Case Study: DEADPOOL End Title Sequence

Wow. It’s been a year since I’ve written on you, sweet sweet Medium. But I swear that the reason I come to you today is a valid and worthy cause for return! I’ve come to lay out how it came to be that we drew the end titles for the highest grossing R-rated film of all time, a little indie film that could, DEADPOOL.

About 5 months ago, somewhere in the late October, early November of 2015 range, I received a call from one Jenn Miller, head of all things design at Blur Studio in Culver City, California. We’d done a project together a few years back, the end titles for THOR: The Dark World, and I love hearing from them, because it usually means they’ve got something cool going on and might want me to be a part. And this time was no exception. Her husband, the founder of Blur and the director of DEADPOOL, Tim Miller, had just wrapped filming and it was time for an end title sequence.

They had come up with the creative, a direction involving stick figures and ‘tagging’, and she asked me to come up with a few looks for what that could resemble. They wanted the titles to be funny, of course, in order to play well with the film, which, if you’ve seen it, is absolutely out-of-control. Hilarious stuff that’s not been seen in a comic book movie yet.

I’d actually seen a cut of the movie in August or so, at a ‘Friends & Family’ screening at the FOX lot in Hollywood, so I was familiar with the plot, which I was hoping would aid me in my frame-making.

So, after we hung up, I got to making some stick-figures of DEADPOOL. I realized I’d be pitching against a couple other designers, which is nothing unusual these days, as the good work is sought after, and studios swarm quick. Below are my first designs for the sequence:

Early Concept for ‘DEADPOOL’ End Title Sequence

We’ve got the stick-figure thing going on, as well as the tagging thing. I even went so far as to map the entire sequence out:

Storyboards for stick-figure Deadpool’s journey through the end titles.

Deadpool would chop and shoot his way through hordes of baddies, all the while the ‘tagging’ would pop up on names and everyone would smile and cheer and hopefully not leave early.

Alright, so we’ve got that concept done and down. But, I’m always a big proponent of giving the client more than they asked for, so I put my own spin on their briefing and sent along these frames, as well. (At the beginning of the film, Deadpool crudely draws himself chopping off a baddie’s head. I referenced that drawing when drawing my dude, but then I made him skinnier and more in the ‘stick-figure’ vein in order to stick to Blur’s direction a bit more.)

Early early concept designs/gags for DEADPOOL end titles

After I sent over the two styles I didn’t hear from them for a day or two. At that point, I started thinking that I botched it and so I sent along more frames in the second style because I kept thinking up more jokes.

Additional first-pass gags/designs

At this point, I think Jenn called me up and told me that they’d been talking on their end and decided that the second direction was the chosen one. I rejoiced. They rejoiced. We all re — -you get the point.

Now it was time to actually make this thing happen! And first thing was first, we needed to cut out all the back and forth between colors and shifting from black backgrounds to gray to white to red. That all needed to stop. And another thing! Deadpool shouldn’t be ‘tagging’ the type and names AND be talking to the camera. It was all too much. Nobody knew where to look, what to laugh at. Remember that each name only stays on screen for 3 seconds (except groups of names, those are 4–5) and then we move on to the next setup. ALSO ALSO: The sequence needed to string together through the use of transitions, pans, pull-outs, what-have-you’s.

I took that info and then delivered these ones next.

Everything is blocked in. We’re honing, honing, honing, at this point. I think Jenn showed this to a few folks at the studio, one being my good friend Jeff Fowler, and he had some fantastic suggestions. At this point, we’re looking for feedback to see what’s working. This is different from every other title sequence I’ve designed in that this is supposed to be FUNNY. Designers don’t do funny often. Designers do thoughtful, conceptual, deep, poignant. Designers and funny don’t mix a lot. Luckily, I’m not a designer, but sometimes I play one online.

This was a dream gig, clearly. But as in all dreams, I got pulled out of it and slapped around a few times by reality. The above frames were STILL too all-over-the-place. Type was shifting spots while Deadpool walked in, popped in, spewed silliness, tagged names. Looking back, I see that it was a lot to take in. But in the moment, I just loved coming up with dirty shit to say. Sue me.

Jenn and team thought it best that Deadpool stays on the red all the time, and I agreed. Cleaner, simpler. Also, we needed to shrink Deadpool and keep him secondary to the type, which all needed to stay in the middle of the frame. On top of that, we needed to see some of the ‘tagging’ but only in small doses. So, with those notes, I went back to the drawing board, and here’s the result:

After these, we all knew we were soooo close with it! From here, they tested some more on their end, and the final revisions were sent over.

No more tagging. Don’t make Deadpool mean. Ixnay any violent gags.

All very valid points. Why see Deadpool shoot more? We just saw him kill the hell outta a slew of folks. Let’s move on.

One thing to note at this point: the animation. Blur tapped freelancer Deva George to handle the animation single-handedly. They love his timing, he’s a funny guy, he could knock this out of the park. And it’s an animator’s dream job! All character stuff. Timing. Set-ups. After seeing an initial test of Deadpool riding the Unicorn, I had no doubt that Deva was going to make this thing fantastic.

OK, back to it then. After receiving those final notes, I delivered the last few frames and voila! My work was done! The final sequence can be seen at the end of the film right now and forever and ever from here on out. It was truly a team effort and I love my times collaborating with Jenn and Tim and the whole team at Blur, in general. They deserve all the praise and attention they’re receiving right now and I’m so damn happy for them. Hard work for years has paid off big time!

The film, as of this typing, is the highest grossing rated R film in the history of the cinema. And I, for one, think it’s a mark that’ll hold for awhile.

At least until DEADPOOL 2, that is.

And yes, if you’ve seen the movie, there’s a gag at the end of the sequence where Deadpool rubs the unicorn’s horn and a rainbow shoots out. Here’s the frame of that masterpiece now:

Wellp…yeaaahhh.

I’m proud of this one. We had some great stuff that got cut, but this one, this one I’m proud of.

I think.

I’m not really sure, to tell you the truth.

Anywho, we’ll post the whole sequence once it gets approved to do so. Thanks for reading, y’all!

Justin

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CLAUS

http://www.clausstudios.com/