“There’s 800 filmmakers who pushed boundaries and took risks to make people feel powerful and seen,” producer Chris Miller said.

"Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse" wins Best Animated Feature

We spoke to a handful of those 800 to see how Spider-Verse came to change the animation landscape. Meet director Bob Persichetti (who shared duties on the film with Peter Ramsey and Rodney Rothman), producer Christina Steinberg, production designer Justin Thompson, head of character animation Joshua Beveridge, actor Luna Lauren Vélez and story artist Miguel Jiron. In their own words, this is how they made the movie.

Getting the Crew Together

Bob Persichetti, Director

At the time, I was pitching something else to Sony. It was with this company from France that I had done The Little Prince [with]. After the negotiations fell apart, they said to me, “Can you come back in? Because we’d love to talk to you about something else.” I went in and they were like,

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“What do you think about Spider-Man?”

You have to put this into context: there was definitely not a need for more Spider-Man. I think everybody had been pretty fatigued by it. But Kristine Belson, head of the studio at the time, said that Phil Lord and Chris Miller were behind this one. So, there was immediately a different notion of what Spidey could be.

The idea was that we could lean into animation as a medium and finally make something that lived up to the medium that we were adapting, which is the comic book.

Miles [Morales] was the main protagonist, and I latched onto that idea. The motor in my mind was always Miles, his dad and his uncle. It’s that little triangle and how he’s caught between those two father figures. And then Peter comes in and becomes an additional middleman between those two.

Christina Steinberg, Producer

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Producer Christina Steinberg

I was over at DreamWorks, finishing up Trollhunters with Guillermo Del Toro, when I got a call from Kristine Belson. She said that Spider-Verse — which had been in development for a couple of years — was gearing up.

I came on board in January 2017 and we had six months to crew up. For an animated movie, to have six months to get everything ready and get a screening up in storyboards and pick your sequences with a production designer and a new head of animation… is not a lot.

Justin Thompson, Production Designer

From the beginning, they had mentioned to me the idea of wanting to go back to the source and really embracing that. As someone who has grown up loving comic books, it was really exciting to me. My first job was at a comic book store. There was nothing more dear to me.

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There was all this untapped potential. I never felt like any of the film adaptations of the comic books that I grew up with were as faithful to, and really captured the tactile quality of what I grew up loving.

The ink there was on the paper, the hand of the artist, the textures, the colors, the Ben-Day dots… all this felt like it got lost when it was translated into live action, and even earlier attempts in animation. So I thought here was a chance to really try and do something with the directors that I’d always wanted to do, which is to make a comic book move, and honor all the artists that inspired me to draw in the first place.

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Joshua Beveridge, Head of Character Animation

As head of character animation, I’m basically responsible for all character performances, character motion, anything character acting related. Early on, before we’re starting to build any of these characters, there are a lot of conversations with the directors about who these characters are, what they need to do, where the script is heading, what to be prepared for, what tone we are chasing.

Then it becomes building the characters, being the liaison between directors and the rigging and modeling teams to figure out how to engineer the characters to do what we need them to do.

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The job on this movie was to make the most badass animation possible.

Starting with Story Boards

Miguel Jiron, Story Artist

I met [Sony executive] Mike Noon at a Variety event, where I was one of the top animators to watch in 2015, and he mentioned this project.

Not only was I a huge Spider-Man fan, I was also a huge Phil and Chris fan. I’d been following their careers and I’d actually known about this movie when it was announced. So I immediately jumped at the opportunity to be a part of it.

During my first week, I saw that a lot of the concept art had been made already by this artist named Alberto Mielgo. That sort of sealed the deal. It really just blew the doors open of what we were even allowed to pursue, visually.

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Right away, I thought, “If they let us get away with this, this will be special.”

Animation Style

Joshua, Head of Character Animation

Before we had any visuals or any real goal, there was one big question that put everyone on the same page, which was: How far can we go? How much can we possibly change from the source material? In the past, I’ve had entire art departments trying to convince the executives to change. This was the exact opposite, where before we even started thinking what to do, they were asking us to change as much as possible.

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Bob, Director

For me, it was important to really push on the animation side and push on the visual side. The biggest advocate for that was Phil. He kept saying, “I want to say you went too far.” So it was like, “Oh, right on.” We have the ability to just keep trying things, and if they are successful, we can just build off that.

Justin, Production Designer

The part that I thought was the coolest, that satisfied the comic book fan in me, was getting to redesign Doc Ock and the scene where she revealed herself. I designed that suit myself. To see comic book fans embrace a version of that character — which is Spider-Man’s most classic villain, and one of the greatest villains of all time — the way they did, was a huge point of pride for me.

The Voices of Spider-Verse

Luna Lauren Vélez, Actor, Voice of Rio Morales

I went into the studio back in 2015 to record myself on tape. I didn’t know what it was. It was very top secret, but for anything Marvel, I was like, “Absolutely! I would love to be part of this.” And when I found out exactly what it was, I was incredibly excited.

I had never done an animated movie before. I always wanted to. That’s part of the reason why I went in not knowing what the project actually was. It was a new direction I wanted to experiment with.

It was just me and director Peter Ramsey at first. I really didn’t know how to start and he was incredible in guiding me. It was a matter of letting go of the idea that I could use my face, or my hands, or anything to convey this story. If you’re trying to convey love, disappointment or fear, all of those things, you want to go deeper inside and have this real purity of intention with your voice.

Bob, Director

The biggest point of pride that I have is what we were able to achieve with Miles: making him feel incredibly well-observed and real and allowing his character to imbue the whole movie with music and attitude and tone and location.

A big part of that, outside of the initial creative choices and desires, was landing Shameik Moore as the voice because he brought such a vulnerability and a youthful, playful naïveté, but also some gravity to the voice.

He’s a really unique actor, but his voice, specifically — it was like the winds that filled the sails of Miles’ story.

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Luna, Actor

For some kids, this will be the first experience of a superhero — and the superhero is going to look like them. The character of Miles Morales is divine. He’s so wonderful and awkward in his teenage self, and honest, and funny. He’s the most likable kid I have ever seen.

This is not a broken family. This is a family that’s thriving and trying to do the best for their son. The parents are professionals. I love that this family of color was represented in a real way, very much like my family. My dad was a cop, my mom worked for the Board of Education. So, for me, this was a very normal representation of what family life was like.

In Production

Bob, Director

Once we have landed on some set pieces and some architecture for the story, you start to go into production. But you can’t make the whole movie at once. You have to make it like a puzzle, and it doesn’t go from start to finish. It goes from most confident to least confident, or least troublesome to most troublesome, as far as difficulty in making a scene.

In its simplest form, it’s like a live-action film in reverse. You’re spending a lot of time in post up front, and then you’re going into production.

The scenes that hounded us until the very end were the climax, just because it required us to do the rest of the movie before we could figure out how to make it look like we wanted it to look; so essentially, the fight in the Kaleido Room, Miles saying goodbye to Peter and the fight with Kingpin. The movie came out in December and I think the last shot was approved in early or mid-November. It was really down to the wire. People were very nervous.

Christina, Producer

We really barely finished the movie. I think we finished right before all the awards deadlines, around Thanksgiving. We shipped it out to everybody, and then the reviews started to come in, and people started to see it in press screenings. We couldn’t believe that people loved it as much as they did. It happened in some crazy fever dream.

Bringing Spider-Verse to the World

Bob, Director

We were at New York ComicCon when we showed the first act, which was 90 percent done, in Madison Square Garden. And it was a total surprise. It played so well.

We went back to LA and just charged to finish it. We were on the mixing stage when that fire in Malibu happened, and it burned down both my wife’s family’s house and the house that we were in. I was in a very weird emotional state of mind: I was on this really big high because three years of my life are wrapping up. And then I was consoling my wife and my kids and my mother-in-law. So, I didn’t have a lot of time to think beyond the next day.

And then reviews started coming in. At that moment, I realized that people were really liking this movie. The reviews we got in France — in publications that have no reason to want to like a Spider-Man movie ever — were all positive.

And then we won the New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Animated Film. I started getting emails from all these people, emails that makes you cry, that the movie had so much meaning for them. Between December and March was just a blur.

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The Oscars were unbelievable. It was like the final, surreal cherry on top of the surreal pie.

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Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller backstage at the 91st Oscars

Christina, Producer

A message that was in the original script, that we all held onto, was that anyone can wear the mask. And we were able to give people a movie where that felt true to them.

Luna, Actor

Sony did a screening in Puerto Rico during the Three Kings Festival, which is one of the most important holidays in Puerto Rico. Miles is Afro-Latino, his father’s African American, his mother’s Afro-Latina — and the pride was unbelievable. It was off the charts. I mean, Spider-Man eclipsed the three kings which is not an easy feat in Puerto Rico.

My favorite moment in the movie might be when Miles finally owns his own power, jumps off the top of the building and “What’s Up Danger” comes on. It’s such a moment of empowerment and self-actualization and realization of the superhero powers that we all possess.

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Joshua, Head of Character Animation

I took a flight back from England a few months ago, and the guy next to me on the plane was watching Spider-Verse.

He broke down crying during it, and I’ve never had that experience in my life, and I don’t know if I ever will again. That was absolutely surreal. I made sure not to disturb him or tell him I worked on that movie at all. I just wanted him to have his experience.