Specializing in cross-platform digital animation, Renegade Animation is known for stylized character animation for film, TV programming, spots and other media. Founded in 1992 by Creative Director Darrell Van Citters and Executive Producer Ashley Postlewaite, the studio made its name with its animation for the 1994 Nike Super Bowl spot “Aerospace Joran” before going on to win an Annie Award for the 2001 web series Elmo Aardvark: Outer Space Detective. Since then, Renegade has produced programs including The Hi Hi Puffy Ami Yumi Show for Cartoon Network and 2007’s feature-length holiday-themed musical Christmas Is Here Again. Van Citters is also an animation historian and collector who specializes in ID’ing art from UPA, Jay Ward Productions, MGM and Warner Bros. We asked him Five Questions about art, business, and Wienerschnitzel.
What is Renegade working on today?
The Tom and Jerry Show for Cartoon Network. We are also developing several new Renegade-original television projects.
What trends are driving animation? How is the market evolving?
The growth in streaming services has created an overwhelming demand for animation content. And the market is evolving quickly. Take, for example, format length. Everyone automatically thinks of 22-minute episodes, or two 11-minute episodes, but that reflects the old model of television half-hours. With streaming services, a show could be a half-hour, or it could be three minutes. When you’re developing a new show, you have to consider how it’s going to be streamed. Is it going to be serialized or standalone? If a show is only going to be three or four minutes, it changes how you develop it. You have to get your point across quickly. If it’s 11 or 22 minutes, you have different considerations. Can the concept handle a B-story underneath? Is the material suitable for the show length? Today, you need to be flexible and quick on your feet. You have to be able to say, “Sure, we can make that work,” and then do it.
What’s been the biggest challenge in your business over the last 12 to 18 months?
Finding qualified people. The animation industry is experiencing full employment right now and that makes it difficult to hire people with the skills and experience you need. People do break off from their employers all the time because they’re not happy where they are, but if someone is out there and available today, it’s generally because they’re not up to snuff. We sometimes wonder where we’re going to find people who can work to our quality level, but somehow we’ve managed to do it.
Where do you turn for inspiration?
Everywhere. I look at vintage cartoons. Many people have forgotten the lessons that were learned in making those classic shows. I also get inspiration from old films, new films, music, family, the people around me. If you pay attention, anything can trigger something else. I try to make it clear to young people coming into the business that it behooves them to have as many touchstones, as many influences as possible. Nobody creates things out of whole cloth. Everything has already been invented, so it’s how you combine different influences to produce something new. To me, that’s the epitome of creativity. You are often called on at a moment’s notice and you have to be able to pull something out of your head. Having the right things to draw on is important.
Can you tell us about a recent project that you’re especially proud of?
We produced a commercial campaign for Wienerschnitzel that was a lot of fun. We created seven or eight spots and were given plenty of leeway from the agency and the client. We partnered with a jingle company that the agency brought to us. Instead of coming up with ideas and handing it to them, we let the jingle writers create some songs and we developed visuals based on what they handed to us. If we’d done it the other way, the jingles may have been a little flat. We wanted them to have maximum creative flexibility. We worked back and forth with the jingle company and the agency. We really cut loose. It was a blast.