To kick off The Night Before – a hilarious holiday comedy about a trio of aging man-children (Seth Rogen, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Anthony Mackie) seeking the true meaning of Christmas — we went with a classic trope: the storybook. This simple but effective device, used in countless films over the decades, was the ideal way to set up this surprisingly earnest Christmas comedy, but it was also one of many concepts considered. And that’s where the story gets interesting.
Channelling the work of beloved stop-motion studio Rankin/Bass, we originally envisioned an animated intro in the style of Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer – infused with all the requisite naughty behaviour and drug paraphernalia that one might expect from a Rogen/Goldberg joint. A pitch-perfect proof of concept was created, the beer and bongs at odds with the cornball Christmas theme.
Even though the director loved the stop-motion test and the concept, the finished film was better suited by the storybook concept that we did for the opening and closing. The oversized old-time Christmas book was the strongest way to ground the story in an “age-old traditional” telling motif. The discussions we had with the director always surrounded his desire to have the classic and quiet storybook come to a close with the end of the film’s story, then to leap into the end titles with a raucous sequence that was still inherently “Christmas”, but would be filled with visually loud imagery and send the audience out in a super-fun way. The ugly sweaters approach was born.
When you lay down Pete Rock and C.L. Smooth under anything, you basically win. But never one to rest on our Christmas music laurels, we needed to graphically one up ourselves. Where the director wanted a traditional open and close, and a rauckous ending, we didnt want to waste all this great development work that got us to this point. Combining our appreciation for the disdain the world collectively feels for unwanted christmas sweaters, graphically speaking we thought it a great jumping off point for the look and feel.
Add really bright and often unexpected color combinations, hints at our defunct stop motion characters, and an underyling 8-bit vibe to give it a little more of a current feel and we had the basic gyst of our idea. In 2d animation, our team brought to life a series of carefully designed title cards with a lo-fi animated approach distantly suggestive of stop motion. Magical, even festive we might say, but added by the music and it became a christmas party!
Creative Lead: Anthony Liu
Head of Features & Broadcast: Dan Masciarelli
Designers: Nicole Choi, James Ahn, Anthony Maiuri, Kevin Glick, PJ Richardson
2D Animation & Compositing: Ramzi Hogan, Samantha Liu, David Park
3D Animation: Yang Liu, Michael Cahill
Music: Marco Beltrami, Miles Hankins
Song: “The Creator” by Pete Rock and C.L.
Art of the Title interview.