Ben Stiller / DreamWorks SKG
LOGO | MAIN ON END | MAIN TITLE | TYPOGRAPHY AND DESIGN FOR MOTION
Tropic Thunder, directed by Ben Stiller, is a satirical look at the art of Hollywood filmmaking. The story follows a group of high profile, prima donna actors who journey to Southeast Asia to film the most expensive war movie ever made. With the production in shambles, the director follows the advice of a Vietnam War veteran and drops the cast in the middle of the jungle, to shoot the rest of the film guerilla style. When things quickly fall apart, the actors realize they are no longer filming a movie, and are forced to use to their superior acting skills to survive the Golden Triangle, an area run by the heroin-manufacturing gang Flaming Dragon.
Produced by Red Hour Films, Ben Stiller and co reunited with Prologue for Tropic Thunder, for which we delivered the main title, the Access Hollywood sequence, the Academy Awards sequence, and the main on end title sequence. Additionally, we created and animated the Red Hour logo rebrand.
Nick Nolte plays on set advisor Four Leaf Tayback, a Vietnam War veteran who was a part of the actual mission the cast/crew have set out to recreate. Nolte narrates the parodied dialogue of the main title sequence, introducing the backstory of the original operation. Prologue typography animates on screen with the coinciding narration, in a font that mirrors that of the military during the Vietnam era. Its as if the audience is being briefed for a mission, as we fade in to choppers soaring over the canopy of the jungle.
The Access Hollywood sequence is an intricate synergy of live action, lower 3rd graphics, chroma keys and BTS production videos and stills. Transitioning from the last shot of the prologue, where a 4 million dollar set piece is wasted, the Access Hollywood sequence dexterously gets the audience up to speed on the status of the production, which is in complete disarray, and the players surrounding it. Maria Menounos of Access Hollywood hosts the sequence, where we are introduced to Les Grossman (Tom Cruise), the enigmatic financier of the project. To communicate Les’ mega mogul status, we created Forbes and Variety magazine covers, one of which features Les being blessed by the Pope. Keyed into the oval fixture behind Maria, videos from the on-location set roll and we are familiarized with Damian Cockburn (Steve Coogan), the 1st time director who is under fire for his lack of execution, the nearly uninsurable Jeff Portnoy (Jack Black), and the sexually explicit rapper Alpa Chino (Brandon T. Jackson), all of which we created the lower 3rd Access Hollywood graphics for. Next up is Kirk Lazarus (Robert Downey Jr.), the Australian actor who endured a skin pigmentation procedure to play the African American Sergeant of the platoon. Finally, we meet Tugg Speedman (Ben Stiller), a fading action star in need of a comeback picture. We keyed the Tyra Banks interview into Tugg’s flat screens at his house, designed the poster for the fake movie Chitlin’ & The Dude, and the main title of Simple Jack, a movie that nearly ruined Tugg’s career. The sequence ends with the Prologue designed Tropic Thunder emblem, encircled by flames that embody where the production may be headed.
Prologue was responsible for all of the Academy Awards graphics at the end of the film, and the main on end sequence. Prologue was qualified for the job, having designed the actual Academy Awards graphics on more than 10 of the prestigious broadcasts’. We designed the Best Actor typography on the screen behind the podium, where Tugg receives the highly coveted Oscar. The main on end features Les Grossman dancing along to Ludacris’ party anthem “Get Back”. We cut the sequence together, piecing Les’ number with explosive footage from the film. The credits begin to animate on, harmonized with the music and Les’ fluid movements. Like the characters in the film, the type is subject to Les’ outspoken and sometimes abusive behavior, designed as part of the animation for the sequence. As the edit progresses, the cast and crew are presented from scenes in the movie that become freeze frames and flow-motion graphic art. We treated each frame of the respective actor with designs that correspond with the action on screen, and the characters’ temperament in the film. A considerable amount of work went into this process, first, choosing the scenes from the film, and then, the design phase for each of the 21 graphic art freeze frames, including the main title.
Red Hour Films, run by Ben Stiller and producer Stuart Cornfeld, tasked Prologue with updating the Red Hour brand for the release of Tropic Thunder. The name Red Hour refers to the period of an Alien riot in the Star Trek episode “The Return of the Archons”, released in 1967. A jester has been the prominent figure in the Red Hour logo since its inception in 1999. For the 2008 rebrand, we drew inspiration from the ever-present joker cards that come in a standard 52-card deck. We animated the sequence in a flipbook style, as if a croupier was flipping through a deck occupied only by joker cards. In the animation, the silhouetted jester completes a flip while simultaneously catching its marotte, as the Red Hour type animates on. Stiller and Prologue would join forces yet again on The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013) and Zoolander 2 (2016).