Disney veteran David Levy has joined Invisible Universe, a self-styled internet-first animation studio, as chief creative officer.
Who is David Levy? He was most recently director of animation for Disney+, where his responsibilities included producing animated content for social media. He has over two decades’ experience in animation and has directed series as diverse as Blue’s Clues and Assy McGee. He has also written a number of books on the animation industry, and was a president of ASIFA East.
And what is Invisible Universe? A startup that only officially launched last year. It partners with celebrities to create animated characters that debut on social media, functioning as virtual influencers of sorts. Its stated aim is to become the “Pixar of the internet” and has raised $8 million to date.
What kind of celebs? Investors include Jennifer Aniston, Will Smith’s Dreamers VC, former Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff, FC Barcelona soccer player Gerard Piqué, Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian’s Seven Seven Six, and tennis player Serena Williams (Williams and Ohanian are married). Ohanian and Williams are behind the Invisible-created character Qai Qai (image at top, right), an animated doll with 3.3 million followers on Tiktok. Squeaky and Roy, who are backed by the D’Amelio family of influencers, have almost a million. Footballer Dani Alves has the monkey Crazynho. And so on.
@squeakyandroy Drop it, drop it, drop it low @Garza Crew #DropItChallenge #DropIt ♬ original sound – Atsuko Okatsuka
@realqaiqai It's giving self love ✨#BlackHistoryMonth #BlackMusic #BlackTikTok ♬ original sound – Amahree 💫
What’s the game plan? Founder John Brennan has said: “The world has fallen in love with animated characters like Woody and Buzz through film and television for generations, and we believe that many of the most popular animated franchises of the future will get their start on the timelines of Tiktok and Instagram as well as the rapidly expanding world of Web 3” — a vision of the internet based on blockchain technology.
So the characters will get their own franchises? Yes: Invisible Universe plans to extend them to other media, such as books, series, toys, and indeed as-yet-undreamed-of areas of Web 3. An actual Qai Qai doll has already been sold on Amazon, for example. The company also says it considers feedback from fans on social media when developing the characters’ storylines.
Is this the metaverse? The definition of that word is still in flux. But the idea that celebrities will increasingly be represented by — or at least associated with — online characters with unfolding lives dovetails with the prevailing notion of the metaverse, whereby we inhabit virtual realms via animated avatars.
What will Levy’s role be? As CCO, he will work on the creative side of the company’s pipeline, and will supervise the development and execution of its IP to drive engagement across all platforms.
“Invisible Universe is leading the way in creating content for this next generation that spends most of their time on their phones,” said Levy in a statement. “The internet is primed for storytelling and meeting consumers where they already are. These characters are so engaging, inspiring, and indelible and will become the entertainment franchises of the future.”