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Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’s Oscar-winning director Peter Ramsey on SA’s animation scene: ‘It is exploding with talent’

2019-03-12 08:26
Director Peter Ramsey.

Channel24's Leandra Engelbrecht spoke to Academy award-winning director Peter Ramsey while he was in South Africa about his Oscar win, Spider-Man and his love for animation.

Cape Town – The Cape Doctor howls in the background while I chat to newly-minted Academy award-winning director, Peter Ramsey.

Making his first trip to South Africa and starting off in Cape Town, he is getting quite a welcome from our infamous South Easter.

The Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse director visited the Mother City over the weekend to attend the eighth annual Cape Town International Animation Festival (CTIAF) where he was one of the guest speakers.

I detect a note of excitement in his voice as he speaks about the local animation scene.

"It is a beautiful little community, and everyone is so inspiring, and excited about what they are doing. I think I came at a really good time as it is exploding with talent."

This is his first interaction with the local animation industry and he is thoroughly impressed by the talent.

"I have seen some art work from two amazing artists. Their work is beautiful, they are drawing on their heritage and traditions and it is simply stunning," he says.

Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman, Phi

(WINNERS: The team behind Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse with their golden Oscar statuettes. Photo: Getty Images


Peter’s visit comes two weeks after he walked one of the biggest stages with co-directors Bob Persichetti and Rodney Rothman to clinch the coveted title of Best Animated Feature at this year’s Oscars.

He is the first black Oscar-winner in this category, and this is the first time a non-Disney or Pixar movie has won. A big boon for Sony and Marvel.

For Peter, this feels "pretty incredible".

"It just makes me think of the people who came before me in the industry who didn’t quite have this opportunity. There are a lot of great black animators who paved the way."

"I think of them and I think I am quite lucky to be in a place and working on a project that got this type of recognition that we could win. We had a wonderful season. Everyone on it was extremely talented and I was lucky to be in a place where the lighting struck."

And what an awards season the movie, based on a Brooklyn biracial teenager - Miles Morales - who becomes Spider-Man, has had.

It won Best Animated Feature at the Annie Awards, the Golden Globe Awards, the Baftas and the Critics’ Choice Movie Awards, to name just a few.

The film has been praised for its exciting and fresh approach to animation, and the superhero genre as well as resonating with people of colour - as this is the first time we see a black Spider-Man.

While working on the film, Peter and the team hoped that it would resonate with the audience, but none of them expected this overwhelming outpouring.

"We hoped it would resonate. We tried very hard to make the audience fall in love with Miles and his family. I don’t think any of us expected how deeply it would resonate with audiences, that was something we hoped for. The response has been incredible," he says.

The film was four years in the making, which Peter says is standard for an animation.

It comes as no surprise that what initially drew him to the the project was that he was a life-long Spider-Man fan.

"The opportunity to tell a story about a kid of colour who becomes a hero like all the other iconic heroes, it was something new and fresh. I was really excited to be a part of it," he explains.

Getting the film to the big screen involved a lot of heavy design work, and rethinking the ways animation movies get made.

"We wanted to do something really different visually. To differentiate it from other Spider-Man movies and other animation movies. We were really looking to make it a statement of what we can do with it – the potential that animation can be more expressive than it’s been lately in big budget films. We were really eager to push the boundaries of what has been done."

Being comic fans themselves it was very important for the team to remain faithful to the source material.

"We wanted to try and be faithful to the source material, because people love those comics and there is a reason that they love them and we didn’t want to betray anyone’s love for the character. We wanted more non-comic fans to fall in love with the character."

With a sequel on the cards, Peter says he would love to see how Miles grows and matures with the responsibility of being the Spider-Man of his universe.

A scene from the movie Spider-Man: Into the Spider

(A SUPERHERO: Miles Morales in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Photo: AP)


While Peter has become quite prominent due to his work on Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, he worked on a number of big live-action films.

Before switching over to animation, he worked as a storyboard artist, and production illustrator on movies like: Predator 2, Backdraft, Independence Day, Fight Club and A.I. Artificial Intelligence.

While working on a movie with producer Aron Warner, he encouraged Peter to check out some animation work.

"He thought I might enjoy it and thought it was a really pure form of filmmaking. I did eventually and found out that he was right. It’s just as much cinema as anything else."

In 2012 he directed Rise of the Guardians another first for him as the first director of colour to direct a big budget animation feature.

"It’s a really great expressive form of storytelling, it’s been a wonderful 12/13 years that I have been in animation and it is still teaching me things and inspiring me."

What’s next on the cards for Peter, after the busy awards season, is a long vacation: "And then I can start thinking about what’s next."

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