A24 may have an upcoming feature that’s directed by a 17-year-old, but Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse has an even younger teenager involved in its striking animation. Preston Mutanga’s animation work impressed Spider-Man writer-producers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller so much that they ultimately reached out to Mutanga to animate a particularly memorable sequence in the film.
In early January, Mutanga shared a two-minute recreation of the Across the Spider-Verse trailer that he’d made with the software Blender to resemble Lego bricks. Mutanga lives in Toronto—his parents are a medical physicist and a public health instructor, respectively, but his mother Gisele told the Times that once they “identified that he had that gift, all we could do as parents was to nurture it and let him fly.” Preston had been honing his skills for several years, and working on that particular clip since December 2022. When the video went viral, Miller replied personally, “Well done!!! Where were you in 2014 oh wait you were 6.”
“We found out that it was a 14-year-old kid who made it and we were like, ‘This looks incredibly sophisticated for a non-adult, non-professional to have made,” Miller told the New York Times. “It blew us all away, including some of the best animators in the world.” In addition to their work on the animated Spider-Man films, Lord and Miller also wrote and directed The Lego Movie. It was their heir fellow producer, Christina Steinberg, who actually made contact once it was decided that the movie would include a Lego-centric sequence. Mutanga’s parents were reportedly skeptical that the opportunity was legitimate, but once it was confirmed, his father built him a new computer with a “state-of-the-art graphics card.” Mutanga worked on his sequence over the course of a few weeks, primarily during his high school spring break, meeting regularly with Miller, who oversaw his work and provided feedback.
“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,” Mutanga told the Times.
Like its predecessor, Across the Spider-Verse has proven to be both a colossal financial success and a critical darling, with audiences praising its humor, imaginativeness, and mix of varied animation styles. Since the breakout success of his trailer recreation, Mutanga has built up quite the social media following. In addition to his riff on the second Spider-Verse trailer, his archives include Lego-style pieces related to everything from Minions to Moon Knight to Better Call Saul.