‘Ms. Marvel’ Designer Brings Her Jersey City Neighborhood to the MCU

As a Jersey City resident, Vivian Amaro has relished the opportunity to work on a show starring a hero from her neck of the woods.

vivian amaro ms. marvel
Like the fictional Kamala Khan, Vivian Amaro also lives in Jersey City. Photo courtesy of Vivian Amaro, Designer/Animator, PERCEPTION

When Vivian Amaro realized she would be working on a show about a hometown superhero, the perfect idea came to mind.

Amaro, 23, is a Jersey City resident and a designer/animator at Perception, a Secaucus-based VFX and design studio that often assists on Marvel projects. So when Amaro saw a screener for Ms. Marvel, a series about fellow Jersey City denizen Kamala Khan, and was asked to form a pitch for the end title sequence, Amaro knew exactly what to do.

Amaro and the Perception team began filming around her Liberty Harbor neighborhood, ultimately combining real-life locations with Ms. Marvel-related murals in the closing sequence.

Ms. Marvel

Iman Vellani stars as Kamala Khan in “Ms. Marvel” on Disney+. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios

“We just really wanted to capture the essence of Jersey City accurately and show its beauty, the diversity and the different layers and textures of it,” says Amaro, who grew up in Brazil and attended Savannah College of Art and Design before moving to Jersey. “Just really be authentic to Jersey City and make it mean something to someone who lives here.”

Below, Amaro discussed her experiences with Ms. Marvel, working on a show about Marvel’s first leading Muslim hero, and adding some Garden State flavor to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Ms. Marvel’s finale airs on Disney+ on July 13.

What does your job as a Perception designer/animator entail?
Vivian Amaro: I basically work on FUI animations. I’m also diving into some title sequence pitches and working from start to finish on those projects, which is pretty cool. Besides that, we work with tech and designing for the future.

What’s it been like working on Ms. Marvel?
Ms. Marvel has been like one of my babies. It’s my big project here at Perception since I started. I’ve been involved since the very beginning. I was part of the team that pitched frames for it, and I was very lucky that my pitch was the one chosen for the Ms. Marvel credits. From there, I was pretty involved in the process of shooting in Jersey City, picking the locations, and walking around to find out what is going to be best scene-wise for the sequence.

How did that idea come about and how did you pull it off?
I really like murals and the graffiti look. We had a screening, and I got to watch the first episode early on in order to come up with these ideas. Right after, I had this vision in my mind and I just saw this very beautiful and colorful sequence that displayed these murals of Ms. Marvel on the streets of Jersey City. Jersey City is a big part of her life, and it really shows. So I thought that was a great mix.

There are so many New York City superheroes. As a Jersey City resident, do you take pride in working on a show about a New Jersey character?
Yes, definitely. The contrast between New York and Jersey City was very important to us while shooting. We really wanted to show how important it is to be in this city that is right in front of New York, but is not quite there. All of the other heroes are from New York, so it’s kind of like a similar comparison to [Khan] being a Brown girl versus all the superheroes that are mainly white.

Ms. Marvel

Ms. Marvel looks at the the New York City skyline from the Jersey side of the Hudson River. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios

Why do you think it’s important for Marvel to highlight a Pakistani, Muslim character like Kamala Khan?
Since 2014, when they released the comic about Kamala, it made a big impact on Pakistani girls and Muslim girls living in America. They just felt really represented. With the release of the show, it creates a bigger scope and is reaching other communities and people who weren’t familiar with the comics. So that’s pretty important, to show you can see yourself in a superhero if you’re a Brown girl.

When did you realize you wanted to work on visual effects?
My career path was pretty straightforward. I always knew that I wanted to study in America. The tech and art industry here is a little bit broader and we have these big Hollywood movies and films that we can work on. So since high school, I had this goal of coming to America and studying arts. From there, I discovered my path to visual effects and motion graphics.

What are some other projects you’ve enjoyed working on?
In just a year, I’ve had a chance to work on a lot of these very cool projects. On my first day working here, actually, I was already working on the FUI for the post-credits scene on the Shang-Chi movie. A month later, it was released and my name was already in the rolling credits.

I’ve already had the opportunity to work on a couple other title sequences for Hawkeye and Moon Knight. I’ve also done other tech, FUI and VFX work with Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness and Spider-Man: No Way Home.

It must be pretty cool to be credited in these blockbusters and shows that tons of people watch.
I know, it’s pretty insane. It never gets old.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

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