For the first time since 2011, neither a Disney nor a Disney-owned Pixar movie won Best Animated Feature at the Oscars.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, the favorite among both critics and audiences to win the category, received the recognition during the Academy Awards ceremony on Sunday.
Directed by Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, and Rodney Rothman with the comedic edge of Phil Lord and Chris Miller, Spider-Verse was unlike anything superhero and animation lovers had seen before. It was more than the story of Miles Morales, Marvel’s Afro-Latino web-slinger, as the film weaved in figures like the fan-favorite Spider-Gwen and the absurdity of Spider-Ham to a new style of animation that paid tribute to the comic books from which it was adapted.
“We share this with our fellow producers, cast, crew,” Miller, a producer on the film, said in accepting the award with his crew. “There’s 800 filmmakers who pushed boundaries and took risks to make people feel powerful and seen.”
“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,’ we feel like we already won,” Lord added.
“To our audience,” Ramsey said, “thank you so much, we love you and we want you all to know we see you. You’re powerful. This world needs you. So, please, we’re all counting on you.”
Persichetti began to make his remarks before his mic was cut off by the producers. At least, he still got to continue backstage.
“I mean that was the ‘and finally’ that got played off. Maybe you don’t see that up here,” he said. “Literally, we were just going to thank [later Spider-Man comic book writer] Stan Lee and [artist] Steve Ditko for really inspiring this whole thing. And for being a force of believing that all of us human beings have the potential and the capacity to be heroes. I mean, that was really sort of from day one, Phil and Chris had put together a treatment and there was sort of a statement that was essentially saying it was a challenge to make a movie that challenged the audience to believe in themselves and to believe in their neighbor and really be positive and make a difference in the world and possibly be a mentor or be heroic. That’s from Stan Lee and Steve Ditko.”
Eight years ago, Rango took home Best Animated Feature, breaking Disney’s streak at the time — even though the Mouse House didn’t have a film that year to nominate. Every Academy Awards ceremony since, a Disney title won the category: Brave, Frozen, Big Hero 6, Inside Out, Zootopia, and Coco. This year, the company had two contenders, Incredibles 2 from Pixar and Ralph Breaks the Internet from Walt Disney Animation. Spider-Verse, however, made such an impact culturally, critically, and financially that it’s even expanding with sequels and spin-offs.
In the face of heavy competition with additional nominees Isle of Dogs and Mirai, Spider-Verse came into the Oscars race with awards from the Golden Globes, BAFTA Awards, Annie Awards, and numerous critics circles around the world.
Ramsey, who became the first black director to win for directing an animated feature film, said backstage, “It’s a huge responsibility. This is something that’s going to be seen and taken to heart by millions of people, but everybody has to know that our whole team… all of them deeply felt the importance of that idea and that mission, so 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 going to be to black kids, Latino kids, kids who just want to be their best selves no matter who they are. So everybody gave it 110 percent and we’re very gratified that people are receiving his story in the spirit in which we [wanted].”
When asked about the responsibility to accurately portray one of the first representations of an Afro-Latino superhero, Lord added, “It’s obviously a huge responsibility that we were lucky because [comic creators] Brian Bendis and Sara Pichelli created a roadmap for us with the comic version of Miles that they invented, and they made so many important choices. They made Miles part of a really loving, tight family, and they made choices that are somewhat unconventional and they did a lot of the heavy lifting for us. So once we made the decision that we want the movie to be about Miles and his family, the rest kind of fell into place.”
For the full list of 2019 Oscar winners, click here.
—Additional reporting by Marc Snetiker.