Spire has hired Pixar veterans Ricky Nielva and Michal Makarewicz to feature in Trouble

The mysterious Spire Animation Studios, which seems to have one foot in Hollywood and one foot in Silicon Valley, continues to attract major talent. The studio announced today that two key Pixar veterans – Ricky Nierva and Michal Makarewicz – have joined its staff in senior roles. Nierva and Makarewicz worked a combined total of 40 years at Pixar.

Nierva, who worked at Pixar between 1997 and 2018, was the lead character designer on Monsters, Inc., art director on Finding Nemo, and production designer on Up and Monsters University. He contributed in various capacities to other studio productions, including Inside Out, Toy Story 2, and Coco.

He's joining Spire as a production designer and will initially be focused on Trouble, the studio's first animation feature, co-created by Danny McBride and Brad Lewis. “The team is unbelievably talented and we are breaking the way things have been done in the past, blazing new trails,” said Nierva in a statement. “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!”

Makarewicz joins Spire as head of character animation. He put in 19 years at Pixar, where he worked his way up to directing animator. While there, he contributed to 14 features and five shorts, including The Incredibles, Cars, Ratatouille, Wall-E, Up, Inside Out, Onward, and Soul. Along the way, Makarewicz won two Annie Awards for best animation (Soul, Ratataouille) and was nominated for a VES Award for his animation on Helen in Incredibles 2.

“Spire is a melting pot of tremendous talent from the leading companies in the animation industry,” Makarewicz said. “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.”

Nierva and Makarewicz will work closely with Spire's core creative team, which includes Shawn Krause (creative director animation and story), Michael Surrey (creative director animation and story), Ted Mathot (creative director of development), Karen Disher (creative director of development), and Sharon Bridgeman (story artist), as well as co-founder and CCO Brad Lewis, who produced Ratatouille, How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, and The Lego Batman Movie.

Spire announced earlier this month that it had closed a $20 million funding round, including an investment from Epic Games. The studio is using real-time workflows and cloud-based production as part of its pipeline.