Thursday, March 30, 2006

Website update

WEBSITE Update: here is a sample of two pages from the first comic book issue "The Incredibles", drawn by Ricardo, "Man of the House". There are a couple pgs per issue displayed on our website (totaling 4 pairs). Please check them out at the studio's website:


Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Christmas Card

Next year I propose a Christmas card where I'm featured more prominently. Fans of my face may have noticed it's conspicuous absence from this years House of Cool Christmas card. I am currently representing House of Cool interests south of the border, and I worry I have been excommunicated by my Canadian collegues. You will be happy to know that I still cheer for the Maple Leafs & Canucks, despise baseball, crave Tim Hortons, and use the word "eh?" at the end of every sentence.

House of the Cool is the greatest place I've ever worked in my life, but don't think I won't burn the mother down if I'm left off next years Christmas card! (actually I really just want to be represented in any drawing by the amazing Robin Joseph...Easter's coming up...maybe me as a rabbit?)

Miss you guys!


Thursday, March 23, 2006

No smile, Work now.

This is Robin sitting at his desk with a wall of designs behind him. His entire workspace revolves around artwork as does his life.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Secret to success

I have no idea, so instead look at these character designs for one of our television projects called Roboyo.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Studio vs. Self

This is a tv show idea called Dog Tags about a WWII canine unit. This image was by Cory Wilson.

What do I find interesting about an animation studio that I can't do on my own as an animator? There is a certain thing that you can only get in a studio environment that can't be replicated by yourself. And there is something even more special that happens if you happen to have your own studio. I feel that the special thing is the piece of yourself that you are willing to freely give away. What I mean is that when someone works on their own project by themselves they have fully invested all of their artistic craft into the film. This is wonderful but the vision has not been affected by outside forces. It is pure and intact but completely limited by the creator's imagination. No part of this vision is given out for interpretation. In a studio environment the vision is an amorphous thing. It starts of as a seed but through the inputs of all the people working on it, it grows into something that was totally unrealized by it's original creator. This is the magic to me. Every person gives a piece of themselves. Now if you do one of these projects and you own the studio the project will evolve but you also feel the people evolve also. The studio itself becomes that thing you strive for in your pursuit of artistic satisfaction.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Going Broke

In The Dreaming there are number of animal characters. This one is called Miss Angela.

As a hazard to any small business, running out of money is always a problem. We are in a constant search of our next job and trying to out run the hounds of bankruptcy. In the past two years the studio has had three times when we could have gone broke but we were able to claw our way out every time. We are actually in the middle of one of those crises now. All business sense would say that a company should cut their loses as soon as possible so that you don't get into too much debt then fight another day. Smart advise. Unfortunately I am an artist with a passion for what I do and I cannot let go so easily. I truly believe that if you are tenacious and smart you can over come a trivial thing like running out of money.

"H" to the "O" to da' "C"

This is Wes and I am the only non-artist to date at House of Cool (HoC)-- hence no drawing but instead a picture of me driving over what I think is a skunk or some other smelly rodent.

I'm involved in the business end with Ricki-C... It's always amazing how many different hats you have to wear when running any business, let alone a creative business such as this one. At times you have to be an accountant, the next, a marketing extraordinaire, a minute afterward, you're a contract negotiator and somehow a tax credit specialist at the same time. Finally, "poof!" You are now back to being a finely tuned artist... My hats off to Ricardo in cutting his Afro to fit all his hats.

Being surrounded by "creatives" is quite infectious; life is easier to live when you are laughing all the time. The HoC peeps certainly want to make the world laugh. Its been great to be a by-stander and sometimes the butt-end of the comedic daily jokes that happen here at HoC... most of them to dirty to mention.

Time will tell where the future will take us but what time has already given us is many memorable moments.

Mr. W

Sunday, March 12, 2006


This is a quick digital sketch of this year's Oscar night.

My name is Normand Lemay. I'm a storyboard artist at House of Cool. I was born in Quebec City. Yes, that means I'm French Canadian. I studied Graphic Design in my part of the country and then worked for a bit more than a year as an Art Director in an Advertising Studio in Montreal. I still do advertising storyboards in my spare time. I always wanted to work in animation so I packed my bags and left Montreal to study for three years at Sheridan College, in Classical Animation. After I graduated, I worked for a few months in various animation studios in Toronto to finally be a part of House of Cool. I've quickly adopted the digital tablet for most of my work. Check out my blog!

Who I Am

This is a digital painting by Robin Joseph for The Dreaming.

I've had some comments about who I am. I've considered this blog a House of Cool studio blog but if people want this thing to be a little more personal I will oblige.

My name is Ricardo Curtis. I was born in Kingston, Jamaica but I grew up in Toronto, Canada. I studied classical animation at Sheridan College in Oakville, Canada. I've worked in feature animation for most of my career but I've spent some time working in television also. I've been an animator, supervising animator, designer and storyboard artist at studio such as Warner Bros., DreamWorks and Pixar. I moved back to Canada over three years ago with my wife and had a son and started House of Cool. I am currently the head of story on Horton Hears a Who at Blue Sky while still supervising operations at House of Cool.

I'll let everyone else at House of Cool write up their own bios.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

The Family Thing

Another piece from The Dreaming.

We've had some comments about how we balance the pressures of running a studio and having a family. This is how my wife answered the question.
I will speak for myself and leave it up to Ricardo to share how he balances family and work. As for me, I stay at home with our toddler and it is the hardest job I have ever done!!! When I have freelance to do, I have my mother look after our kid for a few hours a couple of times a week while I do some work (also some weekends), depending on its degree of importance. It is not easy to tune out family of your mind and concentrate on work, the theory is simple, the practical aspects of it are extremely different. But most of the time I live unhealthily by working after he goes to bed, late at night and into the morning for a few days at a time. It might be a different story with more kids, though. The key for me is to decide when to work around family or make the latter fit around work. A constant prioritization and a good, supportive partner are key. Hope this helps!

From my perspective, there was a time in my life when career and animation was the most overpowering factors in my life. I lived animation. Everything I talked about was animation. All my friends worked in animation. Then I started to noticed that many people who spent all their time thinking about animation, were no happier than people who spent more time living life (especially Europeans). I decided that in my career there must be balance. I have not done any overtime for many years. I also do not expect anyone who I supervise or work for me to do any overtime. Even though I run a business and there are many responsibilities, they all must happen within a certain defined time. If you allow yourself to let work-time absorb into family time suddenly work will know no bounds. Now that I have consciously limited when I am allowed to work it has become habit. I now find the idea of doing overtime to be repugnant. "Ricardos don't do overtime'". This doesn't mean I don't think about animation when I am not working. I love the art form so my wife and I often talk about it because we enjoy it.

I believe that I will continue to adjust my priorities as I age. It is possible that the studio will require more time than I am willing to give it. At that point I will either delegate responsibility to others or limit the amount of work that the studio accepts.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

It was quite a journey...

Working on the website has been a bit of a rollercoaster for us, but we have finally made it official. It is a work-in-progress, so keep checking for any changes or new features. Gathering all the info and artwork was overwhelming, and I personally feel very proud of all the work that the crew has produced.
House of Cool has been a project that was conceptualized back in college. A few of us were going to work in the USA, get the best experience possible, and come back home (to Canada) to flesh it out into a studio and/or through teaching. It is not an easy task to achieve, but big risks can bring big payoffs!

Getting it Done

I want to include an image for every entry. This one is from El Dorado by my beautiful and talented wife, Kate. Check out her website.

I hope that I don't sound too preachy with these life lessons I've learned being in the industry so far but I think that this blog is more than just pretty pictures, so here I go again.

Getting things done is to me as important, if not more important than raw talent. How many artist do you know who can draw circles around you? They draw on every random scrap of paper and every doodle deserves to be in a museum but for some reason they are no more successful than you are. In fact they spend most of their day telling you about how crap the industry is and every night smoking a joint. Then on the other hand, someone who has very little artistic talent: you turn on the TV and they are accepting a best picture Academy award. The reason for this is these people know how to get things done. The best picture Academy award is given to the producer because producers are the best at getting things done. If I were to ask most artists to tell me an idea that they had for a movie, short film, television series or even a poster, they would be able to give me half a dozen good ideas off the top of their heads. If I were to ask the same artists if they had done anything to bring these projects to life like writing a treatment or assembling a development team or create some development artwork, most would say that they had some unfinished pieces. The problems is if you don't finish something no one will ever care.

Well, that did sound awfully preachy.

Here are some of my friends who are good at getting things done. Sanjay Patel, the creater of Little India. Alex Puvilland and Leuyen Pham, happily married in art. Mark Andrews and Louis Gonzales, sketchers supreme.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Want a studio? Need strong nerves.

Here is another lesson that I have learned running an animation studio. It would be great if having your own studio meant that you could draw, animate or create whatever suits your fancy. Unfortunately this is not the case. Your ability to create is limited by your ability to pay your rent, pay phone bills, pay utilities, pay credit cards, pay the line of credit, pay travel expenses, pay equipment leases and pay your employees' salaries. If you can cover all those things every month you can think about being creative after that.

As I'm writing this, it saddens me that to be a true artist in a field like animation, it either requires you to live in abject poverty and doodle away in you mom's attic or have to work for a much larger company who has ownership of everything you create.

Here is some more artwork from a television project we are developing called POV. The artist here is Normand Lemay. He is the second fastest sketcher I know next to Mark Andrews at Pixar.

The Dreaming

This is a feature project that we have been developing for some time. It is a personal film for me because I wrote it and I have my son as the main character.

One Man Band

A big congratulations to Andy Jimenez and Mark Andrews on their nomination at the Academy Award for 'One Man Band'! Though they didn't win the big prize they are both super talented and I'm sure they'll get it the next time.

More Popo

Some more images from our feature Popo that is in development.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

The Incredibles

In the summer of 2004 John Walker, the producer of The Incredibles, asked me to pencil the four issue comic book for Dark Horse Comics. I had already worked with Brad Bird on The Incredibles and The Iron Giant so he was familiar with my drawing ability.

I always liked to see the original pencils of the comic book pages so I'm showing some pencils for the covers and pages.My wife Kate painted the covers for all four issues and a friend from college, Ramon Perez, inked. I have to mention that working for Dave Land from Dark Horse was a pleasure.
I had a hard time drawing this book because I had to stay somewhat on model when drawing these characters and this is not my normal drawing style. Tony Fucile designed many of the characters on The Incredibles and his work is brilliant but very difficult to draw consistently. I did my best but next time I do a comic I want it to be in my own style.This picture is promotional photo I had done for an interview. My brother-in-law David Moo King from mooishi took the picture. David and is business partner Bryan Ishiguro are two of the hottest fashion photographers in the nation. Definitely check out their stuff if you are into beautiful images.

Saturday, March 04, 2006


Two years ago I decided that House of Cool was going to make a short film. I had been itching to make another film since college and I had an I idea about the state of the world that I wanted to put on film. I used the United Nations as a metaphor for these giant creatures who only had eyes on the tops of their heads so they couldn't see the tiny creatures they were stepping on. This film was going to be our grand entrance into the world of independent film production. We applied for a grant from Bravo!FACT that we were awarded but the catch was you didn't get any money until the film was completed.
I decided to do it as a 2D/3D mix. Of course we had no experience in CG production so we made every mistake possible. We choose to use Cinema 4D then we switched to Maya then used a mix between the two. The budget grew far beyond the grant amount, while the timelines were pushed passed the original four months.
These are two images from the film. The first one was a development piece that my wife Kate did and the second image is a frame from the actual film.

It took almost a year to finish the six minute film. It was shown on the Bravo! channel on Feb/05. I'm about 80% happy with the final project but 100% with the experience. The film can be viewed at . I developed a new appreciation for the process of getting something like this done. House of Cool will make another short film at some point but because of Bliss we will be much more prepared.

Our Own

The concept that is most prevalent at House of Cool is we want to do what is cool. What that means is that we have to create our own projects. I encourage anyone in the studio to develop properties in various mediums including film and television. In this blog we will include some images of the projects we have been working on. We can have to keep some stuff secret but I am excited about showing the world what we have been up to. This is a feature project called Popo. Much of the development painting that come out of House of Cool are made by Robin Joseph. It was his birthday yesterday.