a runner in 1924 He moved to Max Fleischer and was promoted to animator when sound came in. He could read music. He went out to LA for the Iwerks Studio in 1932, then back to FLeischer where he became a main animator. He left for Walt Disney in 1936 and worked on Plutos, Snow White and Pinnochio. He left first for Schlesinger, then Lantz, then after World War Two he returned to NY for early TV advertising. He started his own studio where his Muriel Cigar ads were among the first TV animated spots. He also produced the first childrens science films like Hemo the Magnificient. He produced a variety of shows until his retirement in 1979. He was one of the first teachers at the School of Visual Arts in NY, then called the Cartoonists and Illustrators School.

Comments On Style

Like Ferguson, Culhane had a less polished animation style than other Disney masters, but it had a visceral quality. It had impact. It made you laugh or feel sad.


Winsor McCay- his father took him to see Gertie the Dinosaur in 1914 which he said inspired him to be an animator, Max Fleischer, Norm Ferguson- whom he called the Chaplin of animators


Shamus was a wonderful, Rabelasian character. In youth he affected the "arteest" berets and cravats, to the amusement of his peers. In old age he was the grand old master and teacher. He taught as much about life as about animation. He had a great sense of humor and adventure. He loved literature, poetry as well as a good dirty joke.


in 1990 Shamus's wife sent a card that he had a stroke and may be dying. At Disney we all drew up a mass Get-Well card and were very concerned. Then we got a postcard from Yucatan Mexico! He was vacationing, where he convinced Zapotec guides to carry him, wheelchair and all, to the top of a Mayan pyramid!

You knew the work day was over when Shamus would come in the room and and ask" Scotch or Bourbon?"


While at Ub Iwerks in 1932 Shamus along with animators Grim Natwick and Al Eugster started the first animation union, then called a society for protection. Grim was the first president.

He gave work to Hollywood Blacklisted artists like Phil Eastman. While married to Maxine Marx, he lived for awhile with Chico and the MArx Brothers. He said Chico never liked him very much. He said he's come down to breakfast in the morning and all the Marx brothers would already be around the kitchen table with cigars and newspapers handicapping the horse races they intended to bet on!


-Max Fleischer-
1930 Swing You Sinners, 1931 Alexanders Ragtime Band, 1932 Bamboo Isle

-Iwerks Studio-
The Phoney Express 1932, The Music Lesson- 1932, Aladdin and his Wonderful Lamp,1934

-Van Bueren-
The Foxy Terrier,1935, The Merry Kittens- 1935

-Walt Disney Studio-
Orphans Picnic-1936, Hawaiian Holiday 1937, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves( The Hi-Ho March), 1938, The Pointer-1938, Pinnochio-1940( Shamus said he did early animation on Honest John and the Coachman, but is not listed in the scene drafts.His scenes may have been revised after he left the studio.

-Max Fleischer-
Gullivers Travels-1940, Popeye Meets William Tell, 1940, Mr Bug Goes to Town,1940

-Warner Bros-
Inky and the Minah Bird, 1943 Bugs Bunny And The Three Bears

-Walter Lantz-
The Barber of Seville,Fish Fry, the Beach Nut-1944,Woody Dines Out, 1945 (Director)

Bell Science- Hemo the Magnificent-1956, With Saul Bass he produced the animated titles for the live action epic Around the World in Eighty Days-1957, The Unchained Goddess-1958

-Hal Seeger-
MIlton the Monster series,1964

_Storyboard Prod-
animator on John Hubley's the Hat, 1965

-Steve Krantz Prod.-
Rocket Robin Hood TV series, 1967

-Gamma Prod-
The Night the Animals Talked-1970

Porfessor Kitzel, Spirit of 76 with Grandpa Grizzly TV series-1972 and 1976, Noahs' Animals tv special- 1975, Last of the Red Hot Dragons-1977- done with Italian animators who had worked on Allegro Non Troppo, Protection in the Nuclear Age- 1978


Annie Award: Winsor McCay Award 1986
Golden Award from MPSC 839

Related Links

Bibliographic References

"Talking Animals and Other Funny People" by Shamus Culhane
"Animation From Script to Screen" by Shamus Culhane

Contributors To This Listing

Tom Sito, his last assistant and friend

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