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Pablo Ferro, legendary Beetlejuice, Men in Black title designer, dies at 83

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Nov 18, 2018

Title designer Pablo Ferro has passed away at age 83. Ferro may not be a household name to most people, save for movie buffs, but even the most casual of moviegoers have been exposed to his works in the opening sequences of a bevy of blockbusters and bellwether genre favorites.

The Cuban-born creative legend Ferro – who made a name for himself in both Hollywood and Madison Avenue – succumbed to complications from pneumonia on Friday night in Sedona, Arizona, as confirmed via THR, by daughter Joy Ferro-Moore and son Allen Ferro.

If you’ve seen genre films such as the Men in Black series, Beetlejuice, The Addams Family films, A Clockwork Orange, Darkman, Prince of Darkness, Amityville 3-D, and Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, then you – knowingly or not – are familiar with the unmistakably eccentric lettering style and off-the-wall imagery of a Pablo Ferro title. Indeed, the prolific list of works from this phenom of font managed to set tones for an array of iconic films before the narrative of the directors was even fully established.

Ferro started his career as an artist and aspiring animator in the early 1950s. Having been inspired by European master films and cartoon animation, he learned a realistic style art from studying DC Comics, after which he landed – of all places – on the publishing platform of Atlas Comics for then-editor Stan Lee (who, of course, we are still mourning).

As Ferro recounted to Art of the Title of showing his early portfolio to Lee, “I brought it to a publisher, Atlas Comics, and showed [editor] Stan Lee and he was very good to me. He went through it and he almost fell off his chair. He said, 'Pablo, you know I can’t print this last page, it’s too shocking!' He told me to illustrate some stories for them and I did three stories for him. I took that money and bought a Bell & Howell, you know, single frames. That’s what we used in the studio to do pencil tests and things like that."

Ferro followed his comic book stint with years of ad agency work, eventually making his film industry debut with Dr. Strangelove, director Stanley Kubrick’s epochal 1964 contemporaneous Cold War satire, taking on the seemingly tenuous task of affixing the absurdly long title in his now-signature swirly font against the ominous Armageddon-signaling backdrop of B-52 bombers.

While Ferro's work was famously showcased in other influential cinematic classics like Bullitt, Midnight Cowboy, Harold and Maude, Good Will Hunting, and Napoleon Dynamite, his genre work was notably indelible in the zeitgeist, especially with the tombstone design of the Beetlejuice logo, an image that not only struck the perfect tone for Tim Burton's 1988 humorous horror classic but was subsequently used in the early-1990s animated spinoff series and the toys it spawned. He accomplished a similar franchise feat with 1997's Men in Black and its two sequels.

Besides admiration from across the industry, the career of Ferro earned several accolades, such as multiple Clio Award wins, along with the Smithsonian National Design Award and membership in the Art Directors Hall of Fame.

We at Syfy Wire wish to convey our condolences to the family and friends of Pablo Ferro, and express appreciation for his unforgettable contributions.

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