While Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse may be getting high praise from critics and audiences, new information has seemingly revealed that working on the Miles Morales-centred film was not all sunshine and roses as over 100 artists reportedly quit during production due to poor working conditions.
According to a report from Vulture, people who claim to have worked on the film reached out to the outlet and revealed that the working conditions to produce such a stylistic feature film are not feasible.
Though anonymous, the outlet reports that the Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse artists who purportedly called it quits amid production are professionals who have worked in the animation industry from five up to a dozen years and have described the process of working on Sony’s recent Spider-Man project as “uniquely arduous.”
Interestingly, the artists put the blame on the film’s director, Phil Lord, and his inability to conceptualise 3-D animation in early stages of production as he reportedly prefers to edit work that has already been fully rendered.
The four anonymous crew members who contacted the outlet also reveal that they were forced to make major alterations to animated sequences that had already been approved, thus causing an increment in the crews’ workload in late-stage departments.
Further, the artists claim, for over a year, some of their colleagues had to work over 11 hours a day, seven days a week in order to make up for the time they lost during “pandemic-related delays” that pushed Across the Spider-Verse back from its 2022 release date.
“With Phil Lord, nothing is ever final or approved,” said a crew member who goes by the pseudonym “Stephen,” adding, “Nothing was really set in stone. Nothing was ever done. Everything was just endlessly moving beneath our feet because they wanted it to be the best that it could be.”
Stephen notes that “For animated movies, the majority of the trial-and-error process happens during writing and storyboarding. Not with fully completed animation,” pointing out that Lord’s mentality was “This change makes for a better movie, so why aren’t we doing it?”
“It’s obviously been very expensive having to redo the same shot several times over and have every department touch it so many times,” he explained.
“Over 100 people left the project because they couldn’t take it anymore,” the animation artist claimed. “But a lot stayed on just so they could make sure their work survived until the end — because if it gets changed, it’s no longer yours.”
Stephen added, “I know people who were on the project for over a year who left, and now they have little to show for it because everything was changed. They went through the hell of the production and then got none of their work coming out the other side.”
“And I do genuinely think it’s a good movie,” the artist admitted. “But that being said, it’s been debilitating for a lot of the artists involved. Morale was incredibly low, and a lot of people reassessed if this was even something they wanted to be a part of.”
Charlie, a veteran animator who contacted Vulture before Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse was complete, said, “Animation is finishing Friday. Completely. No animator is going to put a key down anymore. And Phil is still rewriting stuff.”
“I don’t know if he’s delusional. It’s really nuts. I’ve worked on projects where things are rewritten — even late in production. But this is another level of craziness,” he accused.
Charlie added, “The hardest thing on the animators has not been working 11 hours a day, 70 hours a week. It’s been the wasted work and the frustration of putting in that many hours just to see it changed or thrown away.”
“Phil and Chris [Miller] have a reputation,” prefaced Nathan, an artist who allegedly had worked on other Lord and Miller productions. “As producers, they used to come onto a project when it was 80 percent finished.”
He explained, “Once they could ingest the movie properly and see what it is going to be like, they would come through with the guillotine and start enthusiastically editing […] And this is animation that people have been working on for a long time. Finished work, not some mock-up thing.”
“I heard on Mitchells they did that. On Spider-Verse 1, they did that. Lego, same thing,” Nathan asserted. “What that means is you have artists who feel extremely vulnerable. Sony lowballs them on their salary with the promise that overtime pay will boost their income to the level that it should be.”
Nathan went on to explain that artists take up jobs that aren’t financially viable because they love their profession and are willing to put in the extra work, accusing Sony’s new Miles Morales film of taking advantage of the artists’ goodwill.
“Artists in this industry are generally very self-critical; they internalize feedback and want to do their best,” Nathan explained. “If they love a project, they will put in the extra hours for free because they want to prove themselves and they want their work to be good. Their work is how they get the next job.”
Nathan concluded, “A movie like [Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse] is taking advantage of those people creatively.”
Amy Pascal, former Sony Pictures Entertainment chairwoman, and Michelle Grady, executive vice-president and general manager of Sony Pictures Imageworks, have rebuked the claims made by the artists who reached out to Vulture, defending the studio’s actions and stating that the animation process is a generally “iterative process.”
“It really does happen on every film,” Grady said as she defended Lord’s many changes made to the film’s animation. “Truly, honestly, it can be a little bit frustrating, but we always try to explain that this is the process.”
Pascal added, “One of the things about animation that makes it such a wonderful thing to work on is that you get to keep going until the story is right. If the story isn’t right, you have to keep going until it is.”
“I guess, Welcome to making a movie,” the former chairwoman concluded as she addressed the complaints issued by the animators who contacted the outlet.
As of writing, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse has amassed $560,251,000 million worldwide, and has managed to make its way back to the top of the box office, while Warner Bros.’ The Flash crashes and burns with a massive 72% drop in its second weekend.