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This former Tri-Citian helped bring the new ‘Spider-Man’ to the big screen

Former Tri-Citian puts his mark on the next Spider-Man movie

A former Kennewick man is a visual development artist on “Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse.” This is the official trailer for Sony Pictures' animated film.
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A former Kennewick man is a visual development artist on “Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse.” This is the official trailer for Sony Pictures' animated film.

John Butiu loved movies growing up, from “Star Wars” to “Blade Runner.”

And he had a talent for art, whiling away hours at home in the Tri-Cities drawing at a light table.

But he never imagined that one day he’d blend both those into a career — let alone one that would take him around the world and put him in the closing credits of some of Hollywood’s most popular films.

But he did.

Butiu, who now lives in L.A., is a visual development artist.

His latest film is the highly-anticipated “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” which hits movie theaters in December.

It’s “a whole new type and style of filmmaking,” he said. “It’s going to be amazing.”

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John Butiu, who grew up in Kennewick, worked on Columbia Pictures and Sony Pictures Animation’s ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,’ which opens in December. Courtesy of Andrew Peterson at Sony Pictures Animation

Butiu helps create the visual world of movies, from characters to sets and environments.

He’s worked on everything from “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” to “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.”

He grew up in Kennewick in the ‘80s, attending Sunset View Elementary, Desert Hills Middle School and Kamiakin High.

His mother, Aurora, was a nurse at Kadlec Regional Medical Center and what was then Kennewick General Hospital. She died in 1991.

Butiu’s sisters, Melody and Precious, both have left the Tri-Cities, but he still has some relatives here.

When he was young, he thought of going into the medical field. As he got older, he gravitated toward engineering and car design, taking classes for a time at ArtCenter in Pasadena, Calif., which has a transportation design program.

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Columbia Pictures and Sony Pictures Animation’s “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” opens in December. Sony Pictures Animation


But, eventually, he found himself on a path to the movie world.

As personal computers gained prevalence, he taught himself basic 3D modeling, slowing building a portfolio.

He got his foot in the door at Rhythm & Hues Studios, and his career in movies took off from there.

He’s worked for Disney, Sony (his current home) and even moved to New Zealand for “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.”

He spent six months there for the Academy Award-winning film.

It was a special time not only professionally, but also personally. Butiu met his wife, Angie, one month before he was set to leave.

They ended up dating long distance and she even came for an extended visit.

They now have two kids, Nicholas, 8, and Alex, 5.

“It’s fun to share with them the stuff that I’m working on. I’m glad to see that my kids are excited about it,” Butiu said.

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Columbia Pictures and Sony Pictures Animation’s ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ opens in December. Sony Pictures Animation


He loves it, too.

“I’m just happy that I get to come to work wearing my shorts and T shirts,” he said with a laugh.

But, in all seriousness, he said his work is fun and rewarding.

His message for those who want to follow in his footsteps is to “never give up and keep trying,” he said.

“There are so many resources out there. If you’re in a small town, not the big city, you may get discouraged, thinking, ‘who’s going to see?’ Try to make connections online. Keep on asking questions,” he said. “Don’t be afraid. Life is too short.”

Sara Schilling: 509-582-1529
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