EXCLUSIVE: Spire Animation Studios has hired a pair of Pixar alums for key roles, with Ricky Nierva joining as Production Designer and Michal Makarewicz now serving as Head of Character Animation.
In their time at Spire, Nierva and Makarewicz will work closely with Creative Directors, Animation and Story Shawn Krause and Michael Surrey, Creative Directors of Development, Ted Mathot and Karen Disher, story artist Sharon Bridgeman and co-founder and CCO Brad Lewis (Ratatouille, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World), first turning their attention to the studio’s first animated feature Trouble that it’s developing with Danny McBride’s Rough House Pictures, as previously announced.
“We couldn’t be more excited to be working with Ricky and Michal,” said Lewis and co-founder P.J. Gunsagar in a joint statement. “Both bring a wealth of creative experience from working at Pixar on many of the studio’s most beloved movies. Their addition to our growing team continues us down the path of building a next-generation studio with best-in-class professionals.”
Said Nierva: “I’m honored to join Spire Animation Studios and to have the unique opportunity to production design our first animated feature film. The team is unbelievably talented and we are breaking the way things have been done in the past, blazing new trails. I’ve loved the animation art form since I was a kid – and through my time at Pixar – and want to push this medium forward. It’s altogether invigorating, terrifying and exciting!”
Added Makarewicz” “Spire is a melting pot of tremendous talent from the leading companies in the animation industry. It’s exciting to build something new from the ground up with all that knowledge and experience at our disposal. We get to play in a sandbox where the what-ifs are all very possible. I’m also thrilled to keep the animation industry growing, for the community as a whole, and to push the boundaries of our field in a new way with a fantastic team.”
Nierva is a Filipino-American animation production designer who started his career within Pixar’s Toy Story 2 Story Department in 1997. He’s best known for his work on the films Monsters, Inc. and Finding Nemo, which saw him design such iconic characters as the one-eyed monster Mike Wazowski, his furry pal Sully and the forgetful blue tang fish known as Dory. Nierva also led Pixar’s production design team on the Oscar-winning Up.
Before joining Spire, Michal Makarewicz spent 19 years at Pixar, there working his way up to directing animator. In his time at the studio, he worked on more than 14 feature films, including The Incredibles, Cars, Ratatouille, Wall-E, Up, Inside Out, Onward and Soul, along with five shorts and other projects. The International Animated Film Association (ASIFA) has honored Makarewicz with two Annie Awards for Best Animation in a Feature Production for his work on Soul and Ratatouille. He has also been recognized with a VES Award nomination for his animation on Incredibles 2, along with a Feature Animation nomination from the National Cartoonist Society for his work on Soul.
Co-founded by Academy Award nominee Lewis and serial entrepreneur Gunsagar, Spire Animation Studios aims to take a multidisciplinary approach to animated storytelling, bringing A-listers and up-and-comers together to tell original, culturally relevant stories with global impact. The feature animation studio is backed by Connect Ventures, an investment partnership between CAA and global venture capital firm, New Enterprise Associates. It also recently announced a strategic partnership with Epic Games to integrate its Unreal Engine into Spire’s feature animation pipeline, and is currently using it to produce its first two projects, Trouble and Century Goddess.
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