Animating Art: From Cinerama Mural to Symphonic Bumper Reel

The HOW Promotion & Marketing Design Awards deadline has been extended to 11:59 pm EST on Monday, April 24!

Seattle’s Cinerama bears the tagline “Seattle’s Most Epic Movie Theater”—and for good reason. When it first opened to the public in the early 1950s, people hadn’t seen anything like it, says Don Clark, one-half of the duo that is art and design studio Invisible Creature.

The theater’s trademarked three-projector technology immersed filmgoers in the experience in an entirely new way—and it was this rich history that made the creatives at both Invisible Creature and Belief Agency especially excited to work with Vulcan to create both a mural and animated bumper reel for Cinerama.

“When it was announced that Cinerama was about to undergo an extensive multi-million dollar renovation, our creative director at Vulcan (Josh Lackey) came up with the idea to install a massive permanent mural across it’s giant brutalist exterior walls,” Clark says. “He called us to see if we’d be interested in working on the project and we said yes immediately. Cinerama was our go-to theater in Seattle over the first 10+ years we had lived in the city, so there was a lot of history for us as cinephiles. The thought of investing ourselves in the project was a no-brainer.”

Invisible Creature's mural for Seattle's Cinerama, which Belief Agency translated into an animated bumper reel, taking home a HOW Promotion & Marketing Design Awards win

Invisible Creature’s mural for Seattle’s Cinerama, which Belief Agency translated into an animated bumper reel, taking home a HOW Promotion & Marketing Design Awards win

The idea was for the mural to pay homage to the theater’s history, while also reflecting its leaping forward to what’s next. “In a nutshell, I wanted folks to feel like going to the movies was an experience again,” Clark explains. “I wanted Cinerama to be the destination for cinephiles.”

The Invisible Creatures team pitched three concepts, and the chosen concept reflects the film genres that Cinerama is known for, without being specific to any one title. Art direction and illustration took about two months from concept to completion, and the mural was installed by eight sign painters in time for the theater’s grand reopening.

Once the mural was complete, Belief Agency began translating the original art into an animated bumper reel that would play before each film. Using Adobe After Effects, the team aimed to create depth without it being too busy. “Once we were happy with the large movements, we worked our way into the details until we felt the level of detail was consistent,” says Andy Maier, lead animator and post-production supervisor at Belief Agency.
Title Cinerama—A Seattle Legend Comes to Life | Design Firms Invisible Creature, Seattle; & Belief Agency, Seattle; | Creative Team Don Clark, art director/illustrator (Invisible Creature); Andy Maier, animator (Belief Agency) | Client Vulcan

seattle cinerama bumper reel still

With animation and scoring happening concurrently, Maier says the biggest challenge was ensuring their approach with Dolby Digital would coordinate the animation with sound. “Because the piece was being mastered in Dolby Atmos, there was so much we just couldn’t ‘pick up’ until we heard it for ourselves in the theater,” Maier says. “Even after the logo comes in, the sound is still telling a story. It’s a really magical experience to hear in person.” Maier goes on to say he’s most proud of “the symphony created between multiple animation styles. There are mechanical, organic, aerial, animal and motion-graphic styles that all flow together as one.”

Both the mural and the animated bumper reel have certainly made an impression. The animated bumper reel was recognized in the client work category of the HOW Promotion & Marketing Design Awards last year, and the mural itself was turning heads the moment it was completed. “I was outside the cinema that day as the painters finished,” Clark says. “People were stopping on the sidewalk, smiling and pointing. A few folks came up to me just to voice their enthusiasm in the art without even knowing I had created it.”

Clark goes on to say that it was a “risky project” in many ways. “I not only wanted to pay homage to the theatre (in a beautiful and compelling way), [but] I also didn’t want to ruin a busy intersection in downtown Seattle with a crappy mural that pedestrians and neighbors hated to look at. I’m also a big mid-century modern architecture fan and wanted to respect the structure (and the original designers). All in all, the reaction and enthusiasm from Seattle (and Cinerama’s loyal customers) have been amazing.”


Enter the Promotion & Marketing Design Awards by 4/24