The graphic style of the extensive 2.5 minute end credit sequence by title director and animator Josef Lee/Mojo is inspired by the visual language of early Hong Kong Kung Fu comics. In fact, this is one of the first films from Singapore that makes extensive use of motion graphics. Throughout the film, director Boi Kwong used freeze-frame in key scenes. These shots were then post-processed by Lee in a similar visual style.
'The Days' tells the story of two brothers: “In a misguided effort to teach Baby independence, and to make him feel protected, Zi Long brings him into his own gang of delinquents. Unknowingly, his decision has thrown them both into a tumultuous and violent world that will, in different ways, imprison them both,” says the official synopsis. The end credit sequence basically retells the story of the movie. Josef Lee worked close with illustrator Ng Han Boon to establish the visual style.
How did this collaboration with Ng Han Boon come about?
Josef Lee: “To achieve a 2.5 min animated sequence within 2 months, we needed a very competent illustrator. Ng Han Boon is a very versatile illustrator whom I had previously worked with. I was initially hesitant to approach Han Boon as the movie is an independent production and there was not much budget involved. However, upon seeing the movie posters and teaser trailer, he was very intrigued by the film's premise and volunteered to be a part of the project, regardless of the budget. We experimented with various styles and color schemes before we arrived at this final visual look that is bold and raw.”
At what point did you get involved in this project, and what inspired the Kung fu comics aesthetic?
Lee: “I was initially engaged on the job to work on the Opening Titles and some additional motion graphics for the movie. Boi Kwong is a very visual-based director. He approached me with the intention of making his film more visually striking through the use of motion graphics. By then, the movie was already well into months of post production and I had access to the first cut of the movie, along with lots of production photos and materials. We had a few rounds of discussion before arriving at the concept of using comics as the main graphics idea.”
“Besides the great illustrations from Han Boon, the turning point for me actually came from the music. Prior to starting the animation, Boi passed me the song "My Freedom" by local band Blackforest and told me they had decided that that would be the theme song for the movie aswell as the track for the end credits. The song fit perfectly with the concept for the end sequence and it gave me new inspiration for the pacing and feel of the animation.”
Why retell the story in this end credit sequence?
Lee: “The end credit title sequence was something I proposed. It was something I had always wanted to work on. It is a good-to-have for a film and many Hollywood movies have been churning out really interesting end credits over the past few years, like 300 and Lemony Snicket's – A Series of Unfortunate Events. Boi gave me absolute freedom over this. My initial proposal to him was to do an animated sequence that shows the lives of this bunch of 1990's juvenile delinquents - like dancing in disco, fighting in the streets, and playing arcade games - done in an illustration style that is based on early Hong Kong comics, like what the kids of our days grew up reading. Boi was thrilled about the concept, but he wanted to push the idea further so it would be less 'eye-candy' and more relevant to the movie. Boi suggested the inclusion of a little boy within the various scenes of the end credits, showing how a little boy - representing the younger brother in the movie - was embroiled in this world of gangsters... How he observed, how he was influenced by, and eventually got trapped within this world. This was a great idea and my storyboard was reworked to include the little boy as a key element that tied up the various scenes within the end credits.”
Asian cinema is thriving, but it's only every now and then that I come across an interesting title sequence.
Lee: “In Asia, it is not common to see elaborate or well designed title sequences. We are generally a few years behind the Western countries, so I am expecting to see a lot more good title sequences to come out of Asia for the next few years.”
Some parts of this interview were previously published on Culturepush.
Article: Remco Vlaanderen, © Submarine Channel, 23 March 2009.
About Josef Lee
Prior to the inception of MOJO, Lee was a motion graphics/broadcast designer based in Singapore. Since 2002, he has worked on numerous award-winning promos and was one of the key creatives responsible for the rebranding of various channels like Mediacorp Ch5, Ch8, and SingTel MioTV. 'The Days' is the first feature Lee's involved with.