Search form

Spire Animation Secures $20 Million from Epic Games and Connect Ventures

Investment will enable Unreal Engine integration into studio’s feature film animation pipeline to allow simultaneous build out of worlds and experiences for the metaverse; Danny McBride’s ‘Trouble’ set as first project to use new collaborative real-time technology.

Spire Animation Studios has just announced a $20 million funding round, which includes a strategic investment from Epic Games. The two companies will partner to integrate Epic’s Unreal Engine into Spire’s feature animation pipeline, enabling the studio to produce high quality content with stronger collaboration and higher efficiency, while simultaneously building out worlds and experiences for the metaverse. Spire had previously received an Epic 'Unreal Shorts' grant for companies that use Unreal Engine in their animation productions.

Epic is investing alongside existing investor Connect Ventures, an investment partnership formed by Creative Artists Agency (CAA) and New Enterprise Associates (NEA). Funding is ear-marked for team expansion, studio technology and infrastructure build out, as well as creative development. Epic will also join Spire’s Board of Directors.

“The talented team at Spire has decades of experience and their work has captivated audiences around the world with heartfelt storytelling and inspiring characters,” said Kim Libreri, CTO of Epic Games. “They are at the cutting edge of animation and together we will push the state of the art in metaverse entertainment."

Creating movies in Unreal Engine will enable Spire to seamlessly port story assets -- worlds and characters -- into the metaverse. Spire’s first project to take advantage of this new production methodology is benefiting from this is the animated feature, Trouble, a collaboration with Danny McBride’s Rough House Pictures.

Announced last March, Trouble is an original story co-created by McBride (Eastbound & DownVice Principals, and The Righteous Gemstones) and Spire co-founder and CCO Brad Lewis (Ratatouille, How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, The Lego Batman Movie). The movie will be executive produced by Spire’s other co-founder and CEO, P.J. Gunsagar, along with Rough House Pictures’ Brandon James. Trouble tells the story of Jax, a 13-year-old who gets into trouble because of his bad behavior towards his family, and then literally ends up in the World of Trouble, a parallel reality.

“Meta-distribution, where audiences engage with stories before, during and after film release, has disruptive potential,” said Gunsagar. “Audiences will live and interact authentically and persistently with characters and worlds without having to wait years after a movie’s release. Story-living through VR, AR and metaverse experiences is the future. We’re passionate about bringing this vision to life with our movie Trouble.”

Real-time workflows empower teams to refine and visualize animation without having to wait for resource-intensive rendering. Spire plans to build tools that enable all departments to create in real-time, a paradigm shift from traditional linear production methodologies. The goal is to accelerate the animation process and improve the quality of collaboration across departments.

“I’m excited about using Unreal Engine to support the creative process from story through delivery of final pixel,” said Lewis. “The flexibility the engine provides will bring about a more intimate and intuitive filmmaking process, leading to better visuals and stories; everyone on the creative team gets to be in the room where it happens. Unreal Engine will bring new inspired voices to feature animation!”

Source: Spire Animation Studios

Dan Sarto's picture

Dan Sarto is Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Animation World Network.