Jump 25 All Time Top Sequences – 1st Place
The titles we created for Smith and Jones was the overall winner in our competition to find your all-time favourite sequences designed by Jump.
Jump created these titles for the British comedy duo Mel Smith and Griff Rhys Jones in 1995, when the series had moved to BBC1. Originally this comedy sketch show was called ‘Alas Smith and Jones’ and ran on BBC2 from 1984. The series was a spin-off from the iconic ‘Not The Nine O’Clock News’ which also starred Rowan Atkinson and Pamela Stephenson.
Russell Hilliard – Director at Jump:
“Smith and Jones was a Talkback Production for BBC. We had first started working for Talkback in 1993, when we were running the commercial design department called IDF within the news organisation ITN. The first job we worked on for them was the comedy news spoof The Day Today, which was a huge success, and introduced the world to Chris Morris, Armando Iannucci, Steve Coogan and Rebecca Front. This culminated in us winning a BAFTA in 1994 for Excellence in Graphic Design.
Following on from the success of The Day Today we made the titles for Talkback’s Knowing Me, Knowing You with Alan Partridge, where we worked with the lovely director Dominic Brigstocke for the first time.
I can’t imagine how many cabs Richard and I took in the 90s from Grays Inn Road (where IDF was based) to Percy Street in the West End (Talkback’s original townhouse offices). We were constantly hot-footing it over there with freshly made giant A1 storyboards smelling of Spray Mount.
Soon after Knowing Me Knowing You went out we were invited by Dominic and Producer Jon Magnusson to work with them on the titles for Smith and Jones. Mel and Griff were comedy legends and I remember feeling at the time it was an incredible honour, very exciting, but also rather daunting to be working on their show!
The original concept for the title sequence was inspired by Mel and Griff’s famous close-up, face-to-face comedy sketches, combined with the recently launched BBC 2 idents designed by Martin Lambie-Nairn. Talkback had the idea of Mel and Griff acting like the ‘2’ in the idents, with them taking on different qualities and textures throughout the sequence.”
“This developed into the idea of the S&J typography remaining constant, with Mel and Griff interacting with the letters in different ways. We brainstormed as many ideas as we could think of where we also constantly changed the scale, perspective and camera position all the time.
Each scene was mocked up on Paintbox and printed out. We then had quite a few meetings with the team re-arranging the prints and working out the best order. It took a while to lock off the best progression.”
Ricard Norley – Head Creative at Jump:
“The shoot also took a lot of planning. Special models and props were built by Pirate including a glass bottom water tank, mirrors to shatter, and various size letters S & J cut out of different materials.
The shoot took place over two days at Cell’s Motion Control Studio in Soho. We didn’t need motion control specifically, but the DOP we wanted to work with was attached to that studio – and that’s the equipment they had – it was easier to use the camera already in there. On the first day we positioned each setup around the large space and programmed in camera angles to save time the next day. We prepared the camera moves for the opening shots that started really close up to Mel and Griff’s faces. The camera pulled out as wide as we could, looking down on them flailing their arms while they lay on chromakey blocks – I remember it being rather uncomfortable for them – but they didn’t complain. The sequence was shot on 35mm. This was a bit of a luxury for a 4:3 TV sequence and again not entirely necessary. The titles certainly looked great for it. Shooting on video for an effects shoot was still a bit of an unkown and untested work flow back then.
Day 2 with Mel and Griff on set was pretty full on. Everyone was working flat out to get everything done on time. There was a massive cheer late in the day, when Mel pulled off some master squeegee action. He nailed a tricky overhead shot first take, which also included having to take a big step onto a precise point on the floor afterwards. With time running out we were worried about how long it was going to take to clean up for a second go. Thankfully it wasn’t required.”
Dominic Brigstocke – Director:
“What I remember best about the Smith and Jones title shoot was how well it went – how much Mel and Griff entered into the spirit – how patient and helpful they were – and how well the whole sequence went together. It still looks very clever. We had the idea that generally good things should happen to Mel (he’d have the easy ride) and bad to Griff, which kind of reflected their world view.
I have loads of happy memories of working with Jump. I remember the maggots on the ITN rostrum camera escaping when we were filming stuff for Harry Enfield. Apparently there was a problem later that day with flies – whoops!”
Jan Hallett – Animator on Smith & Jones and many IDF / Jump sequences.
“I remember there’s a bit in the sequence where Griff gets trodden on and ends up on a mirror that reflects Mel, who then peels little squashed Griff away. Russell made the crushed Griff on Paintbox and printed out a real paper version which was to be stuck to the mirror and physically removed on camera by Mel.
In the shoot when the little cutout was peeled away it left a chunk of sticky tape on the mirror right over Mel’s nose, but with the time pressure of filming in a studio on 35mm film, fixing in post seemed the best option.
I remember days spent mulling over the best way to remove the tape and fix the problem on Harry, which was a slow and clunky machine at the dawn, or at least the early breakfast, of digital. They were pioneering days of inventing post-production techniques and discovering new ways to make moving pictures.
Back then Richard and Russell spent the days designing and the Harry suites were used overnight, so there was often a slightly surreal blurring between day and night, work and play. I have a clear memory of turning up in the evening to tackle the sticky tape removal and finding a note on the graphics tablet inviting me to join Richard & Russell in the pub for a briefing and a quick spot of R&R before getting down to some serious Harrying.
I recall it was closing time when I finally stumbled back to the suite.
I don’t remember how I removed the sticky tape.”
Ricard Norley summates:
“After 25 years of waiting, I’m delighted to see that one of my all-time favourite Jump sequences, the one that I thought was most award-worthy, has finally won something! Looking at the sequence again for the first time in a few years, it now looks a little rough around the edges, but it’s still a great, amusing and clever sequence even though it was made a quarter of a century ago!”
The Smith and Jones title sequence was nominated for an RTS Award.