Shamus Culhane

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Shamus Culhane

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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 advertising. 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.

Family and early life

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/ practicing psychologist. Two sons- Brian and Kevin.

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 children’s 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.

Personal 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

Honors and awards

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




  • “Talking Animals and Other Funny People” by Shamus Culhane
  • “Animation From Script to Screen” by Shamus Culhane

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