McAfee Weekly .. Meet Chad Essley

BY WHOISWEB?         John being in Canada last week, filming the Documentary Who is McAfee?, has presented an opportunity to talk with someone else who is part of his life….




The world met Chad Essley in the early 1970’s……well his part of the world met him.  Greeted by older brothers, two parents, and a sleepy Mormon town, Chad’s path was partially laid out before ever stepping foot on the ground, north of Ogden, Utah where he grew up.  He went to church….a lot.  At 8, his own father baptized him, which only served to make him more confused about the strange words he heard at church, and those that came along with the ‘bath’. Chad grew tired of church, saying he wanted to stay home like his brothers, and watch TV…. ‘The Brady Bunch’ in particular, but his mom would insist he go.  His brothers she said, were old enough to make that decision, he was not.  Then on Friday nights, she would pretend no one was home when the Mormons came to the door. How confusing that must have been for a kid who was already questioning the religion being forced upon him.


Mormon run newspapers, no cable TV, and a totally censored lifestyle was having an impact ….a negative one at that.  The outside world was not really welcome there. When they finally got cable Chad watched ‘9 to 5’, which was a very risque movie for the life experiences of this 14 year old.  Risque????  Around this time he started thinking “these people are nuts”.  (I wasn’t surprised).  I didn’t want to sound like an idiot, but I wondered about the polygamy aspect.  He laughed, which I expected, then explained that regardless of how it’s portrayed in the MSM, it truly is an isolated occurrence.  Any whispers he heard as a child about ‘so & so has two wives’ etc., were never anything more than rumor. With manhood approaching, Chad found himself spending more time with his friends, and questioning the world he lived in……and it was clear that he wouldn’t find what he was looking for in Ogden.  Truth be told, he hated it there, and on his 18th birthday he left home and headed for Hawaii.  As hard as it may be for some of us to comprehend, after just a year he was tired of Island life, and headed back to the mainland.

Portland met Chad Essley shortly after he returned from Hawaii.  He had previously taken a road trip there, and decided it had the feeling of home.  He applied to Cal Arts, knowing that animation/cartooning…..drawing, was his future, but he still had to pay the bills and worked at a coffee shop.  As luck would have it, he overheard a couple of people talking about a guy who did music videos….big names too;  Michael Jackson (Leave me Alone), Paul Simon (The Boy in The Bubble), Tears for Fears and more… his name was Blashfield, and Chad decided to take a chance and call him.  Of course Blashfield wanted to know his qualifications, but when he heard they were both using the Amiga system for animation, that was enough to get Chad an invite to his studio.  Chad was hired,  and among other things, worked on the Mark Cohn video ‘Walk through the World”.  That was the beginning he said,  and he really hasn’t had a real job since…..he had placed himself among the top animators on the West Coast, and learned his craft from some of the best.  It was 2000 before he took  a traditional job again, at a .com that did animation for Children’s online Learning.  Some things are just meant to be, and while the perks provided by the company (like a coffee barista) were great, taking this 9-5 had a much larger purpose…. it’s where Chad met his future wife, who was also an animator.

Yes, life was good…..except for those pesky Mormon’s.   Most of us would expect that moving away, particularly out of State, would distance us from our past…… sever ties if that’s what we wanted….but not if your past includes Mormonism.  They tracked


Chad down in Portland, and came to visit.  He in turn began the tedious process of having his name removed from the ‘Master Log’ of Mormons.  OMG.  How freaky would it be to have a religious group track you down? It took years, but he was finally successful.  Always the Artiste, Chad used the experience to create a comic entitled “The Day the Mormons Attacked”, which he created in 24 consecutive hours for a 2005 contest.  I hope he releases it someday, it’s really quite good, and at least to the extent us of having the white shirted men at our doors too, we can all relate.  The panels I’ve used here come from that comic.  Sand Willow asked “How does a Mormon kid adjust to a life like the one you’re living today?  

“Easily.  I was raised a Mormon, but as soon as I was able to, I said ‘no’…..I am not Mormon.  So there really was no adjusting, life is good, pretty simple really”.

 Today, Chad is busy on several different projects, including a brand new animation venture he recently landed the contract for. Animation is repetitive, and requires patience.  But that takes skill… continuity and keeping the character on model is incredibly difficult I believe…. and boring Chad says. He’s been drawing more on paper lately, he likes the look, but can’t let me discount the skill and technique needed to use a computer for animation.  Putting it all together is quite an accomplishment, to which I agree, knowing I am more than limited on my animation knowledge.  Chad has primarily used two methods in his career;   color form cutouts  which is drawing a character once, and having lots of little pieces you move around the screen ~sometimes done with teams of animators~ making that character move……boring (again, him not me).  Lately he has been doing more traditional hand drawing, but directly into the computer via a pressure sensitive pen on a


22″ tablet attached to a movable arm on his desk.  He laughs when he tells me the software he now uses actually started out on the amiga. The nice thing is it feels very much like drawing on paper he says, with the sensitivity being such that light and dark lines are produced just as they would be using pencil and paper.  Even better though is the fact that he is able do so much more and has the advantage of cutting, re-scaling, tinting, moving, flipping…..whatever.  He can make it look like onion skin on a light table.  One day I hope to see the process in person, it sounds fascinating to this fellow artist who has never attempted anything so grand (a stick figure moving in the corner of a book is my big contribution to animation).


Much continued success, Chad……and please, wake up, we want The Hinterland  soon.  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

John McAfee met Chad Essley in a very modern way…..on an Internet message board in 2011.  As an independent, Chad had no choice but to become skilled at putting feelers out to bring in work…’s the only way to survive, but it’s extremely gratifying to know you did it all yourself.  After checking out the possible opportunities, he decided to contact an entrepreneur who had a multitude of current ventures, believing there was a chance they could work together.  He sent an email to the anonymous screen name, who replied with “What can you do for me?”.  They were talking about the Quorum Sensing website, which Chad somehow forgot about checking thoroughly…keeping him in the dark about his contact.  He explained his plan for a zombie video for the site, where upon attack, JM’s product would come and save the world…then he gave him 3 options.  John ultimately chose the most expensive and elaborate one.  The next day there was a wire transfer into Chad’s bank account from John……. the John McAfee.  Shocked and excited, he contacted John to say thanks and it wasn’t necessary to send the entire amount, but JM said he trusted him.  Chad got to work on the project, creating both story boards and animation.  He sent the work to John and waited.  When he finally heard from him, more than a week later, John explained he had been travelling, the Internet was sporadic at best, and maybe they would just shelve the idea for now.  Chad gulped as he asked ” Do you want me to send the money back? ”  A quick “no” was followed by an offer to come to Belize and visit him in person.  Slightly taken aback, Chad attempted to get a friend to go with him… was after all, the first time a millionaire had invited him anywhere, never mind his Island home in Paradise.   More and more time passed, with Chad unable to co-ordinate a travel companion, and the trip seemed to fade out of sight.  Life continued on, then one day many months later, Chad read about the April 2012 raid on JM’s Orange Walk compound.  He called John to see if he was okay, and to give condolences for his dog that had been shot.  The offer to visit was extended again, and John assured Chad that ‘Miss Moneypenny’ would take care of all the details.  In June Chad arrived in Belize, for 20 days that would ultimately result in a great friendship and change his life forever.  This is a part of this saga we’re all waiting to hear more about, and when he finishes work on The Hinterland, we’ll finally get Chad’s own account of this crazy ride.  I for one, can’t wait…… Chad?  lol

We ~ the followers of WhoisMcafee, met Chad Essley in his role of blog moderator, where he says he initially felt like a goldfish put in the fish tank.  The sharks were circling.  Did John contact you right away I asked him.

 “After he went underground, yes….he did contact me.  Miraculously, from the day he went underground, I have recordings of almost every phone call he made to me (with his permission, of course).  It was easy to do on my Android phone.  I also have recorded interviews with CBS, ABC, Good Morning America, and all the major networks that called my phone when John made me the only media contact for him while on the run.  It was unbelievable. Some day I will publish them.  But not for many years, and not until I write a 2nd graphic novel about the whole thing.”  

I remember the early days quite well, even though (as I have mentioned) I was only an observer at that point.  It was obvious he was working his butt off to keep the site going and moderate all the comments.  Everyone was shocked the night the site ultimately crashed….news of JM being captured at the Mexican border was everywhere, and the comments were going wild.  I sent a tweet to Chad.

WEB ‏@WEB_2013  2 Dec

@chad_essley one big cluster fuck over there. Any way to contact site people disallow duplicate websites? Trolls now linking to yours & Js.  

It was one of my first tweets.  Ever.  And of course my description of the problem wasn’t really clear, being a Newbie and all.  The next time I tried to post a comment to wim, I had been blocked.  EEEEK.  Somehow I was lumped in with all the trolls who had been making outrageous claims and stupid comments.  Thankfully,  I was just as quickly un-blocked, and began to comment again.  There were so many people going to the site at regular intervals just to see if there was a JM update, making comments, and showing concern.

Chad’s own description of this crazy and chaotic time:  

“The blog was totally insane.  We were receiving so much traffic the servers couldn’t handle it.  I was awake 24 hours just maintaining things, more than once during that time.”

The next few days were insane.  Everyone, including Chad, was worried about John.  Rumors about, and no contact with someone creates anxiety and uncertainty, and under the circumstances, we all had reason to worry.  The next photos we saw of John were encouraging, showing him meeting with Attorney Telesforo Guerro, and speaking to the press about his next expected move.  And then, not so much.  We saw him outside a hotel, nervously smoking while waiting for the Guatemalan Immigration Department to pick him up. John had this to say:  

“The night I was arrested in Guatemala, I was told by the prison authorities that I would be returned to Belize at 8 o’clock the following morning….which meant certain death. I asked the prison authorities if I could make one call, and I called Chad so that I could tell Chad my circumstances, and not knowing whether I would ever see him again, I said ‘It’s been nice knowing you’ and Chad said in a quaky voice “don’t say that”.  He told me that I ‘would come home, and we would have coffee together and laugh’.   I did come home…. we had coffee and laughed”   

And the friendship continues today.  We know Chad is JM’s primary reason for heading to Portland, and deciding to stay there.  They still spend lots of time together, recently working on the hilarious video of John McAfee explaining how to un-install McAfee a-v.  Chad wrote it, and I will say publicly what I said to him privately…. Brilliant…  They meet for coffee, see movies, and hang out just like regular old friends.  Knowing how grateful I am to be included in this amazing Odyssey (by having the opportunity to interview JM), I asked Chad how he felt about the entire ride.

it’s been incredibly surreal.  I think I’ve been in the fish bowl long enough that I’m getting used to the water.  I’m the goldfish they lowered into the tank in a baggie, and eventually opened it to let me out.  Originally it was quite a shock, very bizarre…. words cannot describe how surreal and strange the whole thing has been.  In fact, you know the feeling of deja vu?  That feeling has just filled me the entire time, maybe because I’ve always seen that little McAfee icon on the bottom right of my screen, and I remember that when I was younger, I wondered what it would be like to meet Mr. McAfee.  And then I ended up doing it, so that’s very strange.  And once it all started, I knew that it would be an opportunity I just didn’t know what kind of opportunity, and I still don’t know where the train is going, but I’m holding on for the ride”  

We both laughed at this point, and I said that I felt like I was hanging on with one hand, and writing with the other, so it was nice to know he felt the same….holding on with one hand and drawing with the other.

” Sometimes I think I would love to just draw still images for a living, but then I remember how much animation means to me.  So, no matter what comes of this, I think I will always do animation, because I love it.  I’m doomed to draw forever” .  

A true artist.

Once again, this venue has given me the opportunity to speak with someone who suddenly entered my life almost 8 months ago, and I’m very grateful.  For anyone who’s wondering….. Yes,  Chad really is as nice as he seems on the blog, and hopefully we will be seeing more of him in the future.  For now, you can go to his website, CartoonMonkey Studio and check out his work.    Thanks Chad, it was a real pleasure.


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4 responses to “McAfee Weekly .. Meet Chad Essley”

  1. size enlargement Avatar

    I could not refrain from commenting. Perfectly written! I

  2. Aaron Avatar

    Still looking forward to that custom Essley Picture Chad and I discussed. I have a wall and frame already picked out..

  3. Name ..jaybird. Avatar

    Too bad JM can\’t hook into the Snowden/wikkileaks Axis What a great collaboration that would be; to develop a Whistleblower dedicated platform.

  4. sandwillow2 Avatar

    I imagine “incredibly surreal” is an understatement.
    We never know where, how or when we will meet our next best friend. And you, Chad, may have be John McAfee’s best discovery.