To many viewers, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse looks like a cinematic comic book. The expressive character movements, whimsical costumes, and saturated color schemes feel like opening a newly printed edition of a friendly neighborhood Spiderman comic.
The story follows Miles Morales, an afro-hispanic middle school student, and his journey to becoming Spider-Man, while he helps other Spider-People from various dimensions to save Brooklyn and find their way home. At times, the movie looks life-like, and at others, onomatopoeias slide across the screen.
While some major animation studios shifted away from traditional two-dimensional animated films, such as Disney in 2013, Sony animators of the now- Academy Award winning film used modern technology to redevelop a classic style; blending nostalgic and innovative techniques to create an unconventional way to animate the superhero genre.
Movie animators aimed to make the movie look like a vivid, moving comic book, blending both 2D and 3D styles, like hand-drawn and digital techniques, to present a pop-art look, and a new spin on a well-known hero.
“There’s a warmth and organic nature to 2D films similar to the textured, analog sound of a vinyl record versus a crisp, cold sound of digital,” said Emmy Award winner Andy Bialk, who was a character stylist for Into the Spiderverse.
Animators harnessed a variety of techniques to form Miles’ universe, as well as the universes of five separate versions of Spiderman from different dimensions, including hand drawn burst cards, enhancing emotion through color, print-like texturing, graphic lighting, expressive character features, intricate set detailing, and eccentric character design.
The film took four years to complete, and had more than 140 animators working. Some scenes alone took weeks to craft.
Bialk was asked to create characters that paid homage to their original forms, and animation.
“I referenced comic books for the costume designs as well as the look, feel and personality of the characters,” Bialk said. “The pressure was so much greater because we were expected to create something as good or better than all of the previous live-action Spider-Man films. We also pushed ourselves to create a film that was visually unique compared to anything we’ve seen before in animation.”
Other animators on the film were tasked with fusing traditional and modern styles into the movie. Yuhki Demers, a visual developer on the film, animated Peni Parker by fused traditional with modern, using a reference to traditional manga comics to exaggerate Peni’s expressions and movements.
Demers, who helped design sets to create a cartoonish yet homey world, also referenced hand-drawn animation for Spider-Ham’s design, specifically Disney’s 1950’s Pigs is Pigs.
Locally, animations studios have also began to blend inventive styles with tradition to set themselves apart from the crowd and enhance the viewer experience.
Norristown’s own Cinevore Studios is currently in development with major networks and streaming companies on an animated show project called Mars Rover that blends 2D and 3D styles.
“The technology has evolved,” said Stephanie Yuhas, writer and producer at Cinevore Studios, and co-creator of the project. “Someone sat there and modeled a character. … If you do your job really well, it’s not noticed.”
The early days of Spider-Man comics were filled with colorful panels, expressive movements and detailed line-art. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse harnessed the creativity of the early comics and translated it to in a cinematic form. Like moving from comic book to big screen, dimension to dimension, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse reopened a lost world of possibilities for innovative animation.