Bellaire native Jay Shultz, enjoys rubbing elbows with a number of the most recognizable stars of the modern television and movie industries during the course of any routine working day, after all, the office where he works is located in the MTV building.
For more than a decade he has been a member of a core team of designers, illustrators, cartoonists and other animation field professionals working at Viacom's Nickelodeon Animation Studios on a number of large projects.
He is the son of Bellaire resident Elizabeth Serafin and is a member of the Bellaire High School Class of 1992, and recently enjoyed a visit home.
Bellaire native and professional animation artist Jay Shultz's work has been seen by millions of loyal cartoon fans worldwide for more than a decade. He recently returned to the local area for a visit with family and friends and found time to share some of his illustrating abilities with locals during the weekly pasta dinner event at the Sons of Italy in Bellaire. He has been on the team of artists and designers at Nickelodeon who have brought Dora the Explorer to audiences for the last decade. Shultz is shown with his mother, Elizabeth Serafin.
Following graduation from Bellaire High School he completed a degree program at The Columbus College of Art and Design and headed west to California.
During that recent trip home he had an opportunity to share his artistic expertise and familiarity with some of today's favorite cartoon characters with local fans, which usually included family and friends as well.
His career in animation has seen Shultz employed at such prestigious firms in the animation industry as Nickelodeon Animation Studios, Fox Animation Studios and at Dreamworks Studios.
He credits Nancy Merryman, his middle school art instructor , with having played a pivotal role in his early efforts to build a solid foundation of specific illustrator's skills, and to eventually understand that with a focused effort they would eventually be strong enough to enable him to confidently reach out far enough to connect with the artistic opportunities that would lead him to illustrating and animation as a viable career.
"She is the one who kept me drawing. She kept me involved in art," reflected Shultz. "She understood how much I wanted to do this, how much I wanted to draw. She told me never to stop drawing, and I haven't stopped.
"I was always drawing," he recalled, with a smile. "I think I must have drawn something for every person in the school - especially when I was at First Ward School. Maybe they will be worth something for them someday - you never know!"
Shultz knows he has worked hard through the years to hone his artistic skills, but cannot be convinced to see the process as anything but a positive one that has enabled him to make a living doing something he loves.
"I still can't believe I'm lucky enough get to work somewhere that they pay me to draw. I've always been one of those people who would draw anywhere anytime all day long. Now I just get paid to spend the whole day drawing things and I get paid to do it. it's almost impossible to believe
Due to the constantly changing nature of the animation industry, its technology and its products, scheduling and assignment overlaps can be routine for teams working for a successful studio.
Within that, some assignments are relatively brief, others can last for several months at a time, and still others can keep a team busy for years, he explained.
"The team I work with includes about 45 people," said Shultz. "Basically we're called the 'Dora Team', because most of what we do is work on assignments for Dora the Explorer," he offered. "It involves professional artists, production people and editing crews."
Work done by this team is largely pre-production in nature, as it involves work done to create the space on to which the cartoons will be introduced to complete the animation product, explained Shultz.
Highlights of his career to date include working on animation teams with varying responsibilities producing work for shows such as "Dora the Explorer," "CatDog," "Penguins of Madagascar," "Go Diego Go," "Anastasia" and others including "Titan AE" and the adult oriented animated television show "King of the Hill".
His team is unusual in its longevity on a single project.
"We've been together on Dora the Explorer for 10 years now," he offered.
"Rarely is a group like ours kept together for such a long period of time.
The show is reaching a landmark as the character is being transitioned into the world of a "tween" age girl, as the character's 10th birthday has now come and gone.
"Right now I am working on background designs for Dora the Explorer Show. We create the stage the cartoons look like they are on," he said.
When asked for suggestions to share with others who might be at a point in their education where they are beginning to consider what path they will pursue into adulthood Shultz has advice for those with an interest in art - but knows it has even broader applications.
"If you think you want to do something like drawing, just keep working on it. Keep working on developing your basic skills and then build from there," he offered. "If you like to draw, the best thing you can do is to keep working at it. Just don't stop."
Loccisano may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org