From 'Spider-Verse' to 'Incredibles 2': Animation Nominees Reveal What Inspired Their Stylish Characters

10:00 AM 2/13/2019

by Carolyn Giardina

The creators behind 'Incredibles 2,' 'Isle of Dogs,' 'Mirai,' 'Ralph Breaks the Internet' and 'Spider-Verse' break down their characters, including why new Spider-Man Miles Morales favors hoodies and how 'Ralph's' Yesss became so sparkly.

Animated Feature_Style_Split - Publicity - H 2019
Courtesy of Sony Pictures Animation; Courtesy of Disney Pixar

  • 'Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse'

    In designing Miles Morales/Spider-Man — the African-American/Puerto Rican teen who inhabits, and helps to save, an alternate universe in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse — director Peter Ramsey says the filmmakers were looking to create an "iconic" present-day Brooklyn kid. "There were things like the hoodie, the jacket, the low-rider pants, the Nikes," says Ramsey, who directed with Bob Persichetti and Rodney Rothman. "The goal was to get the audience to empathize with him, and to do that, you've got to make him as rounded and as real and specific as possible."

    When Miles, voiced by Shameik Moore, begins to realize his powers, he at first wears a store-bought Halloween getup. "It's a costume; he's trying something on," notes Rothman. "His frame was designed to be very lanky, and the way he used that frame was designed to sort of suggest a newborn animal or someone just really finding their feet." But as Miles finds his way into his new role, Rothman adds, "eventually he gets to make his own hero suit."

  • 'Mirai'

    Directed by Mamoru Hosoda (Summer WarsWolf Children) and produced by Japan's Studio Chizu, Mirai is a hand-drawn time-traveling story about love that follows 4-year-old Kun and his new baby sister, Mirai (meaning "future"), who later appears as a teenager. "The audience had to know the baby Mirai was the same person as the teenage Mirai," Hosoda tells THR, speaking through a translator. "Babies have really soft hair and it tends to curl, so I made the teenage Mirai's hair curl so that by the hair you can tell it's the same girl. We also tried to make sure this baby was very precious, so she wears a lot of lacy, soft clothing. That way you can tell that she is very loved."

  • 'Isle of Dogs'

    The Bryan Cranston-voiced hound Chief is a fiercely independent stray who resides on Trash Island, where dogs have been banished and must fend for themselves. According to Isle of Dogs producer Jeremy Dawson, director Wes Anderson "wanted him very skinny, ribs showing, fur clumped and spiky, a chunk missing from his ear, clumps of missing fur and covered in fleas. We did dozens of what we referred to as Giacometti clay sketches to arrive at the shape that expressed his character. And then we had to re-create that shape and feeling with an animatable fur puppet. The character is gruff and surly and scrappy on the outside, but his hard shell dissolves when he meets [the boy] Atari and they create a bond. The trickiest part of the design was to find this balance in the character so that he didn't look too scary or mean or sad, but more lovable and funny."

  • 'Incredibles 2'

    In Incredibles 2, the Parr family meets businessman Winston Deavor and his sister and tech-savvy business partner, Evelyn Deavor. "She's not just brainy, she's artistic," says producer Nicole Paradis Grindle of Evelyn, who's voiced by Catherine Keener. Evelyn's bohemian, eclectic style took inspiration from the likes of Patti Smith, Diane Keaton and Annie Lennox. Her clothes come in fabrics such as houndstooth, tweed, leather and even faux zebra — nods to a computer screen, an important story point. While the film isn't set in a specific period, the filmmakers did reference the late '60s, so Evelyn got short hair, reflecting that she's a "single career woman." Grindle adds that Evelyn and her brother show "similar features, like the tilt of the eyes, but contrasting looks."

  • 'Ralph Breaks the Internet'

    A resident of the internet, Yesss is an algorithm at a video-sharing site called BuzzTube. But what does an algorithm actually look like? "We wanted her to embody the constant change of the internet as well as be a kind of a businesswoman, like an entrepreneur of this website," says Rich Moore, who directed Ralph Breaks the Internet with Phil Johnston. Yesss is voiced by Taraji P. Henson, and the filmmakers also wanted to see a bit of the actress in the character, but they gave her numerous hairstyles and wardrobe changes to "evoke that ever-changing feeling of the internet. We designed a lot of costume changes for her, actually more than are in the movie." Since she's digital, Yesss wears a coat "that reacts like fur but is really kind of fiber-optic material. Her blouses and her skirts have lights and little digital accents."

    This story first appeared in the Feb. 13 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.