“My friends keep telling me I’m famous”: Meet the 14-year-old who animated a scene in Across the Spider-Verse

Preston Mutanga doesn’t use Legos to build cars or houses—he uses them to make insanely detailed videos, one of which earned him a guest animator spot on a big-budget Marvel movie

By Sakeina Syed| Photography by Yasin Osman
“My friends keep telling me I’m famous”: Meet the 14-year-old who animated a scene in Across the Spider-Verse

For most people, Lego is merely a childhood toy, but 14-year-old Preston Mutanga decided to take it a step further: the Milton-based teen taught himself how to make Lego-style short films using CGI animation. One of his most ambitious projects was a recreation of the trailer for the Marvel movie Across the Spider-Verse. After he posted it online in January, it went viral—and caught the eye of the big-budget film’s production team. After getting over their shock and awe that this high-quality replica was the work of a teenager, the writers reached out to Mutanga directly and invited him to animate a scene for the real-deal feature film. We caught up with Mutanga, who tells us about his whirlwind journey to Hollywood, why you should meet your heroes, and how you make Lego red-carpet ready.

Safe to assume you played with Lego as a kid? I did. My parents bought me sets—it was always a huge part of my life. I actually might need to pick up more soon, to improve my animation. Nothing beats the real thing.

Playing with Lego seems like regular kid stuff—the trailer you made, on the other hand, is pretty advanced. When did you learn how to use CGI? It started with the Lego movies, which are directed by Spider-Verse writers Phil Lord and Chris Miller. They’re honestly my favourite writers and directors. I watched The Lego Movie for the first time when I was seven. It was mind-boggling. The story was great, and when I found out it was all CGI, it blew my mind even more. I thought that maybe I could try to make something similar—replicate The Lego Movie style, but from my computer at home.

So how did you make the leap from brick-and-mortar Legos to digital ones? My dad was using a software called Blender to do 3D modelling for his work as a medical physicist. He didn’t use it for animation, but when I did some research I learned that people used that same program to make movies. From there, I taught myself some stuff, but I’d say 70 per cent of the learning process was watching YouTube tutorials. I just improvised and figured it out.

What were some of your early projects? I did my first video when I was around nine. They didn’t really have stories then, they were just random stuff from my imagination. My knowledge was pretty limited, too, so most of the videos were between five and 10 seconds long.

Were you always into Spider-Man? I don’t remember how I became a fan, but yes. I have an early memory of having a Spider-Man–themed pencil case when I was five. I used to copy the designs from it on paper.

You eventually created a Lego-fied version of the Across the Spider-Verse trailer. How did that happen? I’d found some stop-motion videos online that were recreations of movie trailers. I thought I could make something a little bit better using CGI, since it allows for more complex animation. And because I’d always loved Spider-Man, it seemed like a good fit. At the time, it was my second-longest animation—it was a lot more ambitious than my previous videos because of how many scenes and characters there were. I tried to perfectly translate the trailer scenes into Lego, which took around a month.


Are physical Lego pieces a part of that process at all? No. Not many people know this, but I actually don’t have much Lego these days. With the animations, it’s all CGI.

But the Lego in the animated video looks so real! I watch a lot of clips from the Lego movies to understand how they’re supposed to move. Recently, my dad and I picked up a tiny Lego character and got some high-quality pictures of it. I studied how light passes through them and how it affects the way they should appear when I animate them. I want to make sure I’m staying true to what real Lego can and can’t do.

Was there anything about the Spider-Verse trailer that was especially challenging? I had to find creative ways to translate Spider-Man’s swinging, because Lego limbs don’t move very much. I added extra bricks sometimes to make it seem like it was jumping from one pose to another really fast. That way, you get what we call animation smear, which is like a blur effect.

14-year-old Preston Mutanga is a CGI whiz, and he used his skills to create a Lego-fied version of the trailer for the Marvel movie Across the Spider-verse. When he posted it online, it went viral—and caught the eye of the big-budget film’s production team. Then, the directors reached out to Mutanga directly and invited him to animate a scene for the real-deal feature film.

When you posted your trailer re-creation online, it went viral—and then the Spider-Verse team reached out. That must’ve been hard to believe. It was surreal. They messaged me on Twitter. I was so shocked when I first saw it—like, there’s no way they’re actually contacting me. My dad didn’t think it was real at first, until we got in touch with Patrick O’Keefe, the production designer. I was just so excited—my work was actually going to be in a movie theatre. Multiple movie theatres, even. After a Zoom call with the production team, they showed me a storyboard for the scene they wanted me to animate. I basically translated it into 3D Lego animation.


What happens in the scene you animated? I’m not sure how much I can say without spoiling the movie. I did get to work with some very iconic characters and locations.

You mentioned that Phil Lord and Chris Miller inspired you to pursue CGI animation. They wrote the screenplay for Across the Spider-Verse, and you worked with them directly. How did that feel? They’re my two biggest inspirations—to actually get to work with them was honestly a dream come true. It made me really, truly happy to have them helping me improve my work.

How different is the process of working on a trailer for YouTube versus a scene for a feature film? I used the same software, but there’s a lot more planning that goes into it. For the project, my dad got me a more powerful computer. That was super helpful because the rendering times were way faster.

From start to finish, how long did it take to create your scene? I worked on it for three months, starting in February 2023. Mostly in the evenings and on weekends and during March break. I had Zoom calls almost every two days with the team to send over what I’d done so far and get feedback. I had maybe 15 drafts by the end.

When did you get to see the movie? I was actually at the premiere in Los Angeles. I didn’t know anything else about the plot beforehand, which was good. I didn’t want any spoilers. The best part was seeing the theatre’s reaction to my scene. It was heartwarming to know that people liked my work.


Has it been hard to go back to high school now that you’re a professional animator? My friends are constantly reminding me of it—they keep saying I’m famous. Every now and then, random people come up to me and are like, “Hey, did you animate that part in Spider-Verse?” I try to stay grounded though. I don’t want to let it change me.

Do you see yourself pursuing this as a career? Definitely. I’d like to get into Sheridan College or the California Institute of the Arts to study animation. I want to be a director and an animator, making movies for franchises. I’d actually like to animate Miles Morales, who’s from the Spider-Verse. I feel like I relate to him in some ways. For now, I’m thinking of making an original story of my own, with my own characters—but still in Lego, of course.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.


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