UI alum unveils latest cartoon series

By Jessica Schuh

Most University graduates don’t travel to Los Angeles to pursue a career in the entertainment industry. Most University graduates don’t win two Emmy Awards. But Bill Schultz is not most graduates.

Schultz is behind a new series on the Cartoon Network as the executive producer of Pet Alien, a 3D Computer-Generated Imagery (CGI) cartoon about a 12-year-old boy and his alien friends who do all they can to help him with his complicated life on Earth.

The animation in Pet Alien is unique and is a significant achievement because no cartoon has achieved such a high level of 3D CGI animation, said Schultz, who graduated in 1982 with a political science degree. He encourages those who like animation to watch the show because of the achievement in animation, he said.

Although the show is geared toward 6- to 11-year-olds, Schultz said that older audiences, including college students, might find the show entertaining.

“It’s a fun show to work on because there’s a lot of adult humor as well,” he said.

Because the show airs in the morning and is geared toward children, there are limitations to how racy the humor can be, he said. But there are dry remarks and “stupid” humor that cartoon fans find appealing.

“We do fart jokes,” he said. “Little kids love that.”

Schultz has worked on a long list of television shows during his career, including Muppet Babies, Garfield and Friends, Bobby’s World, The Critic, King of the Hill, and The Simpsons. He won two Emmys for producing The Simpsons and another show he produces, ToddWorld, was recently nominated for an Emmy. He is currently a producer at Mike Young productions in Los Angeles.

For someone who has won two Emmys and achieved so much in the entertainment industry, Schultz is surprisingly down-to-earth. His colleagues describe him as understanding, creative and fun to work with.

“The thing with Bill is because he has a creative background, he’s more respectful of the creative people’s wants and desires,” said Andrew Young, director of Pet Alien.

Yong said working with Schultz on the CGI animation was educational because he knows the limitations of CGI.

“He’s been supportive, and I’ve learned an awful lot from him,” said Jeff Muncy, creator of Pet Alien.

While he did not end up pursuing a law degree like he had planned during his early years at the University, Schultz looks back on his time at the University fondly. He talked excitedly about his memories of life on campus and said he would enjoy returning to Champaign sometime soon. He and his wife, Tracie, met during their time at the University, and their youngest son is considering attending the University when he graduates high school, he said.

During his senior year, Schultz went to California to look at law schools and decided he wanted to move there to become a songwriter. After graduation, he and his wife drove to Los Angeles, where he eventually started working in television.

He began producing because he liked being involved in all aspects of the production.

“TV really is a producer’s medium,” he said.

Even having achieved such success in his career, Schultz said he understands that people in Illinois may not see the entertainment industry as a realistic option for a career because its not something people in the Midwest are exposed to day-to-day. But Schultz encouraged those who have creative talent or simply want to work in the entertainment industry to try it even if their major does not necessarily relate.

“I think what it really comes down to is that if you have a passion, pursue it,” he said. “You’ve had a $100,000 investment, and if you’re not happy at the end of the day, what’s the point?”

Simply having a degree from a respected university like the University of Illinois, that says something in itself, he said. In fact, Schultz once hired someone because his resum‚ said he had graduated from the University.

When he was at Film Roman production company, Schultz was hiring people to work on Bobby’s World and came across a resum‚ for a man who graduated from the University. He decided to hire him based on the fact that he got his degree there.

“He’s still producing (at Film Roman) … and it’s because he went to the University of Illinois,” Schultz said.

Although he was proud to receive Emmys for The Simpsons, Schultz said he is proud about the recent Emmy nomination for ToddWorld because he was so intimately involved with each part of the show instead of being one of many producers on The Simpsons, he said.

“It was a very personal effort for myself,” Schultz said.

He said he hopes Pet Alien will be nominated for an Emmy next year.

“Everybody is excited about Pet Alien,” Young said. “Our main objective for making this show was to put something on TV that does not look like anything else.”

Yong said he hopes the show will get picked up for a second season so he can continue to work with Schultz on it.

“(Pet Alien) is a lot of fun to look at,” Schultz said. “It really is an appealing show – to me that’s what cartoons are all about, definitely just having fun.”

Pet Alien airs on Cartoon Network at 10 a.m. on Sundays, with repeats on Sundays at 3:30 p.m. and Saturday at 1:30 p.m.