Shawn "Shawnimal" Smith, the visionary behind Shawnimals, began to develop his distinctive style of art as a kid obsessed with cartoons, comics, video games, and drawing weirdo creatures. Not satisfied with simply drawing his favorite cartoon, comic, and toy characters, he felt compelled to create his own, inspired by all that he loved.
Having just left his dream job as a game reviewer for Electronic Gaming Monthly magazine, surrounded by his massive creative output, including dozens upon dozens of sketchbooks filled with original – if not peculiar – character designs, Smith began to hand make one-of-a-kind plush toys that he sold to friends from his college apartment in 2001. As the word spread via the internet and his pals in the video game industry, the overall popularity increased.
In early 2004 with a move to Chicago the once part-time hobby became a full-time business, spreading imaginative creations around the world. Smith's character-based art and design can be described as endearing, and humorous while maintaining a simple quality that makes it universally relatable and personifiable.
Since 2008, Shawnimals and its most popular brand Ninjatown has exploded with a hit Nintendo DS game, iPhone app, dozens of toy products – some even handmade to this day – and many more character-branded goods.