New beginning dawns for movie end credits

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The scene fades to black, the movie is over and the credits begin to roll. But wait! Don't leave just yet. You might miss some of the great custom-made artwork being cooked up by today's filmmakers.

As several recent movies demonstrate, filmmakers are getting creative with their end credits. They're starting to add a flourish that's akin to an exclamation point at the end of a sentence, giving viewers a reason to stay a bit longer in their seats for a memorable treat.

Zack Snyder's adaptation of cartoonist Frank Miller's "300" used Miller-style drawings, spinning and upending each one into a different credit. Pixar's Brad Bird-directed animated feature "Ratatouille" got all arty with 2-D drawings, while "Superbad" offers a cornucopia of drawing after drawing of penises in a variety of settings. A flag-raising of Iwo Jima by a set of penises? Check. The sinking of Titanic with drowning penises? Sure. Sushi chef penises, Jedi penises? Why the heck not.

Michael Davis' "Shoot 'Em Up," which New Line Cinema releases Sept. 7, also gets fancy with its end credits, which have been described as "James Bond on acid."

"I think it's the equivalent of finishing a show and coming back and doing another number for an encore," Bird says.

Says Davis: "You want to people to walk away with a high from the movie because you want them to go tell their friends to see this. They also show filmmakers really cared about the movie by giving it this sort of going-away present of these cared-for credits."

The end credits for "Ratatouille" came about during the design stage of the movie, when the filmmakers discoveredcame upon drawings done by fresh-from Cal Arts grad Nate Wragg. Wragg then was paired with Teddy Newton, who designed the credits for Bird's "The Incredibles."

One reason Pixar went with the 2-D credits was practicality. Bird came into the project so late in the process that all computer resources were diverted to making the main movie.

"We certainly didn't have any more bandwidth to do 3-D," producer Brad Lewis says. "We were maxed out. So that was probably a factor."

But the filmmakers loved the style. "We have a bunch of 2-D-trained animators at Pixar and they were all 'I'm in!' Lewis says. "One animator came up to me and said, 'Paper cuts. I've got paper cuts again!' They were thrilled."

Davis used title house Picture Mill to come up with a look that was inspired by Maurice Binder's James Bond opening title sequences as well as those of Saul Bass, the man behind the classic Alfred Hitchcock opening credits.

"Shoot 'Em Up's" end titles hark back to scenes from the movie. Credits in two bullet holes pull back to reveal a pair of breasts, referencing the lactating hooker played by Monica Bellucci. In the movie, Clive Owen creates an oil slick, then slides on it shooting bad guys. In the credits, a person streaks through a patch of blood, wiping in it the name of visual effects supervisor Edward Irastorza.

"What we were able to do was have these call-back jokes that remind people of scenes in the movie," Davis says.

The rise of creative end titles has to do with where the filmmakers come from, Davis says.

"They are coming from a visual, animation and design background," says Davis, an animator from the stop-motion house Broadcast Arts, which worked on classic MTV logos. "Hopefully there were will more filmmakers like us."
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