Written and directed by James Gunn and recently released on Disney+, the Marvel Studios’ Special Presentation The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special follows the Guardians of the Galaxy as they celebrate Christmas and search for a perfect gift for their leader Peter Quill, aka Star-Lord. Starring 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.
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 type design for his captivating main title sequence.
Beginning in the distant colony of Knowhere, Quill and his fellow Guardians encounter Bzermikitokolok, the front man for the local band. Having written a song about Earth’s mysterious Christmas tradition, the band asks to perform it for Quill to get his feedback. Entitled “I Don't Know What Christmas Is (But Christmastime Is Here),” the ditty plays out hilariously, as highly stylized type appears, introducing the main credits and the title.
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,” Elvas began. “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.”
By Elvas’ account, 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 analog 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. Here’s why: 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 continued. 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.”
The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special is now streaming on Disney+.