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'Rise of the Guardians' director a self-taught success

Peter Ramsey is the first African-American to direct a big-budget CG animated film. 'There is a lot of respect for your craft' at the Dreamworks Animation campus in Glendale, he says.

July 21, 2012|By Katherine Tulich

Ramsey eventually made his mark as a storyboard artist and went onto work on many live-action films like David Fincher's “Fight Club” and “Panic Room,” and Francis Ford Coppola's “Dracula” adaptation, before moving into animation at DreamWorks, working on “Shrek the Third” and “Monsters vs. Aliens.”

“This definitely feels like home,” laughs Ramsey. “The Glendale campus is a great and collaborative place to work. There is a lot of continuity here with people who have worked here for years. There is a lot of respect for your craft. They know what it takes to make great movies, but at the same time we also have a great time doing it.”

“What is remarkable is that here is a kid that grew up in the inner city of Los Angeles,” says Katzenberg. “The notion of some day being an artist/animator and storyteller and director is an incomprehensible idea; and the fact that he has not only succeeded, but succeeded to the extent he has, is his testament to how talented he is.”


Ramsey has been working on “Guardians” for nearly three years. “It's a story about childhood and wonder, but it's also this grand fantasy epic. It's like a superhero movie, but they get their powers from being believed in, and then what happens if that is threatened,” says Ramsey. “I think it will surprise people how big the scope of the action and the settings are. If you took the elements of ‘Star Wars' and ‘Lord of the Rings' and mashed them together, that is the tone of the movie.”

Adds Katzenberg: “I think it's among the [most] creative and most original movies that have been made here at DreamWorks.”

Ramsey hopes his success will be an inspiration to others. “One of my big hopes is to get out there and talk to kids in connection with the movie,” he says, “show them where I started and what they can do.”

KATHERINE TULICH writes about film and pop culture for Marquee. She can be reached at

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