Ryan Church (1971, California) is an American concept designer best known for his designs of vehicles, planets, and architectures as a concept design supervisor on George Lucas's Attack of the Clones, Revenge of the Sith, and of the tripods in Steven Spielberg's War of the Worlds.
He worked on James Cameron's Avatar (2009) and is responsible for the updated design of the USS Enterprise in J. J. Abrams's Star Trek films. Church graduated with honors in Transportation Design with emphasis on Entertainment Design at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California.
When I was a kid I liked dinosaurs and airplanes. My dad, who is an industrial designer, taught me how to draw decently by age 5 or 6, so I would make my own dinosaur books or draw stuff I’d seen in movies. After graduating from, I went to UCLA to get a broad education and took night classes at Art Center College of Design to help focus my design skills.
I started Art Center full-time in Fall '94 with a scholarship, majoring in Transportation Design. I wanted to make sure I learned the nuts and bolts of Industrial Design as well as the Illustration skills- to be able to design a vehicle or an environment that makes sense and looks good and then to depict it in three dimensional space. About halfway through my studies, Art Center started to feature Entertainment Design classes. By that time, I knew I didn't want to be a car designer. My heart was more in airplanes and architecture, I guess. I eventually graduated with honors as a Transportation Design major with emphasis on Entertainment Design. My time at Art Center was really fantastic. The quality of the instructors was high, but I really owe my experience to classmates and upper term students for providing the competition that was essential to push me along.
I got a job at Walt Disney Imagineering right out of college and also did some freelancing on the side for Universal Studios. WDI was a great place to work, but a lot of the projects moved too quickly from the ‘blue sky fun’ phase to the engineering, budgeting, the reality part. A refreshing change came in the form of a job at Industrial Light + Magic in the digital features division. I was at ILM for 3 years before moving up to Skywalker Ranch as a Concept Design Supervisor on Star Wars Episode 2: Attack of the Clones (2002) and stayed on for Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith (2005). I was also a Senior Art Director at ILM where I did a lot of hands-on work during the post-production of Star Wars movies and played a major role in creating the Tripods in Steven Spielberg's War of the Worlds (2005).
At the beginning of Episode III pre-production, I went down to Pasadena every weekend to teach an Advanced Entertainment Design course at Art Center. The response was great, and it was a rewarding experience for me, too. But, my work schedule got too hectic to continue. In late 2003, I got together with Alex Alvarez at Gnomon School of Visual Effects to produce DVD demos. They do not focus on the software but on the techniques I use daily at work. It has been over three years, and they continue to serve as a great substitute to being in my class for those who want to learn to design and paint digitally for feature film, themed environment, and video games.
In the Spring of 2005, I relocated back to Southern California to start the next chapter of my career as a freelance concept artist. My client list keeps growing and now includes Paramount Studios, Universal Pictures, Mattel, Sony Pictures, Blue Sky Studios, Bay Films, Lightstorm Entertainment, Walt Disney Animation Studios, Dino de Laurentiis Company, Digital Domain, and Electronic Arts. I have been lending my skills on many bid projects as well as high profile film projects such as Star Trek (2009), Transformers 2 (2009), and James Cameron's Avatar (2009), Transformers 3 (2011), Disney's John Carter (2012), Zero Dark Thirty (2012), Star Trek Into Darkness (2013), Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey (2014) and Tomorrowland (2014).