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yU + co Creates Title Sequence, Effects for Catwoman

yU + co portrays an alternate history centering on a mysterious feline in the main title sequence for the new Warner Bros. release Catwoman. Using cleverly altered hieroglyphs, news clippings, oil paintings and other media, yU + cos design team constructed a rich and beguiling title sequence describing the migration of an Egyptian Mau from the land of the Pharaohs to the modern United States?and the emergence of women with remarkable powers coincident with the appearances of the cat.

French director Pitof selected yU + co for the project because of its skill at creating high concept main titles that are artful and set the stage for the story. ?Pitof had very strong ideas about what the title sequence needed to accomplish, explained yU + co creative director Garson Yu. ?First, it needed to perform an expository function, familiarizing the audience with the story of the Mau and its relationship to Catwoman.

?But just as importantly, the main title puts the audience in the right frame of mind for the story that follows. We want them to think of Catwoman as very mysterious, as a presence that has always been with us, yet somehow she has escaped our notice.

The main title sequence accomplishes this through a gracefully paced montage of historical documents and artifacts. Egyptian hieroglyphs depicting cat worship float across the screen along with ink drawings from Imperial China, 17th century maps and details from paintings of the English Renaissance?all of which include apparently innocuous images of cats.

Things become curiouser as the sequence proceeds as snatches from newspaper headlines flit across the screen with references to ?witches, ?devils and ?cat cults. Further along, women in cat-like regalia begin to appear in the news clippings and archival photography, along with stories of thefts and lives saved. The sequence climaxes with references to an Egyptian Maus arrival in the United States in 1940 in the company of a Russian heiress with vaguely feline features.

?At that point, the audience is ready to dive into the movie; they understand the genesis of the Catwoman, and they sense whats coming next, explained Yu. ?But they are still left with a question?is this creature a force of good, or perhaps something evil?

Art director Yolanda Santosa led the design process, which began with researchers combing through photo archives for a rich assortment of appropriate images. Except for some of the hieroglyphs, none of the imagery involved cats; rather, yU + co artists carefully altered each image. Matte painters added cats to oil paintings, while other artists drew felines into old ink drawings or added alternate copy and photographs to old newspaper stories.

?The best part of this project was inventing the stories. Every altered image has a detailed back story that fits in with the history and migration of the cat, Santosa said. ?The Chinese sequence was especially fun for us. We found images of an empress who wore long, ceremonial fingernails and that became the perfect image for introducing the Catwoman character.

The team worked meticulously to ensure their alterations appeared to be a natural part of the original imagery, adding texture to elements to make them appear to be painted in oil, or desaturating images to look like faded newsprint. Once that was accomplished, editors composed the imagery into a montage set to the delicate strains of composer Klaus Badelts theme music. Finally, artists used color correction, lighting effects and other techniques to give the assembled sequence a unified look and feel.

?We applied a paper texture to the imagery and back lighting, so that the whole sequence has a golden tone and seems to glow from within, Santosa observed.

Along with its artistic and narrative functions, the main title sequence also had to serve as a functional backdrop for the films opening credits. ?We had more than two dozen credits to weave into this title and it had to be done in a way that was complementary to the look of the title and not distract from the story we were telling, explained Santosa.  ?Our solution was to use a simple typeface with the titles dissolving on at regular intervals over images that did not have other typography?such as news articles?that they might conflict with.

yU + co incorporated many of the same images from the main title sequence into a scene in the body of the film. The scene has Patience Prince (Halle Berry) searching the Internet for information about the link between cats and certain women. yU + co designers created the sequence of web sites that she pages through, including a fictional site titled ?The Cat in History, which features some of the more disturbing images from the title.

Credits for yU + co go to Garson Yu, creative director; Jennifer Fong, executive producer; Buzz Hays, producer; Yolanda Santosa, art director; Etsuko Uji, animator; Chris Vincola and Kamal Hatami, 3D artists; Elika Burns, Robert Cribbett and Jon Doyle, Shake compositors; Edwin Baker, conceptual designer; Zachary Scheuren, editor; Danny Mudgett, inferno artist.

yU + co is located at 941 N. Mansfield Ave., Hollywood, CA 90038. For more information, call (323) 606-5050.





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