Faculty of Animation, Arts & Design
Degree: Classical Animation, 1995 & Art Fundamentals, 1991
Year of graduation: 1995
Before returning to Canada to open his own studio in 2004, Ricardo Curtis spent over nine years working for some of the hottest animation studios in California, including Pixar, DreamWorks and Warner Brothers Feature Animation. His film credits include such hits as The Incredibles, Monsters Inc. and Iron Giant. With such top-drawer experience, the 1995 animation grad could easily have stayed south of the border and added his talent to the next set of animated blockbusters. But that was not part of Curtis’ plan.
“I enjoyed myself and learned so much at Pixar. They were making great films but I wanted to take my experience and help build a strong animation industry in Canada,” said Curtis, who grew up in Toronto. “We have a fantastic environment in this country. It’s stable, safe, and has a great tax credit system that makes Canada attractive to film and television producers all over the world.”
His Toronto studio, House of Cool, which Curtis co-founded with business partner Wes Lui, now enjoys a widespread reputation as a specialist in film and television preproduction for some of the world’s biggest animation studios, including Pixar, Disney, Blue Sky Studios and the Weinstein Company.
Among the 65-person studio’s film credits are The Book of Life (2015 Golden Globe nominee), Horton Hears a Who, Despicable Me, Ice Age and Hugo. In addition to story and design creation for major studios, House of Cool is also focused on developing original content and has completed TV series for Nelvana and Disney.
Canada has a reputation for producing top quality animation for the small screen, says Curtis. “There’s more animated television being created in Toronto and Canada than anywhere outside Asia. We should be proud of that success.”
Expansion is on the horizon for Curtis with the acquisition of his commercial division, Redrover Studios, original feature film production through House of Cool and his new digital story telling platform Massively.
Although it has always been challenging for artists to produce their own work, it is especially tough in today’s climate, Curtis concedes. “The cost is prohibitive so studios are squeezing out the sequels, relying on the old brands to get the most of out their investments. Staying with safe themes narrows the content we make.” To keep animation’s legacy of great storytelling alive requires the industry “to develop more genres and good quality content on multiple platforms so we don’t lose our audience.”
Curtis remains passionate about animation, despite having devoted much of his time to the business side of the industry. “I love the art more than I ever did, but I understand it better now.”
Curtis graduated into what he terms “a new golden age of animation. The Lion King had just come out and Disney was on a roll. Every one in my class of about 30 was hired,” recalled Curtis who landed at Warner Brothers Animation upon graduation.
The animation landscape has changed since the mid-1990s (Sheridan’s 2015 animation class is 118 strong), but the passion of animators for their art remains key to success in the industry, said Curtis. “You’ve got to really want it. The love of what you do will keep you going, regardless of the roadblocks.”
Learn more about Sheridan’s Animation and Game Design programs.