Earlier this year, “Across the Spider-Verse” did something very unexpected and brought characters from live-action into the animated universe of the film, like showing flashbacks to both the Sam Raimi and Marc Webb franchises with Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield. While we’d seen this in films like “Wall-E,” where an animated character is seeing a live-action film, “Across the Spider-Verse” went further by having The Spot interact with the live-action world of “Venom” and having Donald Glover appear as a live-action version of Prowler.
This is not just a very cool easter egg for fans, but also a fantastic detail that tells us something about the film itself — it is canonically animated. Considering how many different universes we see in “Across the Spider-Verse,” the fact that some were live-action and some weren’t indicates that Miles is canonically animated; his universe is animated, while Donald Glover’s isn’t.
Something similar happens in “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem.” Early in the film, we see the turtles, who long to join the human world, sneak into an open-air screening of “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” and we see clips from the live-action film rather than an animated version in the “Mutant Mayhem” visual style. Later on, Splinter throws a surprise party for the kids and gets cardboard cut-outs of live-action versions of Chris Pine, Chris Pratt and Chris Evans, suggesting they become the turtles’ imaginary human friends. Even the videos that Splinter uses to train the turtles in martial arts are from the real world.