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‘Spider-Verse’ Directors Give Message to Filmmakers: ‘I Want All of You to Make the Movie You Want and for the Studios to Support That’ At Variety’s 10 Animators to Watch

By Sophia Scorziello

July 19, 2023

It was a special night at Nickelodeon Animation Studios in Burbank, Calif. celebrating the forces behind some of Hollywood’s beloved animated projects for Variety’s 10 Animators to Watch event.

The ceremony and cocktail reception honoring 10 creators in the animation (check out the full list here) field kicked things off with a short welcome from President of Paramount Animation and Nickelodeon Ramsey Ann Naito. After an exclusive sneak peak from the soon-to-be-released animated film, “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem,” Naito took the stage welcoming the crowd, “I’ve been in animation my entire career and today I can honestly say it’s bigger, it’s brighter and it’s more inclusive than ever.”

Naito then turned her attention to the recipients of the Creative Impact in Animation Directing Award, “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” directors Joaquim Dos Santos, Kemp Powers and Justin K. Thompson summoning the writing-producing duo behind “Across the Spider-Verse” Phil Lord and Christopher Miller to present.

Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (Photo by Tommaso Boddi/Variety via Getty Images)

“These three wonderful people and distinct filmmakers have so much to give as individual artists. They are our kind of crazy, they are fearless, intrepid, playful and opinionated,” said Lord while presenting the directors award to their colleagues.

“They are the Avengers of animation each with their own superpower but with a common goal to make a groundbreaking, beautiful work of art,” added Miller. “And they each could have done it alone, but they all know it’s much more fun to do it together.”

“We really are just campers and counselors at Camp Crystal Lake,” joked Powers while accepting the award alongside his fellow directors. “But unlike in the movie, we worked together which is what enabled us to get out of there alive. It was exciting, it was terrifying and it was satisfying — and that’s what making an animated feature is supposed to be.”

The three expressed their appreciation for the support and guidance they received while trekking through the Spider-Verse, shouting out Lord and Miller along with fellow producers Amy Pascal and Avi Arad.

“I hope we get to see more different types of film, different types of voices and different styles on the big screen, on the little screen,” Thompson said in closing. “I want all of you to go out and make the movie that you want to make, the way you see it, and I want the studios to support that. And I hope that this movie can help that change.”

Eight of Variety’s 10 animators to watch attended the event to accept their awards of recognition. The list includes Jane Wu (“Blue Eye Samurai”), Abigail Nesbitt (“Pupstruction”), Jeron Braxton (“Slime”), Woodrow White (“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem”), Olufikayo Ziki Adeola (“Iwájú”), Rachel Larsen (“The Tiny Chef Show”), Owen Dennis (“Infinity Train”), Carrie Hobson & Michael Yates (“Win or Lose”), Daniel Fernandez Casas (“Migration”) and Marie Lechevallier (“Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget”).