As Ramsey sees it, animation has come along way in terms of diversity, stepping ahead of even live action when considering the entire process of filmmaking.

“It’s gotten way, way better,” he remarks. “Think about how it used to be. It’s way better than it ever was before, and it’s just going to get better because everybody recognizes that’s the world we live in now. Actually, I think DreamWorks has a pretty great record – and I’m not saying that because I work there – but I know there’s a movie now that Rihanna’s doing the voice for. So it’s got a young woman of color in the lead.”

“If I take it back to this movie and myself – me being an African-American filmmaker – [I] didn’t necessarily bring anything about that experience to this [film], but [that] a black filmmaker can make movies that anybody can enjoy,” he adds. “That we’re universal people too. I think that’s just as important as literally being represented on screen in that way.”

In fact, Ramsey finds more issue with the lack of diversity behind the camera than he does in the spotlight. While he shies away from taking too much credit for his own story, now a major leader in a company at the forefront of CG animation, he does hope to serve as a cornerstone for what’s possible.

“When you look at the whole span of it, and really, I have to gauge it from when I was a kid, it’s a completely different world,” Ramsey comments. “I mean the biggest thing is more people behind the cameras and behind the scenes. That’s really where the true struggle is in my opinion.”

Whether Ramsey will turn Rise of the Guardians into a franchise depends on the success of the film at the box office, but he expresses ambition and interest in the idea. He says he intends for children to see how to use imagination and creativity as “power against fear,” and looks towards the artistic direction of films like Star Wars, the Harry Potter series, Kung Fu Panda and Shrek as inspiration. He also brings to the table a love for the moving picture – real or computer-crafted – and hopes to eventually helm the reins of a live action flick as well.

Being what AAFCA President Gil Robertson deemed the “Obama of Animation,” his future seemingly holds bright.

“It’s funny cause when I first got the job, I kind of realized it,” Ramsey remembers. “And then the work started, and there’s no time to think about anything else. You’re just doing the work, you’re not thinking about being a pioneer or anything like that. A couple months ago, I had given an interview to a journalist and it got reprinted in a newspaper and I had given a copy to my mom and dad, you know, ‘Hey look I’m in the paper!’…And so my dad was reading it, and he came across that line – the first African American director of…[There were] tears in his eyes. I literally hadn’t thought about it all those years, and when I saw him I was like, ‘Wow, that’s right.’ And you just can’t deny what it means.”

Follow Courtney Garcia on Twitter at @courtgarcia