- Oscar-winning “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” introduces viewers to a new Spider-Man: Miles Morales. And to go along with the fresh face, the filmmakers created a whole new style of animation that really brings him to life.
- There were 177 animators working on the project at one point, more than 2-3 times the typical amount.
- The animation team used a number of different techniques borrowed from comic books and old school cartoons.
- WATCH NEXT: Which movie version of Spider-Man is the best?
Following is a transcript of the video.
Narrator: “Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse” is no ordinary animated movie. It’s no ordinary Spider-Man movie either.
It packs multiple characters from different universes into a seamless story, and it features an innovative, eye-grabbing animation style. It’s that dedication to the animation, a style we have never really seen before, that puts “Spider-Verse” in a category all its own.
Let’s start with a few jaw-dropping numbers about the production.
The film had 177 animators on staff at one point. More than twice the typical animated film. To put that in perspective, the original “Toy Story” had just 27 animators.
It took one week to animate just one second of footage. It usually takes a week for four seconds. It actually took them one year to get just 10 seconds they were happy with.
Peter B. Parker: Very cool.
Narrator: And the total shot count on “Spider-Verse” is two to three times higher than other animated films.
Each year, animated films seem to look more and more like real life. For “Spider-Verse,” instead of making the animation photo-realistic, the creators wanted the movie to stand out on its own as something new for viewers just as they were being introduced to a new Spider-Man in Miles Morales, while at the same time sticking as much as they could to traditional print comic book style.
As Head of Character Animation Josh Beveridge put it, “Don’t emulate reality, and don’t make it a cartoon.”
To accomplish this, they used a number of different techniques that make “Spider-Verse” a groundbreaking film.
One of the most noticeable differences involves frame rate. Animated films are typically 24 frames per second, and creating a different image for each frame is known as animating on ones. “Spider-Verse” broke the mould and animated much of the movie on twos as well, meaning they kept some of the images on screen for two frames, which makes the animation feel, as the producers describe it, “crunchy.” Each character’s pose lasts longer and is much more pronounced.
Like here, when Prowler is chasing Miles through the alley.
You can see examples of animating on twos in some of the original Disney films. The “Spider-Verse” animators alternated between on twos and on ones depending on the nature of the scene. They could make Miles seem fast or skilled in some shots, on ones, and struggle in others, on twos. Sometimes he would be on twos while other characters were on ones.
When they’re swinging through the forest, Miles is on twos because he’s clumsy while Peter B. Parker is on ones because he’s more skilled. This subtly helped illustrate how Miles was slowly becoming more comfortable with his powers.
Each character’s detailed animation style helped to bring out his or her personality.
Another major technique was how they chose not to use motion blur, a CGI trick which most new films use to soften a movement and make it seem more real. Instead, they used an old-school technique called a smear. This was used a lot in early cartoons to create the sense of motion.
If you look at a single frame, you’ll notice things like multiple limbs to create the illusion of movement. Here, Gwen is playing the drums, and you can see multiple hands and drum sticks. And here, when Miles has his cape ripped off his back.
Miles Morales: I think it’s cool.
Peter B Parker: Spider-Man doesn’t wear a cape.
Narrator: You can see multiple arms in some frames.
Here’s an example of one of the first cartoons to use motion smearing, the 1942 short called “The Dover Boys at Pimento University.”
So those are some of the things they borrowed from older animated films, but there’s plenty of new innovations too.
Some things they borrowed from comic books, but we’ve never seen them in a movie. Basically, the entire movie is a comic book that moves.
Co-director Phil Lord said, “If you freeze any part of the movie at any time, it will look like an illustration with hand-drawn touches and all.” There are even moments in the film when hand-drawn still images pop up in the shots to replace the computer animation. Like this shot, when Miles is running through the streets of New York and he leaps off a taxi.
And they layered 2D ink lines on top of the 3D art to give the characters more of a hand-drawn look.
If you look at a comic book, you may have noticed a common error where the ink is misprinted. The filmmakers decided to use this misprint style in the film to create a depth of field instead of blurring the background. When something is in focus, the colours align and are crisper.
They used a technique called half-toning, which uses dots to create colours and gradients. Shadows were created with hatching, or crisscrossed lines.
Legendary Marvel artist Jack Kirby was known for his abstract dots, or “Kirby Krackle,” which create the illusion of energy. The film references and uses the effect multiple times, when the portal opens and when Miles is spray-painting.
There are action lines to show movement, and they used comics’ signature onomatopoeia, or words on the image, to frequently represent sounds and motion. Comic panels made out of webbing show montages and background action.
‘Cause there are six different spider-people, they could also play with multiple animation styles in one film. They actually studied manga, Japanese comics, when designing the surface of the robot Spidey.
Both Peni and Spider-pig have exaggerated anime and cartoonish movements that stand out compared to Miles’ world.
CG supervisor Michael Lasker says Spider-Man Noir was the most stylised character, and was an extra challenge since he was drawn in only black and white but required detailed textures and shading.
Spider-Man Noir: Hey, fellas.
Miles Morales: Is he in black and white?
Peter B. Parker: Where’s that wind coming from? We’re in a basement.
Narrator: Animator Nick Kondo tweeted that this one scene involving all of the spider-people was the most technically challenging for him, taking two months to get right.
What each spider-person had in common was that they were always kept low to the ground, forming acute angles with their limbs.
The attention to detail is everywhere. Backgrounds like New York City’s streets were studied closely to get them as accurate as possible. And if you look closely, you can find multiple Stan Lees inserted in certain frames.
All of these techniques combined to make a movie that has stood out among not just the animated films of 2018, but perhaps of all time.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This video was originally published on February 22, 2019.
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