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Art Triumphs Over Everything

Cassidy Curtis, technical art lead at Google Spotlight Stories and one of the creative minds behind Oscar-shortlisted animated short film ‘Age of Sail,’ explains why the stylized look of Sony’s awards juggernaut, ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,’ should be a rallying cry for the animation industry.

by Cassidy Curtis

I’m talking about Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse of course. I’ve seen it twice on the big screen, and already want to see it again. (If you still haven’t seen it, you are missing a major milestone in film history. Get off your tuchis and go to the movies already!)

There’s a moment in the film when our newly super-empowered Afro-Latino hero Miles Morales and the original Spider-Man, Peter Parker, meet for the first time. Their spidey-senses activate, and suddenly they both realize what they have in common. “You’re like me!” That moment of recognition, beyond its first purpose of conveying the powerful “anyone can wear the mask” message of inclusion, hit me personally on a whole different level.

I found myself looking through the screen, senses buzzing, at the amazing team of artists and technologists who made it, people who really get it: the idea that when you take the art seriously, when you use every step of the process to amplify that artistic voice instead of sanding off its rough edges, when you’re willing to break the pipeline and challenge “how it’s usually done”, that’s when you can make something special, unique, and meaningful. This movie is a triumph, and every single person involved in making it should be incredibly proud. I see what you did, I know exactly how hard it was to do it, and I see you.

I can’t wait to watch this a few more times to soak in all the details -- the smear frames, the animation on twos, the silhouette lines and suggestive contours, the halftones and Kirby dots, the CMYK misprints, the world-class acting choices, the strong poses, the colors and lighting, that crazy Sinkiewicz flashback, all of it.

I also hope this marks a turning point for the animation industry. Listen to your artists. Trust them. Let their work shine on the big screen the way they meant it to look. And don’t let anyone tell you what “can’t be done” with the look of your film. The non-photorealistic rendering community has been building the technology to do this, literally, for decades. Let’s use it!

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Cassidy Curtis is technical art lead at Google Spotlight Stories, where he specializes in non-photorealistic rendering using real-time graphics. He most recently worked on Academy Award-winning director John Kahrs’ Annie Award-nominated and Oscar-shortlisted short film and VR experience, ‘Age of Sail.’

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