House Special principals (l. to r.) Kirk Kelley, Lourri Hammack and Al Cubillas. House Special principals (l. to r.) Kirk Kelley, Lourri Hammack and Al Cubillas.

House Special Launches in Portland

House Special principals (l. to r.) Kirk Kelley, Lourri Hammack and Al Cubillas.
House Special principals (l. to r.) Kirk Kelley, Lourri Hammack and Al Cubillas.

housespecial-logoA new commercial studio, House Special, launched in Portland, Oregon last week. The company was started by Lourri Hammack, Kirk Kelley and Al Cubillas, who ran Laika’s former commercial division Laika/house. Like the earlier Laika division, House Special will produce commercials in a variety of media including stop motion, CG, and hand-drawn.

Laika announced last May that they would disband their commercial unit to focus exclusively on feature films. While commercials had served a prominent role in Laika’s earlier incarnation Will Vinton Studios, they didn’t make as much sense after Nike founder Phil Knight acquired the company in 2003 and shifted the company’s focus to feature filmmaking. Laika CEO Travis Knight told Oregon Live a few months ago that, “It’s become clear that we need to devote all of our artistry, innovation, and resources towards our feature films in order to craft the distinctive and evocative stories for which LAIKA has become known.”

The newly formed House Special has stated on their Twitter account that they will remain in the former Laika/house location through this fall. For more info, visit their website at

  • theGee

    That’s great. Best to them!

  • TStevens

    The commercial animation business is in a strange space these days. So many people have gone into business that you find companies doing relatively high quality work in Midwest towns that you never would have thought of. However, the middle end of the commercial market is rapidly drying up with most of the work being either low budget or high budget.

    I suspect these folks will have a pretty good run of it though. They have a built in clientele so, with the budgets they are use to, a handful of spots could float them for an entire year. The thing that will make or break them is the ability to get the higher end jobs along with keeping overhead low. There are quite a few production companies going to a pure freelance model with a cloud based production flow. Combine that with third party rendering and you can almost run a production company out of your bedroom.

  • Lets_get_REEL

    Don’t know the other 2 but Al C. is a very-very smart cookie. All the best of success to them.

  • David Vallone

    Come on Big AL!!! Very best Of luck to you all.. I’d like the House Special please!!

  • Sabine Animates

    I’m curious to know how these people are going to make it work. Travis Knight eliminated the commercial division at Laika, not because it was unprofitable, but because these people that managed the commercial division were responsible for huge amounts of negativity toward the freelance and in house animation staff they used to create the commercials. They were getting a terrible reputation with the advertising agencies as well, and rather than deal with them any longer, the Knight family decided to sack the lot of them.

    They may have gotten away with a small client list, but they certainly won’t command the budgets they were used to. It’s a new world, and they’re now competing directly with people who have worked “from the bedroom” with third party rendering and cloud based workflows. The only part of the picture they’re not getting is that the budgets are small enough now, that the executives who run even small animation companies can’t afford to hire enough people and pay themselves for essentially sitting around doing nothing. (Not to mention the fact that everyone you’ve abused and underpaid for years have started their own successful businesses, and actually have talent, and the ability to create something.) I give them one to two years.

    Fire up that margarita machine you scavenged from the last remaining dregs of Laika House. You’re going to need it. (Starts the popcorn popper.)

  • Unicorn Juice – from House Special. I’d say this is high quality work.