Just who is this Ward guy, anyway?
I wasn't sure if I wanted to expose the "mystique of Ward" so early in the existence of this blog, but since it's my birthday today, I felt that maybe it was sort of appropriate. I know that most of you already know me personally, but there are a good many visitors to The Ward-O-Matic that have no clue who in the heck this Ward guy is. "What's his deal?" "Why should I care what he has to say?" Well, you don't have to actually care, but I do hope that you enjoy what I say. I'm having fun with this thing, and so I'm hoping that you do too.
I am an Atlanta native, but don't sound like I'm from the South. Whether that works to my advantage or not, I don't know. I'll get back to you on that. I grew up with a bad habit of getting obsessed over things. I'd get SO into something, and learn all about it, and then would move onto something else at the drop of a hat. I drove my teachers crazy, as I never could commit to a certain project, whether it be on Tutankhamen, cars, custom vans, sharks, dinosaurs, American Indians, airplanes, birds, the United States, maps, you name it. It didn't help that I pored over our World Book Encyclopedia set either, as that just fermented my desire to gather as much information out there as possible. I lived and died by that entire set.
I drew all the time. During my typical boy "gross" phase, I drew monsters, aliens, creatures, limbs and lots of blood! My parents just let me do my thang and my mom was probably praying each and every night that I would get over this crazy phase. I did...to a certain degree. I still love horror and monster films, sci-fi and special effects flicks. I'm not a die-hard fanboy for these things, but I just have a great appreciation and fascination for those types of films.
My dad took my sister and I to see ALIEN when it was released back in 1979. I was 11, she was 9. That movie gave me the most disturbing and horrific dreams imaginable. And thus, like any typical human being, once I was scared poopless by something, I instantly wanted more of it. I wanted to see it again. It was like a catharsis for me, helping me to face my fears, I guess.
My first animation I ever did was in 9th grade. It was for one of those career planning classes, as part of this IMPACT program. I was a terrible student for this, as I could never work on my project at school, so it looked like all I ever did in class was sit around and draw all day. There was practically nowhere to go for any animation help at this time in Atlanta, so my mom found this guy who was teaching an animation class to adults at nights as part of a continuing education sort of thing. Jim McLean was his name and he was very gracious in letting me borrow his camera and camera stand and lights. Why would this guy allow a 13-year old and his mother to take off with his equipment, I will never know. But, I eventually was able to produce a very short clip of a little guy walking and then having things happen to him, a la DUCK AMUCK. I loved all the Looney Tunes and whenever there was a situation where the characters broke the fourth wall and interacted with the viewer or creator, it was gold to me. I shot my project on Super 8 film, so it took forever to have the film sent off to be developed and then sent back. In the meantime, my teacher was getting furious with me, as the deadline for everybody's projects had passed and I still had nothing to show. I had to come in on a teacher's work day and set up my 8mm film projector and thread up and show my short film to my teacher personally. She flipped out. She loved it and couldn't believe that I had produced something that moved. Instead of the F that she was prepared to give me, she ended up giving me a C. This will be the first time of many where my talent saved my butt.
I dismissed art in high school because the art teacher was a fuddy-dud. When I realized that we would be doing basket weaving for the third quarter, I was out. Not for me. So I just drew Adam Ant, Billy Idol and Prince for my friends whenever they'd ask.
Throughout these years, I loved watching animation even when it was considered "uncool." This was the 80's, so animation was thought to be only for kids. There was not much to be excited about during this time, but when WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT? and THE LITTLE MERMAID came out in 1988 and 1989, respectfully, those films got that fire in me belly burning like nothing else.
So, what to do? I studied as much as I could on my own about this art-form by finding a copy of DISNEY ANIMATION: THE ILLUSION OF LIFE by Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston, two of Disney's Nine Old Men. Again, I pored over this book like it was going out of style. I studied animation in motion by frame-by-framing Tex Avery and Chuck Jones shorts, as well as afore-mentioned MERMAID. The more I learned, the more I felt like this was IT for me. I was hooked.
I had gone to several colleges at this point, but did not settle into a program until I got into Illustration at Georgia State University. I could not afford to go to art school, but GSU did have some classes on animation so I took this only option available to me. I was able to take two animation classes, Non-camera Techniques and Basic Animation. There was only one guy teaching these classes. His name? None other than Jim McLean! The very same guy who helped me out back when I was in 9th grade. He did not remember me specifically, but did recall loaning his equipment out. Jim was great. He was this 60-something old codger so full of zip and life. He really believed in me and my work. I owe a great deal of gratitude to him for getting me started in this crazy world of animation.
I graduated with a BFA in Illustration in 1995, with my portfolio focused entirely on gesture drawings, paintings of figures and anything that animation companies were hopefully looking for. I got an internship the following January at DESIGNefx, a design and animation company here in Atlanta (now defunct). After my internship, I was hired as a freelancer right away and worked there at DESIGNefx until the end of July. In August I got a gig at a new company in town, Click 3X, who then hired me full-time two months later. Needless to say, 1996 was a very good year for me.
So there. You pretty much know the rest. After my 4-year stint at Click, I got a call from Primal Screen, asking me to be their newest animation director. With a new baby on the way, they couldn't have called at a more appropriate time. It was a perfect fit for me. I've done my best work at Primal and cannot wait to see what else is around the corner for me there.
I'm married to my soulmate, Andrea, whom I met while going to school up in Cincinnati. We just celebrated 10 years of glorious marriage this year. She's a dance teacher as well as full-time mother, so she deserves a break. She also collects and sells vintage and vintage-inspired items at a booth at Kudzu Antiques in Decatur. I call her my secret weapon, as she has a great eye for design and knows exactly what looks good or not. She is honest with me about my work and I can always count on her for an intelligent, insightful response. We have two wonderful kids: a daughter, Ava, who's 4, and a son, Ezra, 5 months. Ava's got a sense of humor like I've never known, and Ezra has the brightest smile that you'll ever see.
So, I apologize for rambling on. Hopefully you've gained some insight to who this Ward guy is. As for me, I'm still trying to figure that out. But I do know this: my life has been a grand one thus far and I'm looking forward to 36 more fantastic years.
Have a great Thanksgiving!