Newly-launched Spire Animation Studios, co-founded by veteran animation producer Brad Lewis (Ratatouille; How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World) and industry entrepreneur P.J. Gunsagar, revealed development of its first computer-animated feature, a original contemporary musical titled Century Goddess.
The studio is backed by Connect Ventures, an investment partnership between CAA and venture capital firm New Enterprise Associates. CAA talent is not part of the deal, but Lewis, the studio’s chief creative officer, sees the access to its talent as an advantage.
Century Goddess has a female protagonist, Tara, described as a powerful young woman who is revealed to be a once-in-a-century goddess who unleashes her generational power of song and spoken word to ignite a revolution in a dictatorship where artists are suppressed. Based on an idea that Lewis had with his daughter, he says, “I think there is a lot of fear of freedom of expression. I think it exists all over the world. [A way] to get a message across is through art, that can be the most feared as a tool for expression.”
Leading development with Lewis are stage director Diane Paulus (2013’s Tony-winning Broadway revival of Pippin, Jagged Little Pill and Waitress); songwriter Starrah (Maroon 5’s “Girls Like You,” Rihanna’s “Needed Me,” Camilla Cabello’s “Havana” and Megan Thee Stallion’s “Savage Remix” featuring Beyoncé); and screenwriter and producer Bisha K. Ali, who is currently the showrunner and head writer of Marvel and Disney+’s Ms. Marvel series, consulting on HBO and Sky’s upcoming series The Baby and previously wrote for Marvel and Disney+’s Loki and Hulu’s Four Weddings and a Funeral.
Starrah will be writing original songs for Century Goddess. “The way she expresses what she feels through music, she’s as good as it gets,” Lewis says, adding that he “sought out Diane,” who he “always aspired to work with.” And on meeting Ali, he says, “When we spoke, she had the story in her heart and soul. She brings a depth to it that you dream about as a creative.” (Paulus and Ali are repped by CAA.)
Spire intends to focus on feature animation, and currently has five projects in development. Most of the team is working remotely due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Plans are to open an animation studio in Los Angeles next year.
Gunsagar, who serves as Spire’s CEO, says of the studio’s creative goals, “we’re creating universal stories, lifting them up larger than life and culturally and bringing new creative voices to the animation space.” He previously co-founded and served as president of VFX and animation company Prana Studios, and more recently, as co-founder and CEO of education and tech company Kidaptive.
Lewis spent a decade at Pixar Animation Studios, where he produced Ratatouille and was co-director and writer on Cars 2. He produced DreamWorks Animation’s first feature, Antz. and more recently returned to produce How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, for which he earned an Oscar nomination for best animation feature. His credits also include producing The Lego Batman Movie for Warner Bros.