Wild Brain Director Julia Tortolani

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Q&A AUGUST 24 , 2001
Rat Race's Wild Titles

10 questions with Wild Brain's Julia Tortolani and Eric Schweickert

by David Nagel
Executive Producer
[email protected]

Your task is to create an opening title sequence for the latest Jerry Zucker comedy, Rat Race. The film features, among other things, a massive ensemble cast of name-brand actors, and you need to keep the audience entertained as all of their credits parade across the screen for a whopping three minutes and 15 seconds. That's not a title sequence; it's a short film. Oh, you're also on a tight deadline with a limited budget.

So what do you do?

Well, if you work for San Francisco-based Wild Brain Inc.—the studio that actually created the opening sequence for Rat Race—you get yourself some talented animators, a bunch of Macintosh G4s and a few copies of Photoshop and After Effects and get cracking!

What Wild Brain Director Julia Tortolani came up with for the film, which opened last week, was a photo-collage piece featuring digitized versions of the film's cast and a choppy animation style to move the viewer through the credits and into the movie's opening live action scene seamlessly.

The animated title sequence in Rat Race transitions
to the live action opening scene.

Wild Brain creates content across a broad range of media, from film and television to commercials and interactive platforms. Founded in 1994, Wild Brain’s client list includes Universal, Twentieth Century Fox, DreamWorks, Warner Bros., Oxygen Media, LucasArts, Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network. Wild Brain's animated commercial credits include work for Hershey’s, Sega, Nabisco, Ford, KFC, AT&T, Sony, Microsoft, Nike, Levi Strauss and Coca-Cola.

The studio uses a wide range of technologies for its projects, spanning a number of platforms, from Macintosh to SGI Irix. For this project though, it was Mac all the way. The photo-collage technique was done entirely in Adobe After Effects and Photoshop.

I had a chance to interview Director Julia Tortolani and Senior Technical Director Eric Schweickert about the company's most recent work for Rat Race, the technology used and, of course, the role of the Mac in the process.

Creative Mac How did you get involved with the Rat Race project?

Julia Tortolani Most commercial work I do comes in through my rep, Patricia Claire in New York, but this job was different. This one came in through word of mouth. Jerry Zucker, the director of Rat Race, was looking for something original, a look no one had seen before. It was Steve Perani of Global Doghouse in L.A. who really steered Jerry to us. [Global Doghouse is an ad agency in Los Angeles that does TV commercials for movies.] Steve was familiar with my work through his friendship with Carl Willat, a director and colleague of mine at Wild Brain Studios. Originally the job was headed towards another company, but after Jerry Zucker saw the photo-collage work I do, he seemed determined to have me do the job. Which was incredibly flattering. We actually pitched several approaches ranging from cel to CGI. One concept had the celebrity character faces mapped into little drawn rat bodies. In the end Jerry wanted nothing but photo collage, so I made these photo-collage caricatures, and then in Adobe Photoshop we constructed them into fully functional digital puppets which hinge at their joints and are complemented by additional replacement photography for special expressions.

CM Wild Brain has worked a lot in spots, but how did you wind up doing the title sequence for this movie?

Tortolani I had done some animated title sequences for TV shows and short films, but this is my first feature film job. I hope to do more feature film titles; it's very rewarding to see your work on the big screen. Film resolution allows for a lot more detail and a lot more information to come through. The characters in this piece are small, but at film resolution you can see every blink and expression. TV resolution doesn't afford such attention to detail. Film creates a larger experience.

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Dave Nagel is the producer of Creative Mac and Digital Media Designer; host of several World Wide User Groups, including Synthetik Studio Artist, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe InDesign, Adobe LiveMotion, Creative Mac and Digital Media Designer; and executive producer of the Digital Media Net family of publications.

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