"It's a major step": what impact will the Spider-Verse have on American animation cinema?

“It’s a major step”: what impact will the Spider-Verse have on American animation cinema?

At the Annecy festival, we asked directors and animators to tell us about the earthquakes that were (and will be) Into The Spider-Verse and Across The Spider-Verse.

After the Oscar Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse and the immense success in theatersAcross The Spider-Verse, mainstream American animated cinema will certainly never be the same again. The radical graphic style of the two Sony films has shaken people’s minds and several films have already taken inspiration from its look (Puss in Boots 2: The Last Quest, The Mitchells vs. the Machines…). We took advantage of the Annecy Animation Festival to ask the directors to Ninja Turtles Teenage Years, Chicken Run 2 and even Into The Spider-Verse what this new visual style will change in the look of the industry. After fifteen years of Pixar and Illumination aesthetics, will the major Hollywood studios foolishly copy the Spider-Verse recipe or let creative people invent new aesthetics?

Peter Ramsay, co-director of Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse and series producer Kizazi Moto: Generation Fire: “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. »

Sam Fell, director of Chicken Run 2 (on Netflix December 15): “I greatly admire these two films and their directors, who have opened up new possibilities in animation. They are pioneers. The first Spider-Verse is a game changer for the industry, and I hope it inspires others to break the rules again. Visually, it’s almost like seeing concept art come to life. It’s super exciting! So I’m not surprised that other productions are already influenced by this visual style. But the mixture of painting, 2D and 3D has existed for at least ten years, and we have seen it in particular in the anthology Love, Death and Robots. On the other hand, it’s great that a big studio like Sony is getting into this. I like this look, but I understand why it’s easier to want to imitate it than to invent something else. The reality is that it is very complicated to clear visually in animation, because everything happens in the research and development phase, which is extremely expensive. And unfortunately, when a film is validated by a studio, generally the budget and the release date are already fixed. So there’s nothing left for R&D…”

Vicky Jenson, director of Spellbound (on Apple TV+ in 2024): “In my opinion, these two films are revolutionary and I am convinced that they will open doors. It’s an undeniable step forward in visual storytelling. But I have a mantra: story first. The “hand-drawn” style of the Spider-Verse fits its story perfectly, and the two blend together very gracefully. On the other hand, it would be absurd to want to reproduce this graphic paw on another scenario. I hope the lesson the industry will take from this is that each film should be visually unique. »

Brian Pimental, screenwriter of Spellbound: “For a long time, it was absolutely necessary to follow industry standards and look like a Pixar or Illumination film, or risk being considered inferior. We can see that this has changed with the Spider-Verse, and my great hope is that these successes encourage artists to take risks. »

Troy Quane, co-director of Nimona (on Netflix June 30): “For many reasons, the Spider-Verse was a game-changer, even though several films have been moving towards a 2D/3D art direction for the past few years. I think that kind of sidelined big studios like Disney and Pixar, which are used to being at the center of the discussion. It’s healthy: there are always people pushing the boundaries and forcing the industry to reinvent itself. It’s a pivotal year for animation and I think we’re about to see some really, really cool changes creatively speaking. »

Eric Goldberg (legendary animator at Disney): “I believe that these films have already changed people’s minds. Of course, some will just copy this style, but I don’t know if it would be suitable for anything other than a comic book adaptation on the big screen. I loved Into The Spider-Verse, but the problem is that few people in the United States know how many other styles of animation there are. The public is mostly familiar with Hollywood cartoon design and Japanimation, but many people have no idea what’s going on in Europe. Look at what is screened at the Annecy festival, all this diversity! I lived 13 years in London, I was the first witness of this European artistic bubbling. But I sincerely hope that the Spider-Verse will open the eyes of some and move the lines. »

Jeff Rowe, director of Ninja Turtles Teenage Years (in theaters August 9) : “There are major milestones in the history of animated cinema: Gertie the Dinosaur, Snowbane and the Seven Dwarfs, Toy Story and now the Spider-Verse. I believe that the shadow of these two films will hover for a very long time and that animated cinema will be different. Big animated movies are extremely expensive, and if you’re a Hollywood studio, you want to make sure your spending is paying off. So everything encourages you to play it safe. And then Spider-Verse comes out and says, “What if, on the contrary, we took risks? What if we took the most popular franchise in the world and did something completely different with it, to prove that you can win an Oscar and make a lot of money?“All thanks to an iron will. I think that now, when you pitch an animated film to a studio, they wonder how we are going to stand out from the others. Which was not the case at all before! They want to make sure it won’t look like the animated movies we’ve seen for 30 years. In itself, it’s a revolution.”

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