This all began in December, when Mutanga “started a project that would change the course of his young ambitions.” Using his dad’s old computers, the self-taught animator “recreated the entire Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse trailer in LEGO!” shot for shot and posted it online.
The trailer went viral and dazzled the movie directors, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, as well as two writer-producers. After the decision was made to incorporate a Lego universe segment, producer Christina Steinberg reached out to Mutanga asking “him if he wanted to animate it.”
“We found out that it was a 14-year-old kid who made it and we were like, ‘This looks incredibly sophisticated for a nonadult, nonprofessional to have made,'” Miller told the New York Times. “It blew us all away, including some of the best animators in the world.”
“’The Lego Movie’ is inspired by people making films with Lego bricks at home,” said Lord, continuing “That’s what made us want to make the movie. Then the idea in ‘Spider Verse’ is that a hero can come from anywhere. And here comes this heroic young person who’s inspired by the movie that was inspired by people like him.”
But it all started when Mutanga’s physicist father Theodore Mutanga introduced him to Blender, a 3D graphic software program. Mutanga said that he “instantly got hooked on it,” and “watched a lot of YouTube videos to teach myself certain stuff.”
After discovering that Blender could be used for animation and film production, he decided to test it out. “I got the idea to make it in Lego because Lego’s popular, Spider-Man’s popular, and I love both of them. So why not combine the two?”
But, when production first reached out, Mutanga’s parents were skeptical about it being a scam and took to LinkedIn to confirm that the contacts were legitimate and worked for Sony Pictures.
Talk about supportive parents because once it was verified, Theodore immediately “built his son a new computer and bought him a state-of-the-art graphics card so he could render his work much faster.”
As his mother, public health instructor Gisele Mutanga, said, “I know Preston has a gift that was given to him by God, and once we identified that he had that gift, all we could do as parents was to nurture it and let him fly.”
Mutanga did all the work for the sequel to 2018’s “Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse” virtually from his bedroom. It was a tight deadline with his trailer going viral in January and a June movie release. After an initial Zoom call going over storyboards, Mutanga would design the sequence and met periodically with the filmmakers to review their detailed feedback. Mutanga said “One new thing I learned was definitely the feedback aspect of it, like how much stuff actually gets changed from the beginning to the final product.”
For three months, “the high schooler rolled up his sleeves, typically working on the scene during his free time after school,” including spring break.
It was a dream come true for Mutanga, who said “I adored the first movie and was so hyped for the second one, so getting to work with the people who actually made this masterpiece was honestly like a dream.”
For now the teenager plans on finishing high school, and is more committed than ever to pursue his career goals “of becoming a full-time animator and director.” But as Variety quipped, “Not too bad for your industry debut.”