Former Pixar, Disney and DreamWorks Creatives Join Spire Animation Team

Newly formed Spire Animation Studio has tapped former creatives from Pixar, Disney, DreamWorks, Blue Sky, and Warner Animation to join its team. According to Variety, the studio formed by Oscar-nominated producer Brad Lewis (Ratatouille, How to Train Your Dragon) and entrepreneur P.J. Gunsagar has hired Shawn Krause, Creative Director of Animation and Story, Michael Surrey, Creative Director, Story and Animation, Ted Mathot, Creative Director of Development and Karen Disher, Creative Director of Development.

The new studio aims to produce animated movies more seamlessly and leaner with its proprietary, real-time workflow platform built on a popular, state-of-the-art game engine. Spire Animation Studios seems to empower its collaborators on a digital format within the same environment, saving valuable production time and allowing more time for changes and improvements.

Among the projects in development at Spire are Danny McBride’s Trouble, a feature about a 13-year-old who is swept into a parallel universe known as World of Trouble (Lewis created the story with Kevin Barnett and Chris Pappas) and

Century Goddess about a woman who learns that she’s a once-in-a-century musical goddess (led by Lewis, Diane Paulus, Starrah and Bisha K. Ali)

Spire’s creative team includes:

  • Shawn Krause, Creative Director of Animation & Story. Shawn Krause serves as Creative Director, Animation and Story at Spire Animation Studios. He joined Spire following 26 years at Pixar Animation Studios, where he led animation for the films Up, Cars 2, and Inside Out. Shawn holds a strong blend of technological fluency and effective storytelling skills needed to lead feature animation teams.
  • Michael Surrey, Creative Director, Story & Animation. Michael Surrey serves as Creative Director, Story and Animation at Spire Animation Studios. An award-nominated animator, Surrey has more than two decades of experience in animation working on acclaimed films such as Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and The Lion King, and also spent 10+ years as a storyboard artist. In 1995, he was nominated for an Annie Award for his work in animation on The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
  • Ted Mathot, Creative Director of Development. Ted Mathot has been one of the stalwart creative forces at Pixar as Head of Story. Starting as a Story Artist on classics such as Cars, Ratatouille and WALL•E, moving up to be story supervisor on the Incredibles 2.
  • Karen Disher, Creative Director of Development. Karen Disher was the first female director and story artist at Blue Sky Studios. She has worked on most of Blue Sky’s films, including Robots, Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs (where she provided the voice of Scratte), and Ferdinand. She was Head of Story on Rio, and directed two short-form Ice Age projects. Prior to joining Blue Sky, she was at MTV Animation, where she designed the main characters and was the supervising director for Daria.

Lewis told Variety, “We have been trying to get a team together from a variety of places where I’ve worked with to do something creatively special.” He adds, “What gets me up in the morning is ‘let’s do something with a team that is really enthusiastic and behind it.'”

Gunsagar added, “The idea is to breakthrough with more innovative ways to tell stories and what a next-generation studio could look like, without all the encumbrances of legacy infrastructure.

Krause noted, “Spire is an opportunity for me to take the best of what I learned about filmmaking at Pixar and adapt it to cutting edge technology. It’s a chance to get back to being a leaner, scrappier team of artists which is something I miss. We are building a new way of collaborating from the ground up.”

For more info, visit

Spire Animation Studios
Spire Animation Studios


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