Sarofsky adds retro touch to The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special

The 70’s style titles for The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special, currently showing on Disney+, have a deceptively complex design backstory.

Written and directed by James Gunn, the hilarious Marvel Studios’ Special Presentation follows the Guardians of the Galaxy as they celebrate Christmas and search for a perfect gift for their leader Peter Quill, aka Star-Lord.

As he has done on his recent projects, including Peacemaker, The Suicide Squad and both Guardians of the Galaxy blockbusters, Gunn once again invited the creatives and producers from one-stop cross-media production company Sarofsky to provide highly stylised type design for his main title sequence.

For Sarofsky, the team included executive creative director Erin Sarofsky, creative lead Duarte Elvas, executive producer Steven Anderson, producer Dylan Ptak, and designers Daniel Geiszler and Cat McCarthy.

“James Gunn wanted this TV Special to feel pretty different from the previous two ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ films,” said Elvas. “He wanted it to feel more like, well… a TV Special. Since these were very popular in the 1970s, we were all drawn to that period for inspiration.”

According to Elvas, Gunn was interested in seeing treatments that felt lo-fi and less polished, to resemble the classic holiday specials of that era. First, the team landed on Bookman for its main typeface, primarily for its elaborate alt glyphs, and due to it feeling like something between a friendly sitcom and a holiday card. “The juxtaposition of styles felt very much in line with the overall vibe of the show,” Elvas explained.

From there, Sarofsky’s designers presented several typography treatments featuring different degrees of distortion. Reportedly, some had an optical film look, others leaned more toward analogue video artifacts, and none felt overly digital or polished.

For Sarofsky, these collaborations with Gunn and the special’s executive producers also involved teaming up with the Marvel Studios editorial and finishing department. The vintage effects they applied to the typography also affected the base footage to some extent.

“In this case, we couldn’t simply deliver the typography with an alpha channel,” Elvas explained. With Sarofsky compositing the credits and each underlying shot being worked on by different VFX vendors, all elements had to be delivered individually to Marvel’s finishing department following their very specific pipeline.

“We love the contrast we achieved between the classic vintage holiday typography and the futuristic world of Knowhere,” Elvas concluded. “The juxtaposition of these two completely different worlds was a stroke of genius by James, and it was a delight to contribute to that visual contrast with our graphics.”

Marvel Studios’ The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special stars Chris Pratt, Dave Bautista, Karen Gillan, Pom Klementieff, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Sean Gunn, and Michael Rooker; the special also features Kevin Bacon and the band Old 97’s.

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