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PENCIL-LED LAST HOLDOUT EMBRACES THE FUTURE.

Byline: Alex Dobuzinskis Staff Writer

GLENDALE - Digital technology has served Renegade Animation well, and soon the firm's last artist to work mainly with paper and pencil will make the digital leap, as well.

Storyboard artist Scott O'Brien, 34, is set to receive a device he can use to draw onto a computer screen with a special pencil.

While O'Brien previously has shunned computers, the special technology should make the transition nearly painless.

It will be the last digital piece at the Glendale animation firm, which, in the past decade, has grown from a two-person operation based in a Burbank garage to a 53-employee company.

Using Flash animation, the company produces ``The Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi Show,'' a popular Japanese cartoon that features animated versions of real-life rock stars Ami Onuki and Yumi Yoshimura, whose music has been likened to such bands as ABBA and Stereolab.

The cartoon, which Renegade produces for the Cartoon Network, is intended, in part, to help the band gain more exposure in North America.

Ultimately, the cost of Flash animation - about four times cheaper than traditional animation because it requires only one-third of the staff - helps save the company from sending work overseas for ``finishing,'' as many other animation firms have done.

The technology has helped Renegade co-founders Darrell Van Citters, the company's animation director, and Ashley Postlewaite flourish since starting the company in Van Citters' garage 13 years ago. Back then, they made animation for commercials, video games and theme parks.

But, in recent years, competition has grown.

``Overseas studios are starting to do it, which means we'll need to be even more clever to continue to compete," said Postlewaite, Renegade's executive producer.

Creative engineer Nate Pacheco, 33, of Burbank started with the company six years ago, when it had only a handful of workers.

Like the other artists, Pacheco animates directly on a computer, which allows him to more easily sync sound with images. But the basics of animation remain the same.

``It's like a little combination of old Hanna-Barbera, Yogi Bear stuff, but bumped up a bit,'' Pacheco said.

For lead animator Dave Markowitz, 34, of Thousand Oaks, animation - whether it's traditional or digital - is all about bringing life to characters.

``You're trying to act something, and you're just using a different tool to do it,'' he said.

Markowitz has only once seen the real-life Onuki and Yoshimura, the two rock stars he animates, and it was a quick encounter at one of their Los Angeles concerts.

But that doesn't matter much to Markowitz, since their characters need to be more true to cartoon reality than actual reality.

``For animators, once we hear the inflections in the voice ... we have a better time animating it,'' he said.

Alex Dobuzinskis, (818) 546-3304

alex.dobuzinskis(at)dailynews.com

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Scott O'Brien is the last artist at Renegade Animation to switch from pencil and paper to computer artwork.

John McCoy/Staff Photographer
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jul 5, 2005
Words:489
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