Case Study: ‘THOR The Dark World’ End Title Designs

MARVEL’s been placing the main-title sequence at the end of their films nowadays, not only to entertain the audience while the credits roll, but in some cases, to reveal additional story points or teasers for future films. The Iron Man franchise had killer end title sequences and have set the bar pretty high for future releases in the MARVEL universe.

Designing (or merely pitching on) an end title sequence has always been a goal of mine (and I’m sure many designers around the world). It’s an opportunity to leave a mark on a film forever, not to mention aiding in the overall experience for viewers the world-over.

And recently I got the opportunity to pitch on a MARVEL film’s end titles! It came to me through Blur, whom I’ve been freelancing with for over four years now. They’ve put me on a few massive jobs in the past, but pitching on the next MARVEL film’s end titles was definitely the biggest. Not to mention it was for THOR: The Dark World, which, judging from the previews, looked badass. And I’m a comic geek. So, you can imagine the excitement.

Jennifer Miller is the Creative Director of the commercial side of Blur, and she tasked me with coming up with the ‘graphic’ approach to round out their pitch to MARVEL.

Wellp, I did around 5 or so images for the first pitch round. My process for these roughs was simple: find public images of THOR online, freeze frame the trailer even, blow them up to 4K in Photoshop, and goto town. Go right to town. I didn’t need to make them 4k for the pitch but I supposed I was hoping that if the direction got chosen, I wouldn’t have to repaint them larger to accommodate the big screen’s needs. Here are a couple of those preliminary ones.

I used a mixture of scanned-in ink brush strokes that I turned into PSD brushes and also some random brushes I had acquired over the years.

The concept for this direction was that THOR was the God of Storms and these paintings were to feel like a chaotic flurry of energetic brushwork that reflected that. This film was decidedly darker than the original, as well, and this concept could touch upon that, with its sterile grey palette and deep darks. The pop of THOR’s red cape would be our transitional element, maybe bringing us from scene to scene. Not to mention the red contrast would just look COOL.

And MARVEL liked it. So much so that I painted an additional 10 frames to help mor fully illustrate our thought process. After a few more rounds of revisions, MARVEL chose this impressionistic, painterly, black and white and red direction.

I was, and still am, ecstatic and humbled.

But now to the fun part! I needed to paint 46 images to accomodate the extensive list of actors and filmmakers. 46 in 4 weeks. There wasn’t a second to waste.

We needed stills to paint, however, so first thing’s first! We headed to MARVEL HQ and got to watch the film in its unfinished entirety so that we could hand-select frames from the film.

It’s worthy to note that the new Photoshop CS6 made my life a lot easier, as I was blowing up my brush sizes to the max 5000px, previously impossible on CS5, which stopped at a paltry 2500px. That difference alone made it possible for me to cover the 4K+ canvas size with single large, energetic brush strokes which heightened the sense of spontaneity and looseness.

In the majority of these paintings I only had a few strokes per layer so that the animators could reveal them in any order they wanted. Seperating all of these brush strokes would easily boost my layer count into the 45-80 range, but it was integral for production.

I spent a month painting and the animators worked for six weeks, I believe. In most cases I’d finish a painting and minutes later an animator would begin their work. We were done before we knew it!

MARVEL couldn’t be happier with the final, at one point telling us it was the best end title sequence they’ve had so far! (Take that, Iron Man! ☺)The talented and passionate animators on our team were able to produce an amazing end sequence to a great film, and in stereoscopic, no less! Phil Hoeschen, Deva George, Allan Donhauser and Nick Lyons did an amazingly fluid job with the animation of the hellish mess of PSD files I delivered them. Their hard work brought the piece to life! Jenn Miller remained a constant, critical eye overseeing the work to make sure each painting reached the bar set by the one prior.

Thank you, Blur and MARVEL.

Here are some of the images that made the final cut in the film.

All Thor: The Dark World images are property of MARVEL, Ent and Disney.

Quick Note: If you watch THOR: The Dark World on DVD, the menus look similar to these. However, we didn’t produce them. They were done by a third party that emulated our work.

And in honor of THOR: The Dark World’s success, we here at CLAUS decided to make an homage to the God of Thunder/Lightning and to the God of Baggy Pants. Written, shot, edited, directed and acted in, this was a passion project that Blur showed at their wrap party and that we here at CLAUS are pretty proud of.

We give you ‘HAMMER TIME’ by MC THOR.