A 14-year-old boy from Toronto has achieved what many aspiring animators can only dream of: working on a blockbuster superhero movie. Preston Mutanga, a self-taught Lego animator, was hired to create a scene for Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, the sequel to the Oscar-winning animated film Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.
Mutanga’s journey to Hollywood began in December, when he posted a video on Twitter that showed his shot-for-shot recreation of the first trailer for Across the Spider-Verse using Lego bricks and figures. The video went viral and caught the attention of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, the writer-producers of the Spider-Verse franchise and the directors of The Lego Movie.
Lord and Miller were impressed by Mutanga’s talent and skill, and decided to reach out to him to see if he was interested in working on the movie. They had already planned to include a scene in a Lego universe, as a tribute to their previous work and to the fans who make their own Lego films at home.
Mutanga’s parents, Theodore and Gisele Mutanga, who immigrated to Canada from Cameroon, were skeptical at first, but after confirming that the offer was legitimate, they supported their son’s passion. Theodore Mutanga, a medical physicist, built his son a new computer and bought him a state-of-the-art graphics card so he could render his work faster.
Mutanga worked remotely with Miller for a few weeks to design and shoot the Lego sequence for the film, which shows Spider-Man sneaking into the Daily Bugle’s bathroom to alert another Spider-Man about a dimensional anomaly. He said it was a helpful lesson about how much things change over the course of the creative process.
“I know Preston has a gift that was given to him by God, and once we identified that he had that gift, all we could do as parents was to nurture it and let him fly,” Gisele Mutanga said.
Mutanga learned animation from his father and YouTube, and skipped the usual path of college education. He said he fell in love with animation when his father introduced him to Blender, a 3-D software program. He also made comics when he was younger, and has a YouTube channel where he posts his Lego recreations of pop culture moments.
“It blew us all away, including some of the best animators in the world,” Miller said of Mutanga’s work. “The Lego Movie is inspired by people making films with Lego bricks at home. That’s what made us want to make the movie. Then the idea in Spider-Verse is that a hero can come from anywhere. And here comes this heroic young person who’s inspired by the movie that was inspired by people like him.”
Mutanga said he was grateful for the opportunity and praised the Spider-Verse team for their guidance and support. He also expressed his excitement for the future of animation and his own career.
“It was honestly such an amazing journey and working with @philiplord, @chrizmillr, @CSteinberg9, and the rest of the spider-verse team was a dream come true,” Mutanga tweeted. “you guys absolutely ROCK.”
– A 14-Year-Old Animated ACROSS THE SPIDER-VERSE’s LEGO Spider-Man World, Nerdist, Jun 5 2023
– The Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse Lego scene was animated by a 14-year-old prodigy, EW.com, Jun 8 2023
– Across The Spider-Verse had a 14-year-old on the animation team, AV Club, Jun 8 2023
– Teen behind viral Spider-Verse trailer actually animated the LEGO sections of the movie, GamesRadar+, Jun 5 2023