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Spider-Verse Artists Describe 'Unsustainable' Working Conditions

Spider-Verse Artists Describe 'Unsustainable' Working Conditions

Artists also say there is "no way" Beyond the Spider-Verse will be completed by its Spring 2024 release date.

Lauded for its diversity and artistry, and captivating the hearts of millions of fans, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse just might be the movie of the summer.

The process of making the movie, however, may not have been nearly as enjoyable as watching it. In Vulture's Anonymous in Hollywood, four artists who worked on the film all alleged unsustainable working conditions — including 11 hour workdays and 7-day work weeks for over a year.

These conditions were largely attributed to the producers of Spider-Verse, filmmaking duo Phil Lord and Chris Miller. Before the raving success of the Into and Across the Spider-Verse movies, Lord and Miller had already made their career in animation with Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs and The Lego Movie franchise.

Lord’s management style, characterized by his insatiable desire for revisions, reportedly led to an arduous process for the artists he worked with during the production of Across the Spider-Verse. As one of the film's more experienced artists described to Vulture: “With Phil Lord, nothing is ever final or approved. Nothing was really set in stone. Nothing was ever done.”

The trial-and-error process isn’t typically extended beyond writing and storyboarding, but under Lord’s expensive demands, fully-completed shots got redone several times over.

A veteran animator who spoke with Vulture reiterated the unusual excessiveness of these conditions, stating: “In every movie I’ve worked on, there have been revisions. You’re always working on a movie that is evolving. But definitely not on this level.”

One artist stated that “Over 100 people left the project because they couldn’t take it anymore.”

Amy Pascal, former Sony Pictures Entertainment chairperson, and a producer on both Spider-Verse films, told Vulture that the exodus wasn't surprising, considering the amount of artists working on the project.

“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'," she said.

But to the demoralized artists — industry veterans — Pascal remarked: “I guess, welcome to making a movie.”

Imageworks, the studio behind Spider-Verse, is currently a non-union studio. Steve Kaplan, business representative The Animation Guild (TAG), said that the working conditions on Spider-Verse were not surprising, but refuted the idea they should be treated as the standard.

"I do genuinely think it’s a good movie. But that being said, it’s been debilitating for a lot of the artists involved," one artist said. "Morale was incredibly low ... It’s this perpetual emotional give-and-take that’s very stressful; it absolutely affects people’s lives, sleep schedules, energy levels, their burnout."

Beyond the Spider-Verse is scheduled to release in Spring of next year, though artists on the film there's "no way" for the project to be completed by then.

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