It is well established that multiple microtubule-based motors contribute to the formation and function of the mitotic spindle, but how the activities of these motors interrelate remains unclear. Here we visualize spindle formation in living Drosophila embryos to show that spindle pole movements are directed by a temporally coordinated balance of forces generated by three mitotic motors, cytoplasmic dynein, KLP61F, and Ncd. Specifically, our findings suggest that dynein acts to move the poles apart throughout mitosis and that this activity is augmented by KLP61F after the fenestration of the nuclear envelope, a process analogous to nuclear envelope breakdown, which occurs at the onset of prometaphase. Conversely, we find that Ncd generates forces that pull the poles together between interphase and metaphase, antagonizing the activity of both dynein and KLP61F and serving as a brake for spindle assembly. During anaphase, however, Ncd appears to have no effect on spindle pole movements, suggesting that its activity is downregulated at this time, allowing dynein and KLP61F to drive spindle elongation during anaphase B.