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Darrell's story

From: Creative Inspirations: Renegade Animation, Animation Studio

Video: Darrell's story

(Music playing.) Darrell Van Citters: I think probably what I got in animation for was the humor part of it. I really enjoyed the humorous aspect of animation. First, I was watching it when I was just a mere teenager. I was watching cartoons with my sister one day and we happened to watch I think it was 'Rabbit of Seville' Chuck Jones' film written by Michael Maltese.

Darrell's story

(Music playing.) Darrell Van Citters: I think probably what I got in animation for was the humor part of it. I really enjoyed the humorous aspect of animation. First, I was watching it when I was just a mere teenager. I was watching cartoons with my sister one day and we happened to watch I think it was 'Rabbit of Seville' Chuck Jones' film written by Michael Maltese.

When I was watching that and I thought to myself there is a lot more here than just a cartoon, because it was a lot more intellectual than a lot of the cartoons I had been watching. And that one really was kind of one of those moments where just something clicks in your brain. I said, that was pretty cool. That showed me there could be something more than what everybody kind of associated with cartoons. My formal education in animation, I started in 1975. I came to CalArts in the first year of the Disney- sponsored Character Animation program.

And I met some other like-minded people that were also very passionate about animation, but none of us knew anybody else like us, we never knew where else to find any information, so we all ended up there. Some of those people where John Lasseter, Brad Bird, John Musker, Jerry Rees. There was quite a number of people who had a lot of interest in animation. In the next year, we had some more people who were also extremely interested, and the program has gone very well with a lot of interested people. And we spent all of our time talking about animation and learning our craft.

We have guest speakers from the business come up and talk, sometimes sanctioned through the school, through our programs, and other times I'd send them a letter, in the days before emails. Send them a letter and ask them to come up and speak and a lot of them did. And so we learned a lot from having that, and gradually we were all picked off, and ended up at Disney over the years. What kinds of projects we did at Disney, because we all came out through the system, we all learned as apprentices, which I am sorry to say, it doesn't seem to be much in the business anymore, but we all learned under other animators and we gradually learned our craft that way.

And a great deal of us started to work on 'The Fox and the Hound.' That was first our animated picture, although people like Brad and John started on 'The Small One'. Some of us continued in the features. I started branching out and worked in some special projects, some stuff of television and also some shorts. I left Disney after about 8 years and went out into the freelance world and that was very instructive for me. I learned a lot doing it that way, because again you are on a budget, you are on a schedule and things have to be turned around quickly.

So that was very informative to me. From there I started picking up a lot of freelance work at Warner Brothers using their characters and I'd always loved the Warner Brothers characters so that one just kind of-- over time they decided they liked what I was doing enough to bring me in-house. So I went in to Warner Brothers in the Classics Characters division. And I was a Creative Director there for three years. I needed another assistant to help me out there and Ashley had been working on 'Bugs Bunny on Broadway' and she'd dealt with our department for a little while there.

So she understood a bit about animation and she liked the people who she met with in our division. So it worked out. I hired her when she was looking for work and she became my assistant for about a year. And then after we finished the Hare Jordan spot for Warner Brothers, the Nike Bugs Bunny Michael Jordan commercial, it just seemed like the time was right to leave. So Ashley and I in our evenings sat down and hammered out a business plan over about six months and that was very instructive too.

It gave us a roadmap for what we were going. Even if some of it turned out to be inaccurate, it was the best we could do. And at least we had a vision for where the company was going to go and to this day, that business plan has still served us well.

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