How this 14-year-old son of Cameroonian immigrants got hired to animate on ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’

Preston Mutanga. Photo: Sony Pictures

Preston Mutanga made headlines this year when he posted online a video he made recreating the trailer for “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” in the style of LEGO blocks. “Spider-Verse” writers and producers Chris Lord and Phil Miller found the two-minute video after it went viral.

“We found out that it was a 14-year-old kid who made it and we were like, ’This looks incredibly sophisticated for a nonadult, nonprofessional to have made,” Miller told the New York Times. “It blew us all away, including some of the best animators in the world.”

When it was time to produce the latest “Spider-Man” movie, the filmmakers asked 14-year-old Mutanga to help create a LEGO-themed sequence. Mutanga, a Minnesota-born son of immigrant parents from the Northwest Region of Cameroon, was excited to have been allowed to contribute to the film but his parents almost made it impossible.

Theodore and Gisele Mutanga initially thought the offer wasn’t real until they met the movie’s Toronto-based production designer, Patrick O’Keefe, who confirmed the contract from Sony Pictures Animation. Mutanga’s father, a medical physicist, then built his son a new computer and purchased a state-of-the-art graphics card to enable him to work on the contract. Mutanga created the sequence during his spring break and on school nights and often met with Miller for feedback. 

“One new thing I learned was definitely the feedback aspect of it, like how much stuff actually gets changed from the beginning to the final product,” Mutanga told The Times. 

“Across the Spider-Verse” is the top film at the box office at the moment, with a 96% critic and audience score on Rotten Tomatoes

“I adored the first movie and was so hyped for the second one, so getting to work with the people who actually made this masterpiece was honestly like a dream,” said Mutanga, who plans to become an animator full-time.

He grew up making short computer-generated Lego videos. “My dad showed me this 3-D software called Blender and I instantly got hooked on it,” he said to The Times. “I watched a lot of YouTube videos to teach myself certain stuff.”

Last Edited by:Editor Updated: June 11, 2023


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