Sisters of the Savannah
Key artwork for wildlife documentary
Mommy Wildest is a terrific wildlife documentary from directed by father-daughter duo Mark and Caitlin Starowicz. It explores three of rare matriarchal societies in the animal kingdom: lions, elephants and baboons. All are female-led in different ways, for different reasons. Lion mothers form 'daycare centres' and suckle each other’s young. Elephants are led by the eldest female who knows all the watering holes and strategies for survival. Baboons practice alloparenting where the younger siblings play a huge role in raising the younger babies.
I've known Caitlin for years, and when she approached me to design a poster mere days before the film's theatrical premiere I embraced the challenge
The poster would need to work in print at 27" x 40", but more importantly needed to be something that was dynamic at 100 or so pixels tall on a VOD streaming service (where most audiences will ultimately encounter the film).
We had forgone any formal briefing process, and to get a sense of the producers' inclinations, I whipped up dozens of comps, each a slight variation on the previous layout.
Some of the initial poster comps:
The doc's title design and credits were complete when I came aboard, which simplified my typographic choices somewhat. For my comps I used either used the script font used in the film’s titles or a heavy, sans-serif text lockup I decided on early in the process.
Mommy Wildest is very family-friendly, and since so much of it was about the relationship between mothers and children, my early instinct was to use images of the adorable baby animals.I also found these to be the strongest film stills. Many of this first batch of concepts focus on the cutest, smallest animals — especially the baboons.
After seeing my first batch of comps, the producers clarified wanted to focus on the lion, since half of the film’s runtime is devoted to the feline pride. All my subsequent comps are lion-centric (though there is still a very strong emphasis on the lion cubs).
A second, more lion-focused batch of poster concepts:
In Canada the film was titled Mommy Wildest, yet for international markets it was retitled as Sisters of the Savannah. Ultimately the producers opted to use slightly different artwork for each title. The lead image on the final posters is actually a composite of a few different stills of two lioness sisters, which we paired with more evoacative secondary images. We also decided that both the brush and sans-serif typefaces were each perfect for the slightly different notes they were trying to strike with each title.
I'll freely admit that it's not the most groundbreaking poster, but given the time constraints and the opportunity to work with Starowicz's, it's a project I'm proud to put my name on.