“Spider-Verse” is added to the growing list of achievements for representation in Hollywood

In the never-ending stream of superhero movies, the colorful, vibrantly animated film Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse, has officially left its mark.

At the 91st annual Academy Awards on Sunday, the silver-screen debut of Marvel Comics’ newest web-slinger Miles Morales won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature Film.

The Oscar was added to the film’s growing list of awards, including the Golden Globe, Critics’ Choice, and BAFTA awards in the animated film categories.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse made waves with its release in December 2018, reeling in $360 million at the box office, nearly four times its budget. Following in the footsteps of early 2018’s Black Panther, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse threw a wrench into the decades-old tradition of white superheroes being portrayed on the big screen.

The character of Miles Morales, an Afro-Latino teen from Brooklyn, first took on the mantle of Spider-Man in 2011, shortly after the events of Marvel Comics’ Ultimate Spider-Man’s  “Death of Spider-Man” story arc, in which the original web-slinging superhero Peter Parker was killed off.

“There’s 800 filmmakers who pushed boundaries and took risks to make people feel powerful and seen,” said producer Christopher Miller while making his acceptance speech.

“So when we hear that somebody’s kid was watching the movie and turned to them and said ‘He looks like me,’ or ‘They speak Spanish like us,” added Phil Lord, one the film’s three directors, “we feel like we already won.”

The film was not only revolutionary for its representation, but for its animation as well. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’s team of around 800 animators and artists employed a brand-spanking-new animation technique in their work. This style of animation makes the colorful cast of characters (including a web-slinging pig, mecha-bot piloting schoolgirl, and Nicholas Cage) look like a comic book sprung to life.

The technique, which combines classic 2-D animation with newer CGI animation creates a sense of movement and fluidity fitting for a character like Miles, who gets in trouble with his father for slapping his graffiti-covered stickers anywhere and everywhere, and who bonds with his uncle over art while tagging up a wall in a hidden alcove of a Brooklyn subway tunnel (with early Hip-Hop classics blasting out of a boombox in the background). His love for street culture is one of the many ways in which the filmmakers do justice to Miles’ identity as an Afro-Latino kid from Brooklyn.

“Miles had a lot of backup. He had a lot of people who really loved him as a character, believed in his story, and knew how important it was gonna be to Black kids, Latino kids, kids who just wanna be their best selves no matter who they are,” said director Peter Ramsay, who is the first Black director to win the Oscar for Best Animated Feature.

“To our audience; we see you. You’re powerful,” said Ramsay during his acceptance speech. “This world needs you. So please, we’re all counting on you.”

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