Comedy’s Beloved ‘Tituss Burgess’ Joins Other Big Names In Skydance & John Lasseter’s ‘Spellbound’
Skydance Animation, a relative newcomer in the world of animated feature films, is hoping to make musical headway with its next film. Led by John Lasseter, former head of animation at Pixar, Skydance Animation’s Spellbound will feature a slew of big-name stars and trained musicians. For fans of comedy, the most recent news about the film is that its cast will be joined by Tituss Burgess of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and AppleTV+’s Schmigadoon!
Burgess joined the cast of Skydance Animation’s upcoming 3D musical animated feature film, Spellbound, after most of the rest of the film had been cast. Although news has been slow about this film, a recent panel at the Annecy International Film Festival has revealed several secrets about the film.
Spellbound is set to be full of firsts. It will be the first full-length feature animated musical for Titus Burgess, the first full-length animated musical for John Lasseter since he joined Skydance Animation, and the first movie in two decades for director Vicky Jensen (Shrek, Shark Tale). The addition of Titus Burgess to the cast will round out what has been a highly anticipated but highly secretive movie from Skydance Animation. Currently, in the end stages of production, Spellbound is set to hit AppleTV+ in 2024.
About Titus Burgess
Skydance Animation has not yet announced the role Tituss Burgess will play in its feature-length animated film, Spellbound. However, Burgess has a rich musical and comedic history which will bring a lot to the table for a musical project of this scope. Titus Burgess is most well known for playing the character Titus Andromedon in the beloved Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Andromedon was the roommate of the titular character, Kimmy. Known for his quick-wittedness, over-the-top dramatic attitude, and natural charisma, Titus Andromedon was a fan favorite among those who watched the show. Burgess shared the screen with Ellie Kemper and comedy veteran Carol Kane.
Titus Burgess may have risen to fame during Kimmy Schmidt’s heyday, but he started on Broadway. Burgess made his Broadway debut in 2005 as Eddie in Good Vibrations. After that role, he moved up to claim more iconic Broadway roles, including the original voice of The Little Mermaid’s Sebastian the Crab on Broadway. It was only after many successful years on Broadway that Burgess branched out to comedy and became a beloved addition. He has been nominated for six Emmy awards, five of which originated with his role as Titus Andromedon in Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.
Today, he provides several voices to characters in AppleTV+’s adult animation Central Park, which plays to Burgess’ strengths, as it is both a comedic show and a musical. Central Park takes place in New York City’s iconic park and follows the life of the Raver-Lampman family. Titus Burgess is also the narrator for AppleTV+’s Schmigadoon! – a musical series about a couple stuck in a magical town that’s part of a set. His work with Apple on these two originals made him a perfect fit for the AppleTV+ and Skydance Animation collaboration, Spellbound.
Spellbound marks the second feature-length animated film in the series of films contracted from Skydance Animation under John Lasseter and purchased by Apple. The film followed Luck, the company’s first feature-length film under Lasseter’s direction. Although Luck was not a musical, it played to the strengths of the animation giant’s creative mind. Luck followed the life of the unluckiest girl in the world on her quest to find out why fate was so twisted against her. Bad Luck Spot was a follow-up short film released in March of 2023 which focused on some of the film’s most beloved side characters trying to take care of an unlucky item. Skydance Animation’s first animated short film, released through Apple TV+, was directed by Joe Mateo. Blush was the story of a lost astronaut who finds love on a strange planet with the help of a pink alien. Mateo’s short masterpiece was a bittersweet tribute to his wife, who died of breast cancer. The pink alien was a representation of her, and the lost astronaut a representation of him. Well-received, this animated short was just a taste of what Skydance Animation has promised to its audiences.
Recent Press About Spellbound
The recent buzz about Spellbound is not just because of the addition of Tituss Burgess to the cast. At June 2023’s Annecy International Film Festival, Skydance Animation representatives released exclusive, never-before-seen pictures and songs from the movie. Each year, thousands gather in Annecy, France, to receive awards for achievements in animation, watch beloved films with other movie buffs, and catch exclusive peeks into upcoming animated features. The Annecy International Film Festival is unique for showcasing work from seasoned animation companies, like Disney, Pixar, and DreamWorks, as well as independent animators and newcomers to the field, like Skydance Animation.
Vicky Jensen, famed director of the beloved animated film Shrek and director of Spellbound, led the Annecy panel overviewing Spellbound. She was there to introduce the film, music, and other little tidbits along with Brian Pimental, the head of the story for the movie. Also present was lead character designer Guillermo Ramirez. Ramirez was able to show off some of the creations of his team, including a fantasy creature named Flake who made the room light up with glee when he was revealed.
Jensen, Ramirez, and Pimental showcased the film to an audience of onlookers and gave exclusive insights into what is to come of Spellbound. Among the information leaked about the film was the inspiration for the set of the magical land of Lumbria. As a nod to the Skydance Animation studios in Madrid, where John Lasseter leads his team of animators, the animators created intricate city blocks, which spanned all of Lumbria, inspired by ancient Spain.
Although Spellbound was presented at the Annecy panel as a “work in progress”, the film does have a set release date of 2024. Jensen has been working on Spellbound since before John Lasseter’s arrival to the Skydance Animation team in 2019. No word has yet been released as to whether the film will get a theatrical release.
About The Making of Spellbound
Spellbound follows the life of Princess Ellian, voiced by the lead of Broadway’s West Side Story (Rachel Zegler). Princess Ellian must try and hide the fact that her parents, the king, and queen of Lumbria, have been turned into monsters by a magical spell. The monsters neither remember who they are nor acknowledge that Princess Ellian is their daughter. While trying to save face with the kingdom by keeping her parent’s situation a secret Ellian must also figure out how to save a divided kingdom while navigating the pain of losing her parents to the spell.
Spellbound’s cast includes Nicole Kidman, Javier Bardem, John Lithgow, Jennifer Lewis, and Nathan Lane, as well as Zegler and Tituss Burgess. Skydance dipped into the Broadway pool when casting Spellbound; Lithgow, Lewis, Lane, Zegler, and Burgess all have experience with Broadway productions and are classically trained vocalists. As well as the professional, musically talented cast, Spellbound will feature lyrics & music from Disney soundtrack composers & lyricists. The lyrics will be written by Glenn Slater of Tangled fame, and the musical score is by Alan Menken (Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, Pocahontas). John Lasseter and David Ellison will produce the film, among others.
Viewers can follow the Skydance Animation website for more about the final Spellbound release date when it is released.