Culture

Callum Shoniker is an animated hero

Meet the Toronto teen voicing the biggest characters in the cartoon universe—including a PAW Patrol pup
Courtney Shea
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“Most kids get their start in commercials—I saw every aspect of the filming process.” (Photograph by Daniel Ehrenworth, hair and makeup by Alanna Chelmick)

Callum Shoniker knows what it’s like to be a member of PAW Patrol’s fandom. He turned four in 2013, the year Spinmaster’s Canadian-made hit series about a pack of do-gooder pooches premiered, becoming an instant generational touchpoint. (Not to mention a clever marketing tool for what is now an $8-billion empire built on books, lunch boxes, bubble machines and every other product imaginable.) Like most kids, Shoniker had a favourite character: Rocky, the eco-puppy who reuses and recycles anything he can get his paws on. Unlike most kids, Shoniker would later voice his preferred pup in a blockbuster film franchise alongside Kim Kardashian.

Long before Shoniker was cast in 2021’s PAW Patrol: The Movie—and its sequel, PAW Patrol: The Mighty Movie, out this month—he cut his teeth as Rumpelstiltskin on the theatre-camp circuit. “I tried sports,” he says, “but I loved theatre right away—getting to transform into someone or something else.” The acting bug also runs in the family: Shoniker’s aunt Kimberley has CW Network and Hallmark movie credits to her name. By the age of seven, Shoniker had secured an agent of his own. His third-ever audition led to his first pro gig, playing the son of former Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in the 2018 biopic On the Basis of Sex. “Most kids get their start in commercials,” Shoniker says. “I saw every aspect of the filming process.”

Shoniker, a trained vocalist, landed subsequent roles on CBC series like Kim’s Convenience, but it was in the world of animation where Shoniker’s credits really piled up: as Bubba Bear on Kingdom Force; as Prince Wednesday on Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood; and as mad scientist Romeo on PJ Masks. (Consider it the under-10 set’s version of Robert De Niro’s run in Taxi Driver, The Deer Hunter and Raging Bull.)

Shoniker is prepared for the real-life fanfare around The Mighty Movie, but he’s aware that his streak in kids’ animation has an expiration date—for puberty reasons. In April, Shoniker, now 14, debuted as class clown Mike Cavalleri on YTV’s live-action preteen series, Popularity Papers. He’s intent on maintaining what he calls a “relatively normal” high schooler’s existence between jobs—the next being Amazon’s 2024 sitcom The Pradeeps of Pittsburgh. His ultimate goal is to be a versatile, Swiss Army–style actor in the vein of fellow Canuck Jim Carrey. Shoniker’s even willing to trim his youthful locks, which he’s maintained since his turn as James Ginsburg. “I like having long hair,” he says, “but I’d cut it for the right role.”

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POP QUIZ WITH CALLUM SHONIKER

Family pet: Mike, a five-year-old corgi

Shower song: Anything by Taylor Swift. (He scored coveted tickets to the Detroit stopover of the singer’s Eras Tour.)

After-school snack: An apple, and crackers topped with melted cheese because, as Shoniker explains, “You’re not allowed to melt cheese at school.”

Dream star sighting: Andrew Garfield. “I loved Tick, Tick…Boom! and he’s my favourite Spider-Man.”

Essential gadget: “My phone, so I can stay in touch with friends—and let my mom know when the bus is late.”