Miguel Jiron & David Schulenburg Interview - Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

At a delightful behind-the-scenes experience celebrating Sony Pictures Animation's upcoming Digital and Blu-ray releases of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, members of the press were treated to a sneak preview of the animated short starring John Mulaney as Spider-Ham. "Caught in a Ham" may not be very long, but it's certainly a treat for fans who were intrigued by the cartoon corner of the multiverse. It will be available alongside film itself, which is out digitally on February 26 and on Blu-ray March 19. Filmmakers David Schulenburg and Miguel Jiron, who was also a storyboard artist on Spider-Verse, shared some of their thoughts on the transition from Miles Morales' world to Peter Porker's prior to the release.

Screen Rant: My first question, guys, is what do you think makes Peter such a lovable guy? Why do we want so much of him?

Miguel Jiron: I mean, he's so silly. He's a visual joke as soon as you see him. And I think people get it in a weird way, or are like, 'What,? How would this character exist? I just think he's so great, and John Mulaney is a genius. I think he just fully owns this character now. He has that classic, almost thirties, forties kind of tone to his voice that is just perfectly suited for Spider-Ham. So between those two, I think people just go crazy.

David Schulenburg: Yeah. And I think that take on him that we have, with him being this classic cartoon character that never was really, but is and is now. It makes you remember all those moments from your childhood. I mean, he's instantly lovable.

Screen Rant: Speaking of John Mulaney and his genius, what was that process like of going back and forth with him? I know you guys talked about how he couldn't do that much improv because of the tight turnaround, but what about the parts he could?

Miguel Jiron: It was a blast. Recording him, he would just start riffing and start, you know, giving us gold. And he's just so smart and sharp and funny that, just going line through line he'll start improvising and riffing and we just kept recording.

Screen Rant: How far into the animation process was the voice recording done? Do you have to change things around after a session or do you complete the animation based on his performance?

David Schulenburg: Well it all depends. Sometimes you do it that way and sometimes you'll record upfront. In this case we recorded kind of towards the beginning, but we were still in production, so we did need to - You know, we didn't have enough time to go all the way back to the drawing board and start all over.

Miguel Jiron: But we were still flexible and we were able to be like, 'Oh my God, we have to use that. We have to use this.'

Screen Rant: Given how many classic cartoons Peter Porker calls to mind, who do you think would fit best in the Spider-Ham world if you could do a crossover?

David Schulenburg: Oh, man. So much could lend itself. I mean, obviously Looney Tunes. Tom and Jerry would be amazing.

Miguel Jiron: I'd love to see Porky Pig in a room with Spider-Ham and just let those pigs hash it out.

Screen Rant: Like the moment Porky Pig sees him eating a hot dog.

David Schulenburg: Then it would really get weird.

Miguel Jiron: Two very different pigs just trying to just make sense of this mad world. Yeah, I think that'd be fun.

Screen Rant: Miguel, you previously did storyboards for Into the Spider-Verse before you got to do this short. What was it like going from the primarily Miles style of animation to then getting to jump into this new cartoon version?

Miguel Jiron: It was really fun. I felt lucky I was able to get this opportunity. Early on, I fell in love with Spider-Ham and his character. All of all the story artists were exploring who this character is, you know, what he could do. How does he function in the story? Why is he important to Miles? So it was really fun just jumping from the film and getting to flex a more cartoony muscle in doing the short, and embracing Ham in all his silly and weird glory. It's refreshing, because I like doing different kinds of stuff. So much of the movie was just exploring all about Miles, and I love Miles and see a lot of myself in Miles, and the audience does too. It was just fun to switch it up and embrace the cartoony silly stuff.

David Schulenburg: Miguel's strong suit on the film was really just the heartfelt moments from Miles. And so Spider-Ham is just such a huge contrast.

Miguel Jiron: Yeah, it's pretty big contrast going from a very Miles-centric story and then jumping into Ham. But that's the beat of animation.

Screen Rant: Can you guys talk a little bit more about the combination of the hand drawn animation with the computer computer graphics. How does that work?

Miguel Jiron: I'm trying to think how technical to get with this, but a lot of it is embracing the same foundational elements of traditional animation, which is hand drawing - just instead of paper, we're doing it on computers. Since we're using computers, there's more shortcuts. You know, you don't have to redraw the same thing over and over again. So embracing digital tools to make the pipeline go faster and more economical was kind of the name of the game. So basically, embracing what was great about traditional animation techniques while embracing modern technology and tools to help that was kind of the sweet spot.

David Schulenburg: We really wanted to make sure that you could feel and seen a line or a brushstroke was done by a human hand, not a computer.

Miguel Jiron: And Mike Carlo and his team at Titmouse did an amazing job with the animated characters. There's so many beautiful still frames. If you go frame by frame in the short, there's what we call smear frames: where all of a sudden the character is doing a really rapid motion and he will literally look like a smear, like multiple eyeballs crossing the frame. I love that stuff, and they did such a good job of peppering different smear frames all over the short.

Screen Rant: Both Spider-Verse and "Caught in a Ham" seem to be unique in the way that they were approached. First you went from a story where they gave you a year to just find out what you're going to do, to immediately having everything planned out and just getting it done. How different was the process for you?

Miguel Jiron: It was a whiplash effect, but personally speaking, I learned so many lessons working on the movie: about collaborating, getting people's opinions, and taking ideas from anywhere. After the movie, David and I did all these custom marketing pieces together that made this this short [feel] like the ultimate level of a video game, where I'm just synthesizing, combining everything that I've learned. And I think without that kind of ramp up, it would have been harder to do it. I think when we officially got the go ahead to do the short, we were all so seasoned and ready that it just took everything from our past work experiences to make this happen.

David Schulenburg: It's a little bit of a blessing that we had to work so quickly. Miguel and I had been working together for several months prior to this, and then it was like, 'Okay, we have to make this.' And we just had to trust ourselves and our gut, we didn't have time to find something. We were like, 'Is this funny? It's funny. Go!'

Screen Rant: Spider-Verse aside, what's next for you guys? What are you working on now?

Miguel Jiron: We don't know. I mean, we feel like we just finished the short. So we're just breathing right now.

David Schulenburg: Taking a little rest, waiting to see what comes next.

More: Secret Stan Lee Cameos You Definitely Missed In Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is available on digital starting February 26 and on 4K, Blu-ray and DVD starting March 19.

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