Meeting with Peter Ramsey, producer of the animated series Kizazi Moto: Generation Fire and co-director of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.
Co-director of Spider-Man: Next Generation (Into the Spider-Verse), Peter Ramsey decided to reach out to animators on the African continent by producing the series Kizazi Moto: Fire Generation, available on Disney+. A very energetic and quite visually stunning anthology, made up of science fiction short films. During the Annecy International Animation Film Festival, where the first episodes were unveiled, Ramsey told us about his involvement in the project and how the Spider-Verse changed his career.
Première: How did you discover African animation?
Peter Ramsey: I had the opportunity to go to the Cape Town Animation Festival in 2019, the year after Into The Spider-Verse. I met the people there from Triggerfish, the studio in charge of part of the episodes of Kizazi Motorcycle, as well as several animators and directors who ended up joining the project. I was amazed by the enthusiasm of all these people. I felt like all this artistic energy was ready to explode and take over the world. They had things to say, and without any careerism. Just a genuine desire to tell stories. Six months later, Triggerfish contacted me again to tell me that they had signed with Disney+ for an anthology, and that they hoped to work hand in hand with the people I had been able to tell. I had to be part of it!
What difference does it make to go into production when you’ve had your hands dirty as a director? What type of supervisor are you?
I would not dare to speak of supervision! I just tried to share with them some things that I was able to learn in my directing career. They asked me a lot about what it’s like to work with a big studio, about the backstage of the animation industry in Hollywood. And I said to them: Guys, you have everything you need. You have the ideas, the talent and the passion. My role was really limited to telling them that they were going to get there, but that they had to keep their vision. It was support.
Everyone thought that after the OscarInto The Spider-Verse, you were going to immediately launch into a new animated film. And finally, you directed episodes of the series Star Wars The Mandalorian And Ahsoka. For what ?
I was a storyboarder for live films long before I got into animation (he notably worked on Men in Black, Independence Day, In the Skin of John Malkovich, Fight Club, Minority Report…). I learned a lot from great directors. And I’ve always wanted to keep one foot in both worlds. I love animation, I love the way it’s made, and I don’t want to completely stray from it. But live action cinema has always been a dream of mine. What better way to get started than to rely on an Oscar? The door was open, and I didn’t want to wait for it to close! An animated film would have occupied me for four or five years, I would have been stuck. I wanted to explore. But I remain connected to the Spider-Verse, as a producer.
It wasn’t too hard to leave your “baby” in other hands to Across The Spider-Verse ?
(Laughter.) Not really. These are incredibly hard films to make. I spent three very intense years on the first one, and part of me thought: Good luck for the rest guys, it won’t be easy! » (Laughter.) But I didn’t feel cut off from this universe, I was able to read versions of the screenplay and edits of the film. I was giving my opinion on a few little things here and there. Position quite comfortable, I must admit! The new team is fantastic, and then Chris Miller and Phil Lord hold the fort. They had everything needed to make a new masterpiece.
The visual impact ofInto The Spider-Verse And Across The Spider-Verse is already being felt in the industry. In your opinion, after fifteen years of domination by Pixar and Illumination, will the major Hollywood studios foolishly copy the Spider-Verse recipe or let the creatives invent new aesthetics?
I really hope that we will not be entitled to a succession of pale imitations. When we made the first film, it was about trying something different while sticking to the story we wanted to tell. This is what I would like to bequeath: that artists manage to visually communicate the very essence of what they want to tell. We used the language of the comics because it made sense for the film, but it can’t be adapted to everything! I’m starting to see changes, like Nimona on Netflix which has a very distinct look. Even Pixar tries things. I also hope that in terms of the tone of the films, we will see an evolution in American animation. Still just as fun, but slightly more adult. That artists look at animation with a little sideways step and allow themselves to tell stories in a little more sophisticated way.
Kizazi Moto: Generation Fire, to see on Disney+.