Interview with “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” animator Tony Siruno

Tony Siruno attended BSM in the late 1980s, and he was one of the animators of the new film “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.”


SpiderVerse via Sony Pictures Digital Inc. Press Kit, Creative Commons

Voice actors, shown here, brought the audio of “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” to life. Tony Siruno got to design Uncle Aaron and the Prowler, pictured in the upper left corner of the image.

Knight Errant: What did you do after high school?  

Tony Siruno: I majored in journalism with a minor in comparative literature… I was at the University of Minnesota for four years. I was about 2 ½ quarters from graduating and I went to two animation events at the University of Minnesota campus where I saw this movie called “Akira” which is a Japanese animated movie. That movie was so mind-blowing and it was my favorite thing I’d ever seen before besides reading comics and seeing movies.

My interest in trying to pursue a career in animation started growing, I just didn’t know how to go about it. Then I went to another film animation festival in uptown and I met an animator from Pixar who is from Minnesota as well whose name was Pete Docter. He had screened his student film from Cal. Arts and I had to ask him where the school was and he told me that if I’m really interested in animation, I should definitely pursue going to school out at CalArts [California Institue of Arts]… I got in the following fall. I did go to school there for three years and graduated in ‘95…

It’s probably one of the best films I’ve ever worked on because of the collaboration.

— Tony Siruno

When I first started at CalArts, I got picked to work on “The Simpsons.” I started working as an animator, or assistant animator on “The Simpsons” on season five, six, and seven. I got handpicked by a bunch of creative executives from Dreamworks and I became a part of the very first animation training program back in 1995. I was at Dreamworks really almost 18 years, from 1995-2013.

After 2013, I basically found my way working for Illumination, Reel FX, doing some design and design consulting for Warner Brothers on “Storks,” as well as a few other movies. Since then, I’ve been working at Sony Pictures for almost five years. I spent one year at Paramount animation and worked on this other movie called “Wonder Park” … I’ve been fortunate enough to go back and forth working at these great studios. I returned to Sony Pictures in 2015 where I worked on “The Emoji Movie” and I worked on a Shannon Tindle project. Tindle was one of my closest friends; he was the creator of “Kubo and the Two Strings.”

While I was working on his film, Spider-Man had a lead character designer who was going to go on paternity leave. I happen to be very good friends with him… Basically, they needed someone to shepherd the designs while he was on Paternity… I was fortunate enough to jump on to Spider-Man for about two and a half months. I had a variety of assignments but my three biggest assignments were designing Uncle Aaron, The Prowler and consulting on Scorpion.

I had a variety of assignments but my three biggest assignments were designing Uncle Aaron, The Prowler and consulting on Scorpion.

— Tony Siruno

KE: Are you interested in comics or was this a little out of your comfort zone?

TS: I was a full-fledged comic book kid… I was a big fan of Spider-Man. There [are] pictures of me dressed up as Spider-Man in first grade [and] second grade. It is weird when I think about it because I always wanted to work on a superhero movie. I had worked on some superhero movies at Dreamworks; I worked on “Megamind” and a few other things. I’ve always had the chance to work on the animated Spider-Man series over at Marvel, but I was always just too busy. Out of all the chances I had it was going to happen at Sony. I was just fortunate enough to work on this amazing movie.

KE: What has been your favorite part about creating “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse?”

TS: I get to actually draw these particular characters from the Spider-Man universe. When I got to design Uncle Aaron and the Prowler, I can’t say it was a dream come true because growing up these characters did not exist but as I got older I was well aware of who these characters particularly were and the relationship they had with Spider-Man so that was very exciting. I was super excited to start working and consulting on Scorpion because when we were designing our version of Scorpion we were going through many different versions. Our producers and directors wanted to try something very different because we were working in a different universe than we are used to seeing in the comic books, so it kind of gave us creative license to try something that was just so outside the box.

KE: Is there anything you would like to add?

TS: I think if you’re a Spider-Man fan, a fan of comic books, a fan of animation, I think this is a movie that will resonate with you. If you don’t read the comic books, I think this is a movie that will start getting people to read comic books in general. It’s a great film, it’s a stand-alone film… I’m just so blown away by what we’ve been able to accomplish… It’s probably one of the best films I’ve ever worked on because of the collaboration. It was truly a collaboration of many many different people… Where does animation go after seeing this?  

I was at [BSM] only for 9th grade and 10th grade, then I became a transfer student and went to Hopkins, and all because of hockey. When I was at [BSM] our hockey team was not the best hockey team compared to what they are now.