AIGA Jacksonville Picture Show: Sean Tucker Poster Process

Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice. Where do I begin?

I guess the best place to start is the movie itself. The event was set for sometime around Halloween, so the goal was to choose a film that suited the season. Something to get people in the mood. Here’s the rub: I’m not crazy about horror movies. So we spent some time talking about whether or not I was even the right fit for this month’s event, and talking with Tim at Sun-Ray about what would be best to screen based on his schedule and plans. Once we settled on the film — Beetlejuice — I couldn’t not do it.

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Beetlejuice is hands-down one of my favorite comedies, if not movies, of all time. It’s spooky without being scary, hilarious without relying on cheap jokes, and stylish without being ridiculous (sorry, Tim Burton, you’ve become ridiculous). And Michael Keaton is absolutely brilliant as the titular character. That said, he’s in the movie for a grand total of 17 minutes. That’s crazy. In re-watching the movie (about 5 times), I found myself getting to about the halfway point and wondering, “where the heck is Beetlejuice?” He is referenced a couple times, but never has any real screen-time until the movie is already half over.

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So, I thought about it a bunch and decided that this poster really shouldn’t be ABOUT Beetlejuice. That’s just a fun name to say and surprisingly small part of the movie. It’s about the Maitlands, this poor, confused, lost couple trying to figure out how to be dead. Sure, it’s not THAT dark, but the first half of the movie (and also that epic scene toward the end of the movie) is pretty bleak.

There’s a scene early in the film when Beetlejuice’s character is subtly introduced where he’s looking for a new job. How does a dead Bio-Exorcist find work? The obituaries of course! Like I said, hilarious. He opens up a newspaper, called The Afterlife, and we’re also introduced to a secondary antagonist of the film, the sandworms. The details are a little fuzzy, but apparently, if you’re dead and you try to leave your house, you end up on Titan, the largest moon of Saturn. Titan is overrun with gigantic, adorably grotesque worms that swim around and terrorize the dead. I think the scene with the newspaper is one of the great subtle jokes in the movie, so I wanted to reference that while somehow also showing the turmoil of the Maitlands’ afterlife.

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I ended up with an image that is basically a recreation of the newspaper from that scene in the movie, with some details fudged to make a nice poster. For instance, an obituary and a single tiny ad would never appear on the front page of a newspaper. I cropped it in such a way that Beetlejuice’s minor appearance on the poster (an ad for his Bio-Exorcism practice) is shoved in the corner and might only be noticed if you really spend some time with the poster. The sandworm is the real showstopper here. Leaping out of the paper and attacking our lost protagonists.

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As far as printing, I knew it had to be mostly the basic contrasty black and white of a newspaper. I toyed with the idea of throwing in a pop of color, but it just didn’t feel natural. Instead, I added a little roughed-up-newspaper-texture to the background and decided to have our bud George Cornwell print it in metallic silver. It ads a little bit of something special, but still keeps things relatively simple.

This was an awesome opportunity, and to get to design a poster that represents of my very favorite movies is a true honor. Also, Beetlejuice on the big screen! Awesome!

-Sean Tucker
(Find out more about Sean Tucker via seantuckerseantucker.com)

By Sean Tucker
Published October 23, 2014