#TodayAtApple With Peter Ramsey
I remember when Rise of the Guardians came out there was a lot of press about Peter, referring to him as the “Barack Obama” of animation.” I didn’t like that analogy. It was too much pressure. When the film went on to “underperform” according to some industry people I hoped this wouldn’t halt his career or make it difficult for those like myself that want to direct and produce animated films. I didn’t want it to be like “we gave a Black person a chance and see what happens when we do” So to see his success with Into The Spider-verse and to go on to win an Oscar has made me so deeply happy and inspired. This win is monumental. An animated feature film where one of the directors is a Black man AND the lead character is Black is the representation needed and more importantly it makes this dream, this goal of mine a bit more attainable.
On Friday March 1st the Apple store in Williamsburg NYC held an event called “Character Creation with Oscar Winner Peter Ramsey” The event as described on their website
Join director Peter Ramsey as he discusses the creative process for the film Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, winner of Best Animated Feature at the 2019 Oscars. He’ll show you how he takes a storyline and visualizes it by drawing on iPad Pro with Apple Pencil.
The event was moderated by entertainment journalist Aaron Sagers.
When Peter Ramsey tweeted out on Thursday 2/28/19 that he was going to be in Brooklyn NYC for a free event I immediately clicked the link and registered. I arrived at the Williamsburg Apple store about an hour and a half early and patiently waited with a few friends that were also excited for this event.
Below is a summary of the conversation that night:
When asked about how he got through working on the film everyday for 3 years:
PR - [It’s] always exciting because the potential of the character was there, the potential of the story and the world was there from the beginning. Phil (one of the producers and writers for the movie) had written a treatment very early that had the tone and the spirit that they tried to hold on to throughout the movie.”
He went on to say that they tried to shoot for what Phil had because it was so fresh, emotional and real. It became the”blueprint for everything in the movie.”
When asked about how it was working with two other co-directors
PR - Having a clear target made working with 2 other directors much easier.
There was a consensus among the directors and producers that the wanted to do something fresh and “as different as possible” Peters acknowledges that they were fortunate to end up at a studio that was ready to let creators that they trusted take that leap and push the machinery (animation) forward.
When asked about the correlation of Jackie Robinson and Miles Morales:
PR - The number 42 pops up in a couple places in the movie. It is the number of the lottery ball that was chosen to get Miles into the school. It is on the spider that bites Miles. It is something the original Miles Morales creator, Brian Michael Bendis incorporated as a nod to another superhero breaking the color barrier.
Peter shares that he was first exposed to Miles Morales in 2011. Brian Michael Bendis’ writing is a sensitive internal origin story. They tried to use as much of it in the DNA of the movie. He stated that as different as Miles is on paper from Peter Parker it is still the same idea of Spider-Man and this shows you how strong the idea is.
PR - We searched around for a while until we could find a good hook into Miles’ story in an emotional way.
When asked if it was a challenge balancing the other protagonists when it’s Miles’ story.
PR - The story always had to come back to Miles and b / happen through his eyes. No matter what happened to the other characters it always had to relate to Miles in some way. This actually allowed them to get more out of the other characters emotionally. We were able to learn about them by the way they related to Miles and the way they were different and the ways they were similar.
The event continued with a demo on how to sketch a few of the characters in the film. How breaking them down into simple readable shapes helps when storyboarding. It was truly a great experience to have happen here in NYC.
Check out my review of the Art Of Rise of the Guardian exhibit at the Museum of Moving image from a few years ago here.