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You know the end credits of a movie are great when fans discuss them with the same enthusiastic fervor they display for the rest of the movie. Such is the case with the closing titles of Spider-Man: No Way Home, which director Jon Watts wanted to be "a celebration" of Tom Holland's MCU trilogy. To accomplish that, he turned to the talented folks over at Imaginary Forces, a studio whose portfolio includes title sequences for Stranger Things, Castle Rock, Invasion, The Wheel of Time, and more.
"[Jon] wanted something that felt very analog and hand-drawn," co-creative director Karin Fong tells SYFY WIRE. "As you know, it’s the third [film] in the trilogy and the other films have a very hand animation aesthetic that he wanted to continue. I think the difference with this one is that our main characters have grown up a bit, they’re about to apply to college — to MIT, no less — so this film was different in that we really pushed in some ideas of science and math models. This is just tapping into who you were as a young adult or right before you go to college."
"He wasn’t hands-on, but he understood all the little details," adds co-creative director Tosh Kodama. "I feel like he must’ve done it at one point. Done stop-motion because you could just tell by the way he talks about it, and he has such a passion for it ... He’s such a great collaborator. He gave us room to explore and gave us creative freedom."
***WARNING! The following contains massive spoilers for Spider-Man: No Way Home! If, by some miracle, you haven't seen or heard anything about the movie's big reveals, you may want to check out a screening at your local theater before diving into the discussion below...***
Channeling the doodles one might find in the notebook of a geeky and math-loving high schooler caught in a daydream, No Way Home's end titles really lean into the film's mind-bending concepts of the multiverse and parallel dimensions. The designers reached into the multiverse of artistic madness, drawing on a number of creative influences: M.C. Escher, Saul Steinberg (a famous cartoonist for The New Yorker), '90s album covers, Schoolhouse Rock, and, of course, Steve Ditko, the co-creator of Spider-Man and Doctor Strange.
"We really wanted to acknowledge Steve Ditko because Jon was saying he never gets as much credit, so we did this whole sequence where we used his shapes that sort of look like Quantum Physics shapes," Kodama explains.
"Jon kept saying, ‘Be a maximalist. I want maximalism! More! More! More!’" Fong recalls of the fearless director. "More shapes and more color and it was really cool. To say that we had an eclectic range of influences is probably an understatement ... It was really fun to just look at a lot of different illustration styles and channel back to how you drew when you were trying to be impressive as an 18-year-old."
All of the end titles are perfectly wrapped up in the neat little bow that is De La Soul's "The Magic Number," a toe-tapping hip-hop track from 1989, which has yet to be made available on popular music streaming platforms (much to the chagrin of audiences), despite the fact that Congress found it to be culturally significant and worthy of immortalization in 2011.
"There was definitely a thought to keeping the tradition as far as the first two. They used the ['70s and] ‘80s pop songs with The Ramones and Go-Go’s," Kodama adds. "So we threw out a bunch of different ideas and then in the end, it was Jon who selected this, but it’s such a great piece of music. It speaks to the power of threes and there are so many things, just in the lyrics, that we were honing in on. And, with the animation, we hit on certain things. I think it was such a great find, but with music, it’s such a backbone to any animation we do, so obviously, that was a huge part of this whole sequence."
However, SYFY WIRE can exclusively reveal that songs by New Order and The Strokes were considered before the De La Soul track was chosen halfway through the animation process. It turned out to be the perfect choice, and the song has since gone viral on social media apps like TikTok.
"The film, it ends on this bittersweet note," Kodama explains. "We were going down that route because it sort of ends on that tone ... We [then] realized, ‘Hey, this is a third movie, we need to celebrate this.’ It’s already the end of the movie; it’s not like a main title in the beginning where we’re setting the tone. So we sort of reversed the tone of it and just made it more of a celebration ... Once we dropped [the song in], there was just a ton of stuff that lined up."
The result was a retrospective chock full of Easter eggs, many of which can't be seen without the option of a frame-by-frame breakdown (fans can do just that when No Way Home arrives on digital platforms Feb. 28). "When you get the frame-by-frame, there’ll be rewards," Fong promises. With that said, she and Kodama were kind enough to list off a number of hidden details that await eagle-eyed viewers.
"We put stuff from the first and second movies," Kodama admits. "Tony Stark gave Spider-Man his suit and he had a little note that said, 'A minor upgrade.' So, we have that in the background of one of the cards. We peppered in a bunch of things like that and it’s really fun. You have to really pause it to see it, but there’s a ton of stuff like that in there."
"It’s supposed to be in a notebook, so there’s backsides of pages," Fong said. "So if you look, you can kind of see the note that Peter’s scrawling out to MJ, a rough draft of it."
Other Easter eggs include: A diagram on how to tie a neck tie (a callback to Aunt May in Homecoming), the necklace Peter was going to give MJ in Far From Home, and even the Star Wars LEGO sets that have cropped up throughout the trilogy.
"There’s a Death Star, which I’m not sure people have caught yet," Kodama said. "But it’s when he’s traveling down the tunnel and then there’s a LEGO Death Star that just goes by the screen ... We kind of threw everything in there. I think there were a ton more ideas, but I think the best stuff got in there, so we were pretty happy."
That detail-oriented philosophy covered every aspect of the end titles, right down to the individual cards crafted for the talented ensemble cast. While the main players (like Holland, Zendaya, Jacob Batalon, and Benedict Cumberbatch) have their faces show up on screen as penciled sketches, the designers made a conscious choice to credit the villainous actors (Alfred Molina, Willem Dafoe, Jamie Foxx, etc.) in more abstract ways.
"It was kind of like this fun game we played like, ‘How could we interpret even abstractly?'" Fong reveals. "Jon didn’t necessarily want everybody’s faces for their credits. Obviously we do that for our heroes, but we could be abstract with the other ones, so we’ve got the Golden spiral or the Fibonacci spiral for Doc Ock."
For Electro's Jamie Foxx, Kodama revealed that "We have the lightning, which is sort of a nod to ‘90s album covers," Kodama adds in reference to the Electro actor.
Of course, No Way Home's two major guest stars — Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield — also have their faces appear onscreen, leading to a fan theory which claims that Garfield's Spidey mask is incomplete (a reference to the fact that he never got to close out The Amazing Spider-Man trilogy). Kodama, who is aware of the speculation, has some bad news: "It’s funny because I see what they’re talking about, but we didn’t really have that intention to be honest. It’s purely aesthetics."
"But, you know, if we knew, we couldn’t tell you," joked Fong.
Spider-Man: No Way Home is currently in theaters everywhere. With $1.52 billion in global box office returns as of publication, the film has become the eighth highest-grossing movie in cinematic history, surpassing the first two Avengers titles after less than a month.
When Fong and Kodama got the chance to see a rough cut of No Way Home last summer, before they got to work on the end titles, they were the only two people in the theater due to the pandemic. No Way Home is the first blockbuster to truly defy the health crisis with record-breaking financials that the theatrical industry hasn't seen in over two years.
"Spidey!" Fong exclaims. "You can't underestimate him."
Click here for the full list of individuals who worked on the No Way Home end titles.