Quirky Typographic Film Titles: Part Trois

Juno (2007) photo montage: Art of the Title

It is yet another hot day in Atlanta and I am craving the dark and cool of a movie, but meetings, classes and work awaits. Let’s take a quick inspiration break with some quirky typographic film titles. This is the third in a series of posts showcasing some of my favorite type-centric title sequences.

The first two titles, Juno (2007) and Thank You for Smoking (2005), share a design team. Gareth Smith and Jenny Lee of Smith & Lee, a husband and wife team, are responsible for the terrific typography and design of both sequences.

Noah Taylor of Art of the Title talked to Smith about the process of creating these whimsical titles and explained the multilayered process this way:

Lee created all of the illustrations based on location photographs captured in Vancouver. Using a limited color palette (blue/green/brown) and a graphic illustration style captured the right look for the sequence. Each frame of Ellen Page was printed via inkjet in black and white on heavy paper, and a ballpoint pen was used to draw a black outline of the actress. Then the frame was xeroxed twice to get a rougher look, colored in with colored pencils and then cut out with scissors. Once the illustrations were scanned, the sequence was assembled in After Effects.

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Smith & Lee design process for Juno from Art of the Title

I don’t know if students still do this these days, but Jenny and I used to doodle like mad in our notebooks throughout our school years. It helped the time go by until the bell rang for dismissal. The text Jenny drew for the sequence is her version of that text from her high school notebooks. To create the animated look for the title cards, Jenny traced each title four times to produce a typographic loop, said Smith.

The duo has produced a typeface called Wiggletype, a hand-drawn, animated typeface for designers and animators. It is available for purchase: http://www.wiggletype.com/

The titles for Thank You For Smoking , created by the same team, make sublime use of vintage typography and cigarette packaging iconography.

Thank You for Smoking (2005) photo montage: Art of the Title

The title sequence for Napoleon Dynamite takes me back to high school and make me feel uncomfortable and embarrassed at the same time. This is pretty much how I felt all the way through high school. Everything from the off color carpeted backgrounds to the type drawn with condiments, on library cards, high school ID, and the DYMO letter strips reinforces the awkward feel of the sequence. Jared Hess, who created this title sequence told writer Alexander Ulloa of Art of the Title:

We filmed it in my cinematographer’s basement. Aaron Ruell, the guy that plays Kip, is an amazing photographer and one of my closest friends so I spoke with him about the design. I really wanted to do a cool title sequence and after talking with him about a couple of ideas he just kind of ran with it and came up with the food and plates and tiles etc., and I knew a guy in my neighborhood who owned a carpet shop and we went and got all the backgrounds there. It was really low budge’ man. It was shot just with a 35mm camera and a Kino Flo in the basement.


Napoleon Dynamite (2004) photo montage: Art of the Title

I realize that three of the four quirky title sequences I am featuring in this post deal with teenagers discovering their own or newly forming identities. Perhaps that narrative shift is what accounts for the creativity and offbeat humor of these sequences.

This last example fits in with quirky/discovering identity feel of this series. Almost Famous (2000) is a sweet semi-autobiographical film based on director Cameron Crowe’s own experience of following bands on the road and writing for big rock publications like Rolling Stone and Creem. The movie is set in 1973 and tells the story of William Miller’s time on the road with the up-and-coming band Stillwater on his first assignment with Rolling Stone (the editors think he is an adult). Along the way he meets the roadies, the band, groupies and others as he grows from his sheltered childhood towards adulthood.

The use of type in these titles feels particularly authentic from the printing on the legal pad (where William writes his stories) to the drawer-full of memorabilia: a pen from The Plaza, notes, ticket stubs and backstage passes for Bowie and The Who. These objects set the scene for this rock and roll coming of age story.

Almost Famous (2000) photo montage: Art of the Title


I hope you enjoyed the typographic inspiration in the last three posts. Here are the links to the film titles shown here:





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