EXCLUSIVE: Joaquim dos Santos shares his love for anime, reflects on his journey and talks Spider Man: Across The Spider Verse

In an exclusive in-depth conversation with Pinkvilla, renowned animator Joaquim dos Santos spoke about his love for anime, reflected on his journey and gave an insight into the future of Spider Man: Across The Spider Verse.

Barsha Roy
Written by Barsha Roy & Ayushi Agrawal
Published on Mar 10, 2024 | 10:41 PM IST | 55.6K
Joaquim dos Santos (via Getty Images)
Joaquim dos Santos (via Getty Images)

Renowned animator, director, storyboard artist, producer and writer, Joaquim dos Santos, best known for his work in Spider Man: Across The Spider Verse, Justice League Unlimited, Voltron: Legendary Defender, Avatar: The Last Airbender, The Legend of Korra, and G.I. Joe: Resolute, recently attended the 2024 Crunchyroll Anime Awards in Tokyo, Japan, as part of the show's star-studded presenters line-up. Amid his presence at the event, Pinkvilla sat down for an exclusive in-depth chat with Joaquim dos Santos about his love for anime, his journey as an animator, the creative process behind Spider Man: Across The Spider Verse and what lies ahead. Read on to know more.

Are you an anime fan? If yes, what would be your favorite one?

Oh yes, huge anime fan! [My favorite anime would be] the one that I grew up with, in the States it was known as Robotech, in Japan its Macross, it was a huge influence on me growing up. All the perennials you know Cowboy Bepop was a huge influence, I was a big fan of Birdy [the Mighty] Decode… really really fun story. The list goes on and on. Growing up when I did in the States, there were so many films and TV shows that were imported, and we didn’t even realize that we were watching anime. At the time they were just shows we were watching.

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How do you feel about attending the Crunchyroll Anime Awards? What would be your take away from the experience?

It’s incredible. It’s a huge honor to even be asked to present [an award] and to be in a room with all the people who have been hugely influential to my career and continue to be influences to this day making such great content. It’s really exciting.

It has been such an amazing year for you with so many accolades and recognitions, including wins at the Annie Awards and Saturn Awards. How does it feel to get the recognition that you have always deserved?

It’s a big honor, it’s very exciting but when I got into the industry and when I started thinking about animation as a career, it was never with the goal of being recognized for something, it was always a bonus. The real joy comes from the process of making it and being excited. When we are behind schedule, over budget and everybody is stressed out, one of the things that I can always rely on is doing the work, that’s when I am happiest. That’s the most exciting part.

From being a person behind the screens to someone now getting to present an award to someone who is also behind the screens but in a different realm, how do you personally view animation and anime? Where do you draw the line, if at all?

I don’t draw the line necessarily because I think animation is becoming such a globally recognized and appreciated art form and I think that’s a generational turnover. My generation, the generation behind me and the one that is behind it now, anime was such a huge part of our lives. So, it is tougher for me to distinguish it like ‘I like it because it’s anime and I like it because it’s animation.’ If I like it, I like it and that is just the way it is. But it’s really exciting that I think we are here socially and that anime and animation is being so globally accepted.

Talking about the recent highlights of your career obviously brings us to Spider Man: Across the Spider Verse. Can you share something about the creative process of the film and how it came to be? 

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I primarily started my career before Spider Man: Across the Spider Verse from television, in episodic, long form, serialized shows. The stuff that I was attracted to always had drama, comedy, and a good dose of action. A lot of the people that I worked with were able to sort of go between feature animation and TV animation. Before there used to be a bigger line between those two camps but when it started getting blurred just a little bit, I had taken a meeting, this is before Spider Man: Into The Spider Verse, with Phil Lord to just talk about working on a Spider Man feature animated something.

I had no idea what was Miles Morales at the time, I didn’t know what it was, I was already contracted to Voltron, which I was on for about four years, and during the time when I was on Voltron, the trailer for Into The Spider Verse came out and it had reverberations across the entire industry. Everyone was like ‘Oh My Gosh’ and in my brain it was like, ‘That’s what I was meeting with them about.' They made the most exciting looking thing that I have seen in so many years. So when we started wrapping on Voltron, I got a cold call and for whatever reason I decided to pick the call up and it was Kristin Belson, who runs Sony Animation, and she said ‘Hey, I know we all talked a few years ago but we are gonna be doing a sequel to Into The Spider Verse, are you interested in directing it?’ And I said yes on the spot, of course.

So I came in for another round of meetings and we hit it off really well and they screened the film for me [as] I came in at the tail end of the first film still being in production. They screened it for me and I couldn’t believe what I had seen. Phil and Chris were sitting in the seats in front of me and they both turned around said, ‘So what do you think? How are we gonna do something that is bigger than this?’ And at the time I remember my brains felt like they were dripping out of my ears because I was like ‘I don’t know! This is one of the craziest things I have ever seen.’ And then they asked, ‘Are you excited about the potential [for a sequel]?’ and I said, ‘Yes! Of course.’ That was it, I was on.

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Following the success of Spider Man: Across The Spider Verse, fans have been eagerly waiting for what comes next. Is there anything you can share, at this point, about Spider Man: Beyond The Spider Verse or anything that’s coming next?

I think you can expect an awesome film that everybody is working hard on right now. That’s as much as I can share [Laughs].

You come with so many years of experience and have been part of several successful and widely loved projects over the years. Is there anything you would like to say to aspiring animators, visual artists and creators?

I think it’s more valuable today to think about yourself as an artist because everybody is so connected and everybody can see everybody’s influences and can see people at the very beginnings of their journey on social media… so there is direct connectivity. So, I would say if you are passionate about something, make sure to stay focused, make sure to understand why you love what it is that you are going after and make sure not to lose sight of the fact that aside from doing what you love, there this sort of balancing act that has to happen where you have to think of yourself as a professional.

So as fun as it is to draw, and I love drawing… 90s video games that I grew up playing and comic books that I read, I love it but anybody that’s right at the front door of getting into the industry, there is a point at which you have to put that aside just for a moment and really do what is right for the job that you are being asked to do. That bouncing act can get really really shaky at times ‘cause I have seen people get in and all they really wanna do is draw the stuff that brings them direct joy and it’s not always that. Sometimes you are tasked with revising a cat for five cuts and that’s not the most fun thing to do in the world but you have to find the joy.

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Looking back at the early days of your journey, did you ever expect to reach the level of success that you have right now?

I couldn’t have imagined it. I mean I know how excited and passionate I was for animation and anime, so all I could do was carry that in my heart and the rest is all… I feel… like cake! It was like bonus material.

Lastly, if there was a Spider-verse character that you would bring into an anime, who and what anime would it be?

I would probably try to bring Spider-Punk into Samurai Champloo. I think that’s a good pairing!

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And vice versa, which anime character would you like to bring to the Spider-verse?

I was a huge fan of Birdy [from Birdy The Mighty] so I would like to bring Birdy into the Spider-verse

ALSO READ: EXCLUSIVE: Rashmika Mandanna Shares Who She Is Excited To Meet At Crunchyroll Anime Awards 2024

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About The Author

A Hollywood junkie, celeb fanatic and true crime aficionado, Barsha has spent nearly 4 years covering everything in the

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