Young Canadian talent was at the forefront of the new Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse movie, including software developed by a Vancouver Island teen.
Kiegan Simard, 18, started creating his own animations as a kid using a software called Blender, and created a Discord server to help build a community around Lego animations. The server is now home to more than 2,000 animators.
It was through this online community that Simard, a resident of the Victoria suburb of Saanich, first met 14-year-old Preston Mutanga, the Toronto-native animator behind the Lego scene in the Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse film.
Simard immersed Mutanga into the community and mentored him to improve his animations. He also introduced Mutanga to a software add-on he had created himself, called MecaFace, that allows creators to animate the eyes and mouths of Lego faces.
Mutanga then went on to use the add-on as part of his Lego version of the Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse trailer, which caught the attention of the film’s animators on Twitter.
Mutanga worked with the animators for weeks to develop the film’s Lego scene, but he kept his involvement a secret until the movie premiere date. Simard only found out about the fellow young animator’s involvement when Mutanga started sending him pictures from the Los Angeles movie premiere.
“Preston was sending photos of him at the premiere and I was so confused. This kid from Toronto — how did he get to L.A. just casually? And that’s when he told us that his animations were in the film,” Simard said.
Simard said he was “mind-blown” when he went to see the movie in theatre the next day.
“I was so happy because that is my entire memo of why I do what I do, so that I can help younger animators succeed and let their creative vision shine through. I built all of this community for that,” he said. “It just made me so happy to see it all come to life on the big screen.”
After graduating high school at the end of the month, Simard will be heading to Vancouver Film School in September and hopes to one day work in the animation industry.