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'Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse' Celebrates Inclusion


To the movies now. "Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse" set a record last weekend for the largest December opening for an animated film. But it doesn't look like any animated film you've seen before. Chris Klimek talked with the film's creators to find out how they achieved the movie's distinct visual pop.

CHRIS KLIMEK, BYLINE: The amazing Spider-Man has starred in six movies this century - give or take a couple of Marvel flicks not named after him - but "Into The Spider-Verse" really is, to use some hyperbole familiar to longtime Marvel comics readers, all new and all different. For one thing, it's not about that orphan nerd, Peter Parker.


LUNA LAUREN VELEZ: (As Rio Morales) Miles. Got to go.

SHAMEIK MOORE: (As Miles Morales) In a minute.

KLIMEK: That's Miles Morales, performed by Shameik Moore. Miles is the son of a Puerto Rican ER nurse mom and an African-American police officer dad. Unlike the Stan-Lee-and-Steve-Ditko-created Peter Parker, Miles is comfortable talking to girls and bathes in paternal love - no disrespect to Peter's ever-ailing Aunt May.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As character) We miss you, Miles.

MOORE: (As Miles Morales) You miss me? I still live here.

KLIMEK: Producers Phil Lord and Chris Miller, the duo behind "The Lego Movie," "21 Jump Street" and many others, knew that when Sony approached them with the prospect of an animated Spider-Man film, Miles' story was the one they wanted to tell.

CHRIS MILLER: We had fallen in love with Miles and the story of him and his family. And it just seemed like a great emotional bedrock to build a movie on.


BRIAN TYREE HENRY: (As Jefferson Davis) I want to hear it - I love you, Dad.

MOORE: (As Miles Morales) You want to hear me say it?

HENRY: (As Jefferson Davis) I love you, Dad. Dad, I love you.

MOORE: (As Miles Morales) Dad, I love you.

HENRY: (As Jefferson Davis) That's a copy.

KLIMEK: Miles and Peter Parker - actually, a couple of Peters Parker, a confident 20-something Spidey played by Chris Pine and a depressed, divorced 40ish Spidey played by Jake Johnson - meet in "Spider-Verse" thanks to a parallel-dimension storyline that accommodates some of the weirdest spins on arachnid-themed crime fighting published in more than 50 years of Spider-Man comics. In addition to the trio of Spider-Men, we get Spider-Women...


HAILEE STEINFELD: (As Gwen Stacy) My name is Gwen Stacy. For the last two years, I've been the one and only Spider-Gwen.

KLIMEK: ...Hardboiled private spider-dicks...


NICOLAS CAGE: (As Spider-Man Noir) Hey, fellas.

MOORE: (As Miles Morales) Is he in black and white?

JAKE JOHNSON: (As Peter B. Parker) Where is that wind coming from? We're in a basement.

CAGE: (As Spider-Man Noir) Where I go, the wind follows. And the wind smells like rain.

KLIMEK: ...Spider-bots...


KIMIKO GLENN: (As Peni Parker) Hi, guys. (Speaking Japanese).

KLIMEK: ...And spider-pigs.


JOHNSON: (As Peter B. Parker) This could literally not get any weirder.

JOHN MULANEY: (As Spider-Ham) It can get weirder. I just washed my hands. That's why they're wet. No other reason.

KLIMEK: That's John Mulaney as Peter Porker, the spectacular Spider-Ham. Though all these bizarre spider-beings appear in the story and sometimes even the frame together, they're each drawn and animated in their own way. Lord co-wrote the screenplay with Rodney Rothman, one of the film's three directors. The team was determined to make the movies look as fresh and contemporary as its story.

PHIL LORD: It being a process that was both CGI animation and hand-drawn 2D animation, so it was very labor-intensive, but you could really feel the love on the screen.

KLIMEK: Rothman says they wanted the film to strike each viewer individually.

RODNEY ROTHMAN: The goal for us wasn't to create a movie that looked like a comic book. The goal was to create a movie that felt like a comic book or felt like reading a comic book. We wanted to try to transplant that feeling and that experience to cinema.

KLIMEK: Peter Ramsey is another of the directors. He said that to achieve "Spider-Verse's" kinetic visual language, the filmmakers had to throw out the way most modern cartoons are made. For example, they animated 12 frames per second instead of of 24.

PETER RAMSEY: Another thing we did was not use any motion blur, which is a tool that's used on virtually every piece of CGI animation you see now. So that's another thing, you know, our animation has a little more of a tactile feel to it.

KLIMEK: Brian Michael Bendis is the comic book writer who, along with artist Sara Pichelli, created Miles Morales back in 2011. He recalls developing Miles by taking a hard look at the original Spider-Man, Peter Parker.

BRIAN MICHAEL BENDIS: He's this kid. He lives in Queens or Brooklyn. He lives with his aunt, and his parents are gone. He's a science nerd. And you're trying to figure out, like, what's the Caucasian part? Like, what - where does that come in to make the story better, right? And they were like, actually, it would probably be a better story if it wasn't. And then that conversation kind of spilled over into my real life.

KLIMEK: Bendis was becoming a father in a biracial household. He wrote several of the comic book stories the movie borrows from, including Miles's origin and first meeting with Peter Parker. He was nervous that these stories that are so personal to him wouldn't work on screen but was ultimately pleased. He hopes fans are, too.


MOORE: (As Miles Morales) How many more spider-people are there?

JOHNSON: (As Peter B. Parker) Save it for Comic-Con.

MOORE: (As Miles Morales) What's Comic-Con?

KLIMEK: So while "Into The Spider-Verse's" look is experimental, its appeal is universal. Let's say multiverse. For NPR News, I'm Chris Klimek. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Chris Klimek