Inside The Fine Art of TV and Movie Title Design

You helped redesign South Park’s opening titles. Unlike The Simpsons, South Park has updated its titles a few times over the years. What was the starting point for creating something special for a long-running show? It straddles the line between homage to the show’s history and a new, 3-D look.

South Park is a really fun example. I remember starting my career and it might have been my first year at RGLA and I remember a VHS tape came in and it was their original short of the Jesus/Santa spoof they did. Everybody crowded around a monitor and loudly laughing hysterically. We didn’t know who these guys were. We didn’t have South Park yet but it literally was just the funniest thing we’d ever seen. To cut to, I don’t know, 15 years later or 17 years later, and be able to work with these guys now on the iconic show we all know it is, is an incredible honor.

I was working in New York at the time and the only meeting time they had was a half hour around Broadway somewhere because they were putting on Book of Mormon at the time. The only time we could meet in person about it was for me to go to the theater and just really quickly meet with them. It was just an honor to connect with them and just be around their energy. They were clear it was a big anniversary of the show.

When I first saw their Jesus/Santa thing it was the cut paper, the tactileness, and that’s always what they’ve retained. To their credit, it’s such a strong aesthetic and that was what we really wanted to honor even though we were now going into 3-D. It was almost like paper sculptures, but it was very much like ‘how do we translate?’ The way they do the trees in their town are so distinctive. We wanted to just keep that, but how would you do the paper sculpture and how do you not overdo it?

Creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker are notoriously hands on with the production of South Park. I believe Trey Parker has directed or co-writed every single episode of the series. What was it like working with those guys, but also collaborating with the South Park team through this process?

It was a huge collaboration with their animation team. The character animation is all them, all those moments of sending things, getting layers from them, incorporating that, so you know it was a quiet traditional process at first with story boarding. What was this bus journey going to be like? What iconic little things are you pulling from the opening? Storyboarding with them and then actually turning over that and doing an animatic, turning it over there, them doing the animation of the characters and the cell animation of that, bringing it back so we could comp it into our 3-D environment.

further reading: The Complete Guide To Movie References in South Park