Bring back scratch and sniff movies?

“The Good Spice” Embiggen the Dom-age

“The Bad Brut” Embiggen the Dom-age

“The Ugly…Thing” Embiggen the Dom-age

Side by side Triptich

Project play-by-play

Drama upon drama and spread upon some crusty, concussed bread. Welcome to a tardy RTR project that oozed its way to a three week delay, due to work one weekend and a fantastically awesome head crack on the streets of Portland, Oregon the following one. Add to that some idiot deciding that instead of just doing one poster, she would do a series – a triptich – to give the idea room and real-estate to breathe. So, here we have it. A super delayed, super concussed, super triple-threat project that skates right up to and over the edge of not being all it can be.

Let’s see what Brain baked in the skull oven this time!

Thinky time

The best scratch and sniff book I ever saw was about the plague. Actually, not so much about the plague, but what it smelt like to live in that time and get the fragrance of death and pestilence shoved right up your unwilling nostrils every day. Holy crap, did that book smell disgusting. It was fantastic! I can only dream of a scratch and sniff movie being that great!

But before Brain could even think about what a movie would smell like, it got totally caught up in the razor wire of “How would a Scratch and Sniff movie actually work?”

Meaning, mechanically. I get the sniff, but how would you do the scratch? Gestures at the screen? Wild gesticulations sure to piss off the person next to you in the cinema? Down in front!

But that’s as good a place to start as any. So the first thought I had was actually along the lines of creating a blueprint or patent for the apparatus that would be needed to run a movie of this kind. Brain imagined a nice cartoony execution, which could be somewhat whimsical and technical at the same time. Lots of fake bells and whistles and levers and pulleys and gears needed to pump the smells into the room and stimulate the audience on an olfactory level. Wait. That sounds complicated. Product design. Totally out of my realm of expertise. Brain baulked. I ran.

Fortunately, Brain is a powerful and non-braking locomotive, so it leapt over to a different track and decreed that we need not worry about such trivial things like how it actually works and just pretend it’s a dun deal. That we live in a world where scratch and sniff movies are a compete and standard reality. 3D is dead. Long live S&S!

How different would the movie industry be? Would movies smell like scenes, or like the actors in them? Would genres all have the same kind of odor, such as happy smells for comedy, or the smell of dying hopes and dreams for pornos?

What would my favorite movie smell like? Would movie trailers or advertising collaterals be different? How would you get the smells into the movies? Is there a whole science behind it?

What do emotions smell like?

So many questions.

Brain spiraled off into the stinky abyss with a half baked idea.

What if there was a whole career path in Hollywood that existed solely to create the smells for movies? Movie stink mixologists, if you like. So my first executional thought on this track was to create a visual of a test tube rack, with concoctions lined up and ready to mix for a particular movie. Each tube would feature an actor’s name, and the rack itself would show the title of the movie that it was for.

I liked this idea. This seemed like a good start. The question then became – what movie do I want to focus on? A quick flip through the catalog of my mind and I settled on one film. It had to be this film. This film held the promise of a wide range of aromas, both in terms of the theme and title of the film, and the actors themselves.

That movie was: The Good, The Bad and the Ugly. Hold your apple sauce. Time to prep this turkey!

Total thinky time = 50 minutes

Prepy time

There are so many reasons why I love this particular film, with one of the biggest ones being tied to how much my Dad loves Clint Eastwood and how much of my childhood was filled with Mr Eastwood’s work. It’s a bit of a connection point with Dad and myself.

Dude is a dead-set legend. So is Clint *boom-tish!*

But there were actually more practical reasons for choosing this film.

1. The title itself. Here we are faced with three solid smell directions. Good. Bad. Ugly. They’re literal descriptions for how things smell – food, locations, people.

2. The character traits within the movie lend themselves to potential aromas, meaning traits of personality could be assigned scent in a Scratch and Sniff movie. If you are kind, what does kind smell like? Does a good deed smell like anything in particular? How about a bad feeling? Is there a difference between an ugly smell and a bad one? Something to explore.

3. Another scent avenue – the actors themselves can bring fan perception of what they might smell like in real life to the movie. Even if they don’t have their own perfume line. And finally…

4. It’s been a while since I’ve seen this film, but I remember very vividly the opening credits. The visual style of them. I figured I could riff off that a little for the look of the project. It’s super iconic and I’m gonna steal the shit outta that!

Let’s talk about the credits for a second, so you know what which visual style I’m referring to. Here’s a screenshot of a few frames of the sequence. But you really should actually go watch it to get the full effect. The music, the look – it’s magic.

I dug into it a bit and found out that the titles were created by Iginio ‘Gigi’ Lardani and he did a few of Sergio’s title sequences, including Fistful of Dollars. Check ’em out. Marvel at the master. There I go – I’ve learned something for this project already.

With all this style inspiration crammed into Brain, and with a few photo references for test tubes and test tube racks, I jumped off the cliff and sat down to play.

Total Prepy time = 1 hour

Sit-down-and-doey Time

After sampling the red from the title sequence and making a solid poster color, I decided that the rack and test tube would be silhouetted over it. Solid blocks of shape on a solid color. The entire thing would be a little inside joke. You could look at the rack, see the three test tubes labelled “Clint”, “Lee” and “Eli”, then a small label on the test tube rack saying “Actor Aroma Rack” or something similar. So without saying the name of the movie, you could work it out if you were a fan.

I started tracing and filling out images. It looked kinda lame. I wasn’t happy.

Idea shift – kill the test tubes, but keep the solid block of color and a single image on top. Brain, while still in the ‘mixologist’ territory, started thinking about cologne. About actors being handed their cologne bottle at the start of the shoot. What would the bottles look like? And what would the recipe be for each cologne? And that’s when I ducked back into Preppy time and started scribbling on paper and finding examples of perfume and cologne bottles. Rather than doing a solid silohette of the bottle, I decided to make it out of the ingredients for that word – meaning the character each one would play. Good. Bad. Ugly.

As soon as I saw the Old Spice bottle I knew that had to be Clint. There’s something very re-assuring about Old Spice. When I was a kid, I remember opening the bathroom cabinet and always seeing a bottle in there that my Dad would use. Clint seems very solid and reliable and a bit old spicy. And the shape of the bottle itself is a bit iconic and easily recognized.

And then came Brut. The name more than anything made me decide it would be the perfect shape for “The Bad”.

That left me with Ugly. This simply came down to me finding a bottle that I personally found ugly. And one that also screamed ‘aroma’. The one I ended up with is obviously a woman’s perfume, but I liked the way it was kind of kitchy and frou frou. Settled. I had my bottles.

And then I ran into a bit of a snag. In order for the recipe to be readable on these bottles, they’d have to be quite large. Fitting three onto one poster would make shrinking them down a necessity. So I decided – even though I knew this would push my 16 hour time limit per project – to create three posters in the series. Thinking of them as though there were in the halls of the movie theater, with each character having their own.

Clint’s poster would be black with white ‘good’ writing. Lee’s poster would be red with black ‘bad’ writing. And Eli’s would be an ugly color with ugly color type which I hadn’t decided on.

These things would be large and awesome.

And total time suck territory.

As it turned out, this was the least of my problems. On the Wednesday (I do the production on a Sunday), I got sucked into a freelance gig. And by sucked, I mean down into a black hole of professional pay-your-rent business. It didn’t help that I’d be working on East Coast time while the rest of the team was on West Coast time. My days were quite long. That’s not so much of a problem during the week, but it stretched into the weekend, and on the Sunday I was due to work on Scratch and Sniff, I found myself heading to the airport to fly out to Portland, Oregon to pick up the gig on the right (although left) coast.

So. One week behind on the project already. Some people got so frustrated by my tardiness, they rushed ahead and did their own Scratch and Sniff interpretations! Pretty cool to receive that link, but also very guilt inducing.

The trouble doesn’t end there.

After a tough work week, I was set to spend the following Sunday on the project. Hmm… I’ll just nip out for a bike ride in the morning and spend all afternoon on it. That was the plan. Then .83 miles into the ride, this happened.

Yes, I crashed my bike in the street, shook up Brain once again, and broke another helmet. It’s not that I was actively trying to find excuses for not getting this project done, but bloody hell, I seemed to be going out of my way not to complete this particular one. Concussion blows chunks out the mouth of productivity. I was in hospital from Sunday to Monday afternoon and even after I was released I wasn’t allowed to be on my own. I couldn’t really do anything but nod off, wake up and take another pill, then nod off again.

But gradually the fog began to clear. On Tuesday night, I started playing around with the recipe and text for Clint’s “Good” bottle.

Conceptually, the idea for each recipe was fine. It could be a mix of actual things plus potential feelings that have a faux aroma made from something matching the theme. But truth be told, some of the ones I came up with were a little half arsed. I built a structure that in my concussion haze I forgot to follow. So what began as an actual recipe – a pinch of this, a dash of that – would sometimes just be a phrase. I still think it works as a whole, but if this were a real project I would spend quite a bit of time working out and finessing each recipe to make each element more consistent in structure. As it was, I often ran out of items as I was building each bottle and would make them up on the fly.

They’re not all duds and I do have a couple of favorites. One crushed Geldof in the Good recipe, the Breath in Vader’s Helmet in the Bad, and the Front Wheel of a Reliant Regal in the Ugly, for example.

If you can’t be arsed exploring the words in the posters themselves, I put the recipes at the end of this post. See what I do for you?!

When I’d finished building the bottles, I stood back and thought…

“This makes no sense.”

Really. I could see it needed something more tangible to tie in with the movie or else it would just be something that I understood. Just me and no one else. I’d had a thought niggling in the back of my mind about putting an extremely subtle two-tone image into the background. One that was not incredibly perceptible. One of each character. Thankfully, someone had taken three high-res screenshots from the blu-ray and I was able to use these.

Nice and dramatic. I tweaked them in Photoshop, posterized, then broke ’em apart in Illustrator to color them. Time consuming but done and done.

Once I’d added them in and fiddled with the color – made them visible but not too much – I decided it was time to stop. Just stop. Be done. Over! In all honestly, I’d broken the hourglass and tipped the sand all over the RTR rules.

Walk away, Brain! Walk away!

Stick. Brain. Poke. Rating

It gets a three. Before I had finished all three posters, I was filled with hate. I was just angry with it. Angry that I needed more time, but knowing I wasn’t allowed it. Angry with the text for each recipe (the one thing I’m supposed to be good at and it was meh). But by the time I’d finished the third and seen them all together, I’d warmed up to them as a set. Conceptually, I think it’s still a bit vague. Like maybe TOO much of an inside joke, but still. It is what it is and I did it and it’s done and I didn’t die in yet another bike crash.

If I could change things, it would be to tighten the recipes, get the tonal differences of the characters in the background just right (Clint is harder to see than the others), and fix the type in some of the shapes. I didn’t spend any time on that, and some things are really hard to read.

I would also try find a BRUT bottle that was front on and the same angle as the other two. A small, niggling thing that will bother me forever.

And finally, I would go in and fix the typo that I know is on one of the bottles. And I don’t mean I instinctively know, I mean it is there and I’ve seen it and it will probably drive me nuts too. But perhaps I should think of it as an easter egg of sorts. “Find the typo” kind of thing.

Total Sit-down-and-doey time = I don’t want to say. I would guess it’s probably close to 20 hours, if not longer. I hacked away for a few late nights this week well past midnight and that time really adds up if you don’t keep an eye on it. But I did do three posters instead of one, so I should cut myself a little slack.

YOUR HOMEWORK: Answer this: Which movie has your favorite opening credits?

MY HOMEWORK: Stop falling off my bike. Seriously. This has got to stop.

Essence of someone who gives up their seat
Sprig of fresh cut grass
Spirit of a piggy back
The beat of bass thru the floor
Mash in a cute panda photo
Whip in the sound of an open fire crackling
Free hugs
Warm fuzzies
Pinch of an afternoon nap
Enthusiasm of rain on a tent
A laugh so big that you’re crying
Wet kisses
Baby giggles
Staying in your PJs all day
The look on a dog’s face when he recognizes you
Slow, lazy breakfasts
That first stretch after a long drive
Stir in a gentle breeze on wet skin
Three angel wing feathers
That last piece of leftover pie
Hint of a halo
Holding hands
One crushed Geldof
Throw in some honorable intentions
Add in the feel of clothes fresh out of the dryer
Shared whispers under a duvet
Brand new socks
Melty cheese
Fold in a whiff of social justice
A fantastically good cuddle with your face in the crook of their neck
Good vibes
Helping a stranger when they’ve fallen off their bike
One homecoming after a long time away
Mix together in one of Sting’s old teacups

Five rejection letters
A pint of Genghis
One muddied Death Star
Candy stolen from a baby
Cab thieves
Essence of anger you feel when you pour sour milk into your coffee
A bag of souls from jerks who rip off pensioners
Foot of someone who kicks dogs for fun
An uncovered pestilent pit of putrid vile sin
Mix in some homophobia disguised as religion
Spirit of anyone with Terrible in their name
That thing that’s rotting behind your fridge
Five male thongs
One sucker punch to the face
Many wicked thoughts
Sliver of a sociopathic maniac
Bucket of dark thoughts
Racist overtones
Dash of spite shown when not inviting someone to your party
Splash of how you feel when caught in a lie
Pajama jeans
One asshole, bike stealing, wankstain
Two spoonfuls of laughing at some poor bastard who just got hit in the ping pongs
People who say ‘with all due respect’ and have none
Dirty pool tactics
Itchy undies
Kicking someone when they’re down
Ruthless rumors
Vader’s helmet breath
Queue jumpers
Blend together in Satan’s chamber pot

Blueprint from an example of shockingly bad architecture
Weeping sore near the corner of a mouth
Front wheel of a Reliant Regal
Spine of someone who uses sarcasm on those who don’t get it
Photo of a woman with a black eye
Hairless cat
Crude, old toothless man the a metro bus
Dressing toddlers in sexy outfits
Dudes who are total dicks
Superiority complex
Lack of respect
Strip of road rash
DNA of a naked mole rat
Greedy gene
Unsightly knuckle rash
One high horse
One MP3 of a shrieking harpy bitching about her boyfriend
Two drunks from the cricket
Toothpick from someone who picks teeth at the dinner table
Public ball scratch
Socks with sandals
Dash of talking with your mouth full
Brain of someone who cuts their toenails on the subway
Two back stabbers
Ugg boots in public
Flabby jowls
Meth mouth teeth
Bully hide
Very drunk girls
Toe jam

And in closing. Take your vitamins!

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One Response to “Bring back scratch and sniff movies?”

  1. thenoodleator April 7, 2011 at 10:59 pm #

    Trust John Waters to be on the case!

    “Polyester is a 1981 comedy film directed, produced, and written by John Waters, and starring Divine, Tab Hunter, Edith Massey, and Mink Stole. It was filmed in Waters’ native Baltimore, Maryland, and features a gimmick called “Odorama”, whereby viewers could smell what they saw on screen through scratch and sniff cards.” – Source

    Thanks @From_Apexhunter for the link

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