Mill+ directors Tom Basis and Adam Carboni recently joined forces to create the retro new titles for SundanceTV series ‘Hap & Leonard’.
The new series, based on the novels of Joe R. Lansdale, brings a country twist to the classic mystery thrillers, which is reflected in the colourful southern aesthetic with a neon 80’s influence.
The team started the creative process by referencing noir films, VHS tape covers and pulp magazines, which they used to craft the strong retro aesthetic, emphasizing the darkly comedic, swampy and mysterious world of pulp paper and fiction.
Avoiding any character likeness throughout the sequence was a challenge, but as the team embraced the narrative, alluding to specific plot points turned into a fun exploration. From concept art through to production, edit and final grade, The Mill absorbed the twisted love, washed-up, lost loot world of Hap and Leonard, and developed a seductive, twangy, neon-lit animated title sequence.
Director Tom Basis tells us more:
80’s - Texas - Pulp - Noir was something that didn’t exist visually, before this show premiered. Jim and the team did a fantastic job capturing this tone and look in their footage, and we just wanted to do it justice. A phrase we kept repeating was ‘Texas is timeless’, and it’s true - how can you make a period piece in a location that seems to be stuck in the past, let alone add another aesthetic completely alien to that location? We looked at pulp art, VHS covers, 80’s title designs and noir films for inspiration, and sort of combined it all together!
Being storytellers before designers, Adam and myself focused on pencils and storyboards from there to make sure we were hitting all the right themes and plot points we felt were essential to the title sequence. This process was definitely lengthy as we explored over 30 different storyboards, but in the end the only way we realized we can move forward is if we simply began illustrating and animating, the second we did this all of the pieces just fell into place and the rest of the process was a breeze.
One of our biggest challenges, which often causes artists strife, was adapting our influences and injecting the piece with our own personality and aesthetic. Our main inspiration throughout the eight months was artist/photographer Thomas Allen. His work was so relevant to Hap and Leonard, so we used his work to inspire our animation and take our concept into a completely original direction.
The team was inspired by the work of Thomas Allen (above)
We asked Tom what his favourite title sequence is and why?
I’ve always loved Jean Luc Godard’s play on jazz and red and blue titles - the film Birdman adapted this SO WELL last year. So simple yet effective! Also, in the early stages of the pitch process Adam and I explored doing something like a one shot opening sequence, where all the titles are placed practically into the production design like in the film Delicatessen, but the 30 seconds didn’t quite permit for this direction. I think in regards to Hap and Leonard, the Mad Men title sequence was our green light at the end of Daisy’s dock - It was so simple, perfectly branded, and short!
Watch the 'Hap & Leonard' title sequence below: