Design and digital production company Thornberg & Forester (T&F) has created an opening title sequence titled “FRANCO” for The Comedy Central Roast of James Franco. The Roast had its broadcast premiere Sept. 2 and it will be rebroadcast on the network over the weeks ahead, including Sept. 5, 7 and 8. Along with conceiving and creating the :70 main titles in its NYC studio, T&F’s L.A. team delivered a comprehensive show package, consisting of transitions, logo loops, talent cards and navigation graphics for the program.
Working directly with Comedy Central VP of design Chris Scarlata and Tenth Planet producer, Rick Austin, T&F principals Scott Matz and Justin Meredith were both heavily involved in the project, along with senior art director and designer Kyle Miller and lead animator Ken Krueger. “Comedy Central was keen on the idea of creating a graphic open that felt similar to the main title sequence of a film,” Meredith said. “Based on the creative direction from the Comedy Central show execs, it needed to be upscale and embrace the notion of being a contemporized version of the Rat Pack, infused with sophistication and wit.”
“We were looking for a concept that had the irreverent energy of the roast but also took it in a cleaner, classier direction,” Austin said. “We didn’t just want to mock some retro ‘60s look, we wanted it to be modern. And T&F gave us this idea that in a way roasted Franco and announced our vibe at the same time.”
“Needless to say, everyone at Comedy Central is ecstatic and loves how the open turned out,” Scarlata said. “From the initial storyboards, I knew that this direction had tremendous potential. The team at T&F went above and beyond and delivered the perfect open and packaging for the event. Concept, design, writing, editing, animation, finishing, project management – on every front, it was everything we’d hoped it would be.”
“One of the best aspects of this project from beginning to end was the freedom to find the story as we built out our storyboards,” Miller said. “Our style frames left a lot of open spaces which had to be filled, so we wrote out a script expanding our original kernel of Franco’s multi-level involvement in the making of this film.”
“As our name imbues, we have a lot of fun with what we do,” Matz said. “The biggest challenges were really based on comedic timing and flow. Momentum, meaning and desired effect can be easily lost if the slightest thing is off.”
Matz, Meredith and Miller provided more details on the project’s workflow, which began with a board-o-matic cut to multiple soundtracks. “It became clear that Hoodie Allen’s ‘James Franco’ track was the strongest for our film,” Meredith said. “Acquiring this track was a huge score in the success of this piece and a testament to Rick Austin’s passion to make things work.”
Once the song was chosen and scene lengths determined, Miller and Krueger worked closely with Matz to choreograph the perfect story arc and to stitch each scene together. Led by Miller in T&F’s NYC studio, an animation team including Keith Endow and Dominika Nicman used the full Adobe Creative Suite, including Illustrator, Photoshop and After Effects to deliver the title sequence on time.
“Technically speaking, each scene was animated as a united RGB pass that was run through a master After Effects stack to automatically generate the appropriate colors from our chosen palette,” Matz said. “Filmic textures and an animated defocus treatment was applied the same way. Our ultimate goal was to mindfully and humorously celebrate the many facets of James Franco by showing them through an artfully classic and elegant lens.”
“Some of the references to James are intentionally subtle, such as the scene from The Rise of The Planet of the Apes,” he continued. “We think that just the right amount of humor and material is highlighted and shared. We also love that the sequence concludes with his latest film, This Is the End. The crash-zoom into James’ ‘demon eye’ to reveal the long list of James Franco credits wraps it up perfectly to kick off the show.”
For Comedy Central, credits include executives in charge of production Kent Alterman and Jonas Larson. T&F’s credits also include executive producer Elizabeth Kiehner and head of production Javier Gonzalez.