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While there were definitely some controversial winners at last night’s Academy Awards, one victory went over as universally well as you can get. Audiences around the world celebrated as Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature, as many fans felt elated to see such a great movie earn such a well-earned trophy. The film is one that people will surely watch time and time again once its release on home video – but what you may not know is that the upcoming release will come will come with an extended version of the animated blockbuster.
Last week I attended a press day for the upcoming digital and physical media release of Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse, and it was during a three-on-one interview with directors Rodney Rothman, Bob Persichetti, and Peter Ramsey that I got the skinny on the soon-to-be-released “extra” version of the hit movie. Getting into it, Rothman explained that’s it’s essentially an assembly cut of material that just never seemed to fit properly into the theatrical cut that folks know and love:
[Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse] had an unusual amount of material at every stage of production. So, an insane amount of storyboard material, like insane, like break your high end edit systems insane. An insane amount of layout, an insane amount of finished animation that didn't make it into the movie… an unusual amount. So the Alt-Universe Cut contains a bunch of that stuff that we chose not to put in the movie, but that in an alternate universe easily could have ended up in the movie. So, uh, that's kind of the premise behind it.
Being in production for far longer than your average live-action film, animated features tend to change a lot as they are being made, and it seems that Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse was an extreme version of that. As things continued to develop, good ideas were replaced by better ones, and while that meant putting some completed elements aside after many hours of work, each move was always made for the betterment for the finished product (which, again, just won an Academy Award).
Both Rodney Rothman and Bob Persichetti openly admitted that the Alt-Universe Cut isn’t on the same quality level as the theatrical version (otherwise it’s what they would have released) but there definitely is some great stuff that audiences will be excited to see. For example, it will have the brand new Spider-Ham short spliced in at the beginning, but Persichetti also noted that Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse at one point was going to be a bit closer to the comics and create a stronger bond between Miles Morales and his new roommate, Ganke Lee. As the co-director noted, however, that idea kind of went away when they got to see the development of a very similar relationship in Jon Watts’ Spider-Man: Homecoming – which beat it to theaters by about 18 months. Said Persichetti,
The alt version is more beholden to the idea that Miles and Ganke were buddies and roommates, and there's a lot more of roommate stuff happening. And what we ended up running into was just to two things. It was just like, 'Oh, wow. Homecoming, Ned - very similar to Ganke.' Really. And then, 'Well, maybe it's actually better if Miles experiences these things without a really well-educated Sherpa holding his hand through all the powers coming on and everything,' and it ended up helping us out for that place where Peter comes into the movie.
Sadly, the directors didn’t reveal who provides the voice of Ganke Lee in Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse, but they heavily suggested that his material opposite Shameik Moore’s Miles Morales was so good that the story could have entirely been a buddy comedy with the two characters and zero web-slinging action:
Bob Persichetti: And I will say this, though, there was a version that's not exactly the Alt-Universe version, but we had a version of the first act a long, long time ago with Ganke in it fully, and the relationship between those two guys was amazing.
Peter Ramsey: You could've watched a whole movie that never and had a Spider-Man.
Bob Persichetti: It would just been like no multiverse. That would have been a very different thing.
Peter Ramsey: They were very entertaining.
In the same way that it’s fun to peruse the deleted scenes from any movie and wonder how they would have fit into the cut you know, it will be a fun experience for fans to see a different version of Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse than the one familiar – even if its pacing is probably off and there are perhaps a few bits that don’t land quite right.
For the directors, though, that isn’t the entire point of the Alt-Universe Cut’s presence on the Blu-ray. In addition to squeezing in a few extra gags and laughs, they also want to have the opportunity to show fans how a movie like Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse comes together. There is a hope that audiences will be able to watch the material and see it through their eyes, understanding why it perhaps was best left for a special home video release instead of the big screen experience. Rodney Rothman explained,
One of the cool things about this movie, and especially since it's been released, is that we do actually like to share a lot about the process of making it, and the different iterations we went through because so many people worked for so long in this movie, and we did really try a lot of different things. So that version of the movie is like a great window into how the movie evolved, and different things that we were working on. And for any filmmakers out there, anyone interested in our movie or movies generally it will be interesting. I know I love that stuff when I see it.
Following up, Bob Persichetti and Peter Ramsey added that there is one particular sequence that is incredibly beautiful, and was a part of the film forever, but just never found a place to properly fit in the finished version of Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse. For better or for worse is a decision that audiences will be able to make for themselves soon.
Bob Persichetti: You're going to see, there's one scene, the billboard scene, where it's Miles and Peter talking, and it's like 90% animated, and it's beautiful animation.
Peter Ramsey: And that was probably in the movie for like two years, right?
Bob Persichetti: Totally, totally. And at the end it was like we have to cut it out. And we were all so in love with it. And we we're just like, 'The movie is better without it.' And so I think everybody will get to see that, and they'll get to understand sort of the weird process that we go through where we make movies as if it's just a script. But we're actually making it, and then we just throw the pages away, except there's a little more than pages.
Spidey fans excited to leap back into the multiverse will have their opportunity to do so this week, as Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse comes out on digital tomorrow, February 26th, and those of you looking to pick up physical copies will find 4K, Blu-ray and DVD versions in stores on March 19th.
I would also add that you should do yourself a favor and listen to this week’s episode of our HeroBlend podcast this Friday, as it will feature my entire interview with Rodney Rothman, Bob Persichetti, and Peter Ramsey!