About Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
The film follows Miles Morales, a gifted teenager from Brooklyn who, like everyone, looks up to the local superhero Spider-Man. Miles has enough trouble trying to adjust to the prestigious new private school he’s been accepted into, but things get a whole lot harder, and weirder, when a mysterious spider bites him. Suddenly Miles finds his world upside-down as he finds he now has the same powers as Spider-Man, and when Spider-Man is finally defeated by his enemies, Miles is tasked with taking up the mantle himself. But the weirdness in Miles’ life doesn’t stop there. Due to a plot by the criminal Kingpin, Brooklyn has a rip in the space-time continuum, sending new visitors from the “Spider–verse” into Mile’s reality, including Peter B. Parker (an older, cynical, less in-shape version of Spider-Man), Spider-Woman (from a universe in which Peter’s friend Gwen Stacy was bit by the spider), Spider-Man Noir (from a black-and-white 1920s universe), Peni Parker (from a futuristic Japanese universe, complete with a psychically controlled spider robot), and Spider-Ham (an anthropomorphic pig from a cartoon animal universe). Together the Spider-Heroes have to find a way to get back to their respective homes and keep Brooklyn from being erased from reality. And Miles struggles to discover if he has what it takes to be his universe’s answer to Spider-Man.
The film is entertaining and innovative from start to finish. Much of the film’s appeal is owed to its creative and kinetic art style, taking inspiration from comic book art in a refreshing and surprising way. Backgrounds resemble the half-tone inked backgrounds from 1960s era Marvel Comics. Hits of action are punctuated by starbursts and on-screen onomatopoeia. Miles’ own “Spider Sense” is represented by on-screen yellow narration boxes. These “gimmicks” are so well done that they never feel intrusive or reductive, but instead ingrained in this beautiful universe, in a way that’s never really been seen before in a mainstream animated feature. On top of the art, the script is fabulously creative in blending together many old and new favorites, such as “Spider-Gwen” and Spider-Ham. Being as the film was co-produced by famed “Lego Movie” duo Christopher Miller and Phil Lord (with Lord receiving a co-writing credit), the film has plenty of in-jokes and doesn’t shy from making meta, self-deprecating observations to the franchise, even playing with the much-maligned dance sequence from Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 3.
Visiting Sony Animation Studios
Spider-Man Into the Spider-Verse is now out on Digital HD (out on 4K, Blu-ray, and DVD March 19th). To gear up for the at-home release, myself and other fellow bloggers headed to the Sony Animation Studios lot for a special inside look at the making-of Spider-Verse.
VFX: With VFX Supervisor Danny Dimian
Even if you’ve just seen a trailer for Spider-Verse, you can tell right away that the animation in this film is very unique. Rather than trying to animate people and objects to look realistic, they wanted the primary goal of everything being animated to be art over realism. From the very beginning stages of the film, the animation team knew that they wanted to implement line work from comic books into the rigging of their characters.
The result of the look of the characters and scenery, as Danny Damian put it, is “free from realism in a really graphic way.” Pulling inspiration from comic book artwork, they pushed color palettes, and they animated and composed things for ultimate feeling versus realism. Damian said that the animation team’s goal was that viewers could pause Spider-Verse on any given frame, and it would look like it was out of a comic book.
The Story: With Story Artist Denise Koyama
Denise Koyama, who did much of the storyboarding process for Spider-Verse spoke with us a bit about the process. In a nutshell, storyboarding is working to visualize the story for the director. Within the story department, they have different artists work on their different expertise (i.e. comedic scenes, dramatic scenes, action scenes). For Spider-Verse in particular, Koyama said that the script was so well written that she could easily visualize it as she was reading through it.
Koyama showed us her way of doing rough sketches of sequences prior to doing the storyboard in Adobe, which is more simple than you might think: Post-Its! She uses hundreds of Post-Its to rough out sequences at her desk, so she can easily visualize to see if a scene will work before taking it to the next step of the process. Then once you create the storyboard sequence, you pitch it to the directors where they decide if it will proceed to be animated. A fun fact she shared with us, is that a sequence is approximately three minutes of a movie, and per sequence there are about 600-1000 storyboard drawings done!
Animation: With Animation Supervisor Josh Beveridge
When Josh Beveridge and the rest of the Spider-Verse crew began work on the film, there was one big question they asked themselves “Why does the world need another Spider-Man movie?” They wanted to make sure their Spider-Man film told a new story, a new point of view, something that we hadn’t seen in the previous Spider-Man movies. The animation team was given the go to play and experiment with different animation techniques and art styles for about a year prior to production. They knew they wanted to use line work and wanted it to look like a printed comic book, somewhere between reality and animation. I’m sure this time of experimenting creatively plays a large part in why the film was so stunning!
Something I learned from Beveridge, which I found very fascinating and now think about when re-watching Spider-Verse is that he said they “animated on 2’s.” Typically an animated film has 24 frames of animation per second. For Spider-Verse, to have the characters movements look a little bit more reminiscent of a comic book, they only animated using 12 frames per second. Why that might seem like animating on 2’s would make a film quicker to make, it actually took just as long as a typically animated film since they added so many layers of texture, art styles, colors and details to each frame. Animating Spider-Verse on 2’s really helped it achieve its unique deconstructed look, versus computer perfect.
“Caught in a Ham”: The Spider-Ham Short
Spider-Ham, one of the characters in Spider-Verse who really stood out due to his odd character backstory and being voiced by one of my favorite comedians John Mulaney, has his own short on the Blu-ray and digital! As a bonus feature, they added “Caught in a Ham” which shows what Spider-Ham was up to right before being sucked into the portal. The animated short was directed by Miguel Jiron, and produced by David Schulenburg on a tight deadline, as we saw that the storyboard for the animated short was almost exactly to the completed short. “Caught in a Ham” feels fresh, yet reminiscent of a Looney Tunes short, mixing Spider-Ham’s universe with that of a retro crime-fighting cartoon. I played it for my four-year-old daughter and she was laughing hysterically! It’s definitely my favorite bonus feature on the Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse Digital!
More About Spider-Verse, with Producer Chris Miller and the Film’s Directors
To end the epic Spider-Verse press day, we saw a screening of some of the Blu-ray and Digital HD’s bonus feature content, as well as heard more about the making-of the film from producer Chris Miller and the directors Bob Perischetti, Peter Ramsey, and Rodney Rothem. Chris Miller talked about how when they were approached by Sony to create an animated Spider-Man film, they said they would under two conditions: “We can make the movie about Miles Morales, and we can make it look crazy.” It seemed Miller and Lord’s initial instincts paid off! As the team of directors and producers were able to receive the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature this past Sunday!
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is now out on Digital HD, and out on 4K, Blu-ray and DVD March 19th.