Top film title design

There’s no category for title design in the Oscars, but if there were, which movies would make the shortlist? Yolanda Zappaterra picks out some potential nominees before this Sunday’s glitz-fest

There’s no category for title design in the Oscars, but if there were, which movies would  make the shortlist? Yolanda Zappaterra picks out some potential nominees before this Sunday’s glitz-fest

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Titles by Julian Schnabel (US)

THE HEART-RENDING memoirs of Jean-Dominique Bauby, a former Elle editor struck down by a stroke which means he can only communicate by blinking one eye, has already won director Julian Schnabel many awards, but none for his elegiac titles. Schnabel, also a painter, combined turn-of-the-century X-rays – discovered in a property next door to the hospital in which the film was shot, and where Bauby died – with hand-printed inky blue typography to create a timeless feel to the sequence, which not only acts as a metaphor for Bauby’s condition, but also creates a sense of wonder tinged with loss. This sets the perfect mood for our entry into Bauby’s world.

Love in the Time of Cholera
Titles by VooDooDog (UK)

For the lush titles that introduce Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s 19th-century love story, VooDooDog referenced artists Diego Rivera and Frida Khalo to create a sequence that is rich and decorative, but with an underlying sense of suffocation and foreboding. The result echoes the film’s narrative without looking like it, while creating a relationship that sets up the atmosphere of South America through the style of the paintings and the use of colours specific to the continent. For example, all the flowers were based on real foliage from Colombia. On the small screen soon: VooDooDog’s animated pilot for Hat Trick.

Titles by Gareth Smith at Shadowplay Studio (US)
A title sequence will often tell the story of a film in miniature, but Shadowplay’s arresting and innovative opener for Juno – illustrated by Jenny Lee – focuses entirely on the main character of the film, giving us a rare insight into its world. The hand-drawn sequence draws its influences from a broad range, spanning several decades: from the drawings crammed into the creators’ high school notebooks, to ‘street artwork and photocopied concert flyers at our local record stores, and 1970s punk rock posters, which had an unpolished, lo-fi look to them that we loved’, enthuses Shadowplay cofounder Gareth Smith.
Another Shadowplay hit: Thank You for Smoking

Titles by Yu & Co (US)

On the surface, Yu & Co’s title portfolio is a disparate collection, yet the studio’s work on films like Enchanted, Bee Movie, The Fog, 300, The Italian Job, The Terminal and Lust, Caution shares a number of creative aspects. Key among these is an approach to typography as an integral part of the sequence. ‘Ten years ago I started to integrate on-screen typography with the action within a scene, seeing typography as actors and characters, with their own personality and movement to express emotions,’ says founder Garson Yu. Looking at the different titles on the company’s website, it’s clear that his faith in type’s versatility is well-founded. As Yu says, ‘In order to think outside the box, I see titles interacting with the action within a scene. It only requires a title designer to have a bit more imagination to integrate the titles with the context.’

Titles by Kompost (US)
Kompost’s titles for this quirky film about high school desires take the form of an animation based on triangles. Oliver Conrad, one half of Kompost, explains, ‘As the title of the movie is Trekant – which means triangle and threesome in Swedish – we decided to use triangles as a metaphor for the threesomes.’ The simple, illustrative style suited the mood of the movie, with the animations representing what was going on in the minds of the live-action counterparts, and the inked, sketchy text on an underlying ruled notebook heightening a sense of connection between titles and film. ‘It kind of gives you the impression the animated characters were imagined by the various students and then brought to life in their notebooks,’ says Conrad.

Mr Magorium’s Wonder Emporium
Titles by Danny DelPurgatorio at ReelFX Entertainment (US)
The magical tale of a toy shop, which begins to change when its 243- year-old proprietor bequeaths it to a new owner, mixes imagery and text to startlingly imaginative effect – type is integral to the sequence. ‘The use of a large variety of fonts, weights and sizes allowed us to sprinkle the shop’s sense of magic throughout our story,’ says creative director DelPurgatorio. ‘The fonts act as characters and it was important that we treated them as such. The toughest challenge that we faced was making sure that everyone’s name and credit were consistent in terms of screen time, readability and meeting all Writers Guild of America standards.’
Coming to a screen near you: American Fork, a new comedy from the producer of Napoleon Dynamite, with titles by ReelFX

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