Shawn Harper

“Reboot and Beast Machines. The moment I saw those two shows, it opened my eyes to the idea that I could have a career in animation.”

Shawn Harper, Animation Director

How did you get your start in the animation industry?

I started working at Mercury Filmworks (Ottawa location) as a junior animator around 2007. My first show was Wayside. It was a slap stick, pose to pose kind of animation style. Considering I came out of school with just a classical “Disney-ish” animation style, it was quite the learning curve.

What influenced you to become an animator?

Reboot and Beast Machines. The moment I saw those two shows, it opened my eyes to the idea that I could have a career in animation. Ironically, my motivation was to become a 3d animator. However the animation program I was taking (Algonquin college) made it mandatory to have one year in classical/traditional animation. I loved it and haven’t left 2D since. I still dabble in 3d on my spare time though.

What projects have you worked on? and what was the most memorable?

Toot and Puddle was a game changer back in the day. It really showed how high you can set the bar in 2d animation. I still have some of my work back then in my demo real. I was lead animator on Rick and Morty for season 1, so I was on that tip before it was cool, hahaha. Pirate Express gave me my first supervising roll and season one and two of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatball was a blast of a show to work on. What all of these have in common is that they all brought some very heavy challenges with them, each one of them unique. They all tested my patience, my drive and ultimately my confidence in my own abilities. I’m a product of my scars and my successes.

How has the industry changed since you started?

From when I started, it’s like night and day. When I was in school for animation, my friends and I had a group called “The minority crew”. It was kind of a running joke at the time amongst us, but really, there was some truth to it – there were only a handful of POC among 80 plus students. It built a bond we still maintain to this day and they are my closest friends.

The animation industry at the time was of a similar dynamic. Overtime though, it’s definitely been changing. Where studios were predominantly male, have now either flipped in the opposite direction or at the very least, cut down the middle. Year by year I’ve seen diversity in studios become broader and broader. We’ve been the better for it.

Anything else you’d like to mention that I didn’t ask?

Anyone that knows me, knows I can talk ad nauseum about the trials and tribulations of my experiences. For no other reason but to showcase to those that have struggled, or questioned belonging here or anywhere else in this industry, whether it be personal or professional this is road is bumpy and sometimes unforgiving.

However, if you stay the course, do the work, ask the questions and stay firm on what you KNOW to be your worth… sooner or later your value can not be denied. Once that time comes…share that experience with those coming up, because rest assured they’ll have their doubts too and they’ll need that encouragement and that wisdom. It’s the only trickle down economics that has proven to actually work.

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