Thank You for Smoking

“Thank You for Smoking” boasts a title sequence that correlates directly with the plot and feel of this satirical comedy. This sequence was crafted by the production studio Smith & Lee Design, a firm that earned awards for introducing both “Juno” and “Up in the Air.” This introduction is nothing like those two, though, and not just in the fact that it didn’t win the team any awards. The two minute journey through cigarette packaging uses movement, imagery, typography, and sound to emphasize the same feel throughout. This title sequence is consistently jumpy, energetic, colorful, and continually maintains a satirical aspect, just like the film it precedes.

“Thank You for Smoking” Title Sequence Katie Holmes – Yellow pack coming down from off screen to change color, name, and background.

The movement used in the introduction to “Thank You for Smoking” is composed of many techniques. Page turning, rotation, and quick and slow zooms and pans give the sequence a build up and energy only matched by the attitude of the main character, a smooth-talking lobbyist from a tobacco company. Graphics slide in to complete compositions, or out to dismiss them. Some movement uncovers words, and words are completed by flourishes blooming or dropping in around them. All of the movement feels fast-paced and jerky, even when it is not, partially due to the sound accompaniment. During some parts in the sequence there are graphic lines coming in from off-screen to complete cigarette packaging. Others parts have background colors switching out as if they were a scene back drop, or falling on top of one another as if entering from above-screen. The transitions are fast, but slow down to calm zooms and slow pans once each name is highlighted, so the audience has time to read all the names without having to feel anxious about the next name coming too soon.

“Thank You for Smoking” Title Sequence Kin Dickens & Connie Ray – Plane ‘flying’ onto pack.

The use of imagery accompanies the use of movement well throughout this open. Sometimes during a particularly long name highlight, the graphics on the packs start to move, e.g. a boat or a plane exiting or entering. The imagery remains calm and collected in satirical fashion, we are talking about the substance that kills the most Americans, after all. The introduction makes cigarettes quite appealing, actually. The movement and colors suggest a fun upbeat atmosphere that looks great to be in. This is the plight of most cigarette companies too, and with the vintage packaging being shown in the introduction, you can expect these are from a time where people were not too concerned about their health and cigarette advertisements were everywhere. This is what “Mad Men” was talking about, I assume, and the imagery in this introduction does a great job of bringing the viewer back to a carefree and fun time, again reflecting the light tone of the film, even if recalling an incorrect time frame. Judging by the typography and graphic design, the introduction used cigarette pack design from the 70’s to 90’s and the movie takes place in the early 2000’s (and no one actually smokes a cigarette in it).

“Thank You for Smoking” Title Sequence Robert Duvall – One of the big names in the film, accompanied by big-band music and a flourish coming in from the top to crown his name.

The use of sound is fairly straightforward, but contributes a lot to the sequence. The song “Smoke! Smoke! Smoke! (That Cigarette)” by Tex Williams co-occurs with the movement of the title sequence during its entirety. The song starts on a low beat but gets going fairly quickly, eventually featuring big-band horns and a quick tempo. The words of the song are more spoken than sung and the lyrics closely related to the plot of the movie, contributing to the overall irony of the film. The song tells a story for the graphics and movement to follow along with, and is arguably the leader of the whole title sequence. The slow pans and zooms mentioned earlier happen only when the song is in its audial resting points, and never occur during the loudest parts. Smith & Lee Design saves those loud parts to bookend the title of the movie “Thank You for Smoking,” the start of the actual film, and the big actors featured in the film like JK Simmons, Adam Brody, Katie Holmes, and Robert Duvall. Though the movement doesn’t match exactly, the song by Tex Williams serves as a focus to create pace, timing, and emphasis throughout the introduction.

“Thank You for Smoking” Title Sequence – The film name’s first introduction.

Overall the title sequence of this Jason Reitman directed movie seems successful as an accurate predecessor and compliment to the full film. It mimics the editing and flow of “Thank You for Smoking” well, emphasizing at certain points just like the movie does for comic relief. It also gets the audience hyped to meet “Nick Naylor” the main character of the movie who is all about spin control and has “a bachelor’s in kicking ass and taking names.” He likes being truly despised and inherently so does the looming baddie, Big Tobacco, which the title sequence does a great job of introducing and mirroring. Many elements contribute to the success of the film (and the film-before-the-film) outside of the aforementioned, but I guess you’ll have to watch the movie to see the delightful irony I’m talking about.