A version of this story about Peter Ramsey appeared in the Down to the Wire issue of TheWrap’s Oscar magazine.
For Peter Ramsey, it’s weird to think about the fact that he’s the first black director to be nominated for Best Animated Feature. But it’s nowhere near as weird as the fact that his film “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” has become such a big critical and audience hit that it is now the favorite to win an Oscar that has been dominated by Disney and Pixar over the past decade.
“It’s been mind-blowing seeing how huge the reaction has been from everyone,” said Ramsey, who was driving back from a special screening of the Marvel movie at the Santa Barbara Film Festival. “There are times when I stop and wonder, ‘Are they really going crazy over the film that we worked on?'”
Indeed they are, and even in the dominant superhero genre, “Spider-Verse” is a unique beast for reasons beyond its groundbreaking animation style. For even if characters like Iron Man and the Guardians of the Galaxy didn’t enjoy global notoriety until Marvel Studios turned them into movie icons, at least they had been a part of the comic book movie canon for decades.
Not so with “Spider-Verse”‘s protagonist, Miles Morales, who was introduced a mere eight years ago after Peter Parker was shockingly killed off in Marvel’s “Ultimate Spider-Man” series. The announcement that the black, Hispanic Miles would take his place in the spinoff timeline earned cable news coverage and was met with grumblings of political correctness on more than a few internet message boards.
But thanks to “Spider-Verse,” Miles is now a fully-fledged Spidey star, shining alongside the Wakandans as a symbol of blockbuster diversity. His multicultural background is displayed from the get-go as he heads to school with a hip-hop beat pumping and shouts out to his friends in both English and Spanish.
While Peter Parker is the awkward nerd before becoming Spider-Man, Miles looks pretty comfortable in his own skin — at least until he’s pulled out of his element and sent to a charter school with a student body that’s much richer than him (and far less black).
“Before he gets bit by the spider, we wanted to have Miles in a situation where he faces a big change in his life,” Ramsey said. “He’s pushed out of his comfort zone and into a place that could offer him an incredible opportunity if he embraces it. It was a way of making the challenges and opportunities of being a superhero relatable to kids before we jump into the Spider-Verse.”
“Honestly, it’s been amazing seeing how kids have embraced Miles. Growing up I never had a superhero like him, and even as we were working on the film I realized how we’ve never seen anything like Miles in a superhero movie before. And now a whole generation of kids have Miles as a part of their childhood.”
To read more of TheWrap’s Down to the Wire Oscar magazine, click here.