It’s a bold decision to leave the relative stability and security of being an employee of Warner Bros. Classic Animation to start your own animation studio. But that is precisely what Ashley Postlewaite and her partner, Darrell Van Citters, did back in 1992 when they opened Renegade Animation.
It is hard enough to overcome all of the challenges of a start-up and nurture it into a long-term success. To do it in the entertainment industry, especially in a competitive niche like animation, is daunting. But, Ashley and Darrell opened up their own animation studio and took on the task of building a sustainable business.
In those first few months, they were hoping to not only land a project, but to land one that was significant. A project that would not only start some momentum and pay the bills, but would also showcase their talents as serious players in the animation industry. Something that would make it clear to the industry that they were a studio capable of producing something engaging, entertaining, memorable, with wide appeal.
They set the bar very high, yet they were, after all, renegades.
That first project ended up being the animation for Nike’s famous Super Bowl spot, “Aerospace Jordan” featuring Michael Jordan and Bugs Bunny. The ad became one of the most successful commercials of all time. Keep in mind that back in the early 1990s, Michael Jordan was arguably the most famous person in the world and that Nike was well on its way to becoming one of the top brands on the planet.
With the rocket fuel that came with “Aerospace Jordan,” Renegade Animation has gone on to become one of the leading animation studios in the industry. Their focus is on developing and producing both humorous and personality-based character animation combined with a strong use of design, achieving a traditional look with non-traditional tools.
Renegade Animation projects include episodic television, feature films, interactive games and DVDs, as well as web and mobile content. A pioneer in animation for the Internet, Renegade won an Annie Award in 2001 for its Web series, “Elmo Aardvark: Outer Space Detective.” The following year, Renegade made its first foray into television series production with “Captain Sturdy” for Cartoon Network. It has also produced three acclaimed series “The Hi Hi Puffy Ami Yumi Show,” “The Mr. Men Show,” and “The Tom & Jerry Show” all of which have aired on Cartoon Network and in international markets for multiple seasons. In 2006, the studio teamed with Easy to Dream Entertainment to produce, “Christmas Is Here Again,” a full-length animated film featuring the voices of Ed Asner, Kathy Bates, Brad Garrett, Andy Griffith, Shirley Jones, Jay Leno and Daniel Roebuck and has since developed it into a live theatrical production which had its world premiere in 2014. Darrell and Ashley have two Emmy nominations for their work on the PBS series “Oh Noah!” and Darrell has written two books on animation history: Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol – The Making of the First Animated Christmas Special and The Art of Jay Ward.
Not long after their early success, Renegade Animation chose Sobul, Primes and Schenkel as their CPAs. They have now been a client for nearly twenty years, and in that time have grown significantly. Throughout, Sobul, Primes and Schenkel has helped them deal with financial statement preparation, tax planning, tax compliance, other business consulting on many topics as they arise, as well as more complicated financial matters specific to their business.
One of the aspects that is unique about Renegade’s business is that animation takes a long time. Creating great animation makes running the business more complicated as far as cash flow and financial planning are concerned. An example is the analysis of whether it is more beneficial to buy or lease specialty equipment for a project. Another is that Renegade increasingly is dealing with ventures involving international production with all of the financial issues that come with dealing in various jurisdictions. Regardless of the challenge, SPS’s goal is always to be proactive so Renegade doesn’t get distracted as they work on these long-tern projects.
As often is the case, Rick and the SPS team work with Ashley and Darrell, the two partners, on their personal financial issues, as well as tax planning and preparation, and other things that may arise from time to time.
It’s not always easy being a renegade in a world that is more comfortable with the status quo. But that has never stopped Ashley and Darrell from shaking up the world of animation one project at a time. Sobul, Primes and Schenkel is just pleased to free up Renegade’s attention away from financial issues so they can continue to do what they do best, innovate animation.