Joaquim Dos Santos – Across the Australia-Verse

Joaquim Dos Santos – Across the Australia-Verse

“I think what the film did was it tried things that seemed really risky at the time,” says animation director Joaquim Dos Santos about the impact of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. “It essentially gave creative people permission to try new things at a time where most studios were being quite protective of what they put out there because everything held a high risk.”

That permission proved invaluable for Dos Santos as he collaborated with fellow directors Kemp Powers and Justin K. Thompson on the second instalment in the Spider-Verse series, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse.

“I like to say that in animation, there is a time before Into the Spider-Verse, and a time after,” he says.

Speaking about the experience of directing as a trio, Dos Santos says: “I think there would have been obstacles if we didn’t get along with each other, but we all like each other a lot, which was very helpful. It is also helpful because we all had our own strengths and our own paths in animation that we came from. That first year and a half, we were in every meeting together, which gave us an understanding of what our unique flavour profiles were and what each of us bought to the table creatively.

“I directed for years and years in TV and I come from storyboarding, so I was able to work really closely with the camera crew to figure out our shots and what the cadence of the screen language was going to be. Whereas Kemp is a screenwriter and a playwright, so he worked closely on script revisions and with the actors. Justin was the production designer on the last film, so he was largely responsible for what the final image on the screen would look like.”

The culmination of the group’s efforts resulted in box office success, aided by IMAX screenings around the world.

“It was surreal. We had a screening at the IMAX headquarters here in California and it was mind-blowing. We made a lot of the film during the pandemic, so we were watching most of the dailies on our computer screens for the most part, and then when you watch it in IMAX, quite literally there is no part of your field of vision that doesn’t experience the film.”

Dos Santos will be travelling to Australia to discuss his career leading up to Across the Spider-Verse and ‘Beyond’ with Flying Bark Productions’ CEO, Barbara Stephen at the inaugural Australian Children’s Content Summit.

“I’ve been working for 20+ years in television on shows that played that middle-ground,” Dos Santos says about his filmography.

“They played in a space that Japanese Anime occupied for a very long time. Anime plays to a very wide audience, and some of it isn’t child appropriate at all,” he explains. “The Spider-Verse films signal a change in the landscape. The films were created for and marketed towards a general audience. I have a seven-year-old who appreciated the film along with people in their 50s talking about the cinematography of the film. I think the Spider-Verse films speak to all audiences and have themes that everyone can relate to, showing both the parent’s perspective and a child’s perspective.”

According to Dos Santos, the general audience’s reaction towards the Spider-Verse films is an optimistic sign for the future of animation.

“If animation was considered a kid-centric medium, I think now is the time where it really blossoms and starts appealing to a general audience.”

For some, animation is an accessible means of entertainment and for others, something that can ignite dreams of a creative life. For the latter, Dos Santos has words of wisdom that are derived from his own successful journey.

“I would say, don’t put a limit on yourself. I didn’t have a classical arts education; I was largely self-taught, and I learned on the job when I got in,” he shares. “It is there for the taking if you really want it and you believe in yourself. It sounds cheesy. I’ve heard other people say versions of that and I’ve rolled my eyes a million times, but it is true. Spiderman is literally a part of my earliest memories as a kid, so it’s surreal to be adding to that legacy.”

The inaugural Australian Children’s Content Summit will take place from August 29 – 31, 2023 in Coffs Harbour. Tix here

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