Criminals, aliens and heroes with an 80s twist

Title: Guardians of the Galaxy
Clients: Marvel Studio
Services: Screen Graphics

Territory brings the 80's to Marvel's galactic adventure, lighting the screens with stylistic references, alien interfaces and clever gadgets.

Working closely with Director James Gunn and Production Designer Charles Wood, we created graphics and VFX for this laugh out loud story about a ragtag crew of misfit criminals who become unlikely heroes. We were tasked to create on screen graphics and vfx for all environments – spaceships, planets, prison, street markets, gambling dens, etc, and as a story that’s more about characters and personalities than drama, we were able to take a more human, less polished creative approach to graphics.We felt a strong sense of connection with Gunn's pithy and dry sense of humour, which really drives many of the humorous and quirky details that give this film such personality and humanness. And we had a lot of fun with the graphic concepts, borrowing references from classic 1980's style, from colours to computer games to enrich the visual texture and sense of nostalgia in the story. The variety and scale of environments proved challenging. We had to create distinct visual languages for each that reflected its species, language, culture and purpose. Given the many alien cultures in this film, it was a big task to create fonts and graphic styles that felt fresh and unique, but we relished the challenge and worked hard to imagine new forms of navigation, weapons, utility monitors, even entertainment interfaces. The on-set element meant that our work was incorporated into stage environments to help lend ambiance and authenticity, giving actors live screens to work with. In some complex shots, we reverse engineered a number of interactions with the on-set computer consoles, mapping to gestures in post.

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Nova Processing

The director wanted to introduce the characters and their backstory by using a prison lineup along with an infographic overlay as a rapp sheet. Territory built an entire UI system, so that each characters bio, X-rays, finger prints and other details were displayed bespoke to each character. As unknown entities before the movie release, this graphic device became synonymous with marketing imagery for the film.

The Milano

Peter Quill’s ship, the Milano is old and has seen a lot of action, but is still beautiful with many clever modifications. Our UI needed to reflect both this engineering sophistication and Quill's can-do attitude to hacking the system to get the extra performance he wants - he's more interested in effective modifications than in perfect code, so our screen graphics for the ship's navigation, weapons and entertainment are a bit rough and ready to reflect this. To convey a sense of age, our reference points were old airplanes, engineered metal and the lovely warmth of worn leather seats. As Quill has a soft spot for the 1980's, we drew on red, orange and black colour palettes, much used in 80's video games and early UI, and added nostalgic details, such as the music interface that Quill hacked to simulate a 1980's tape deck.


Dark Aster

The evil Ronan’s ship, Dark Aster was monolithic in look and dark in tone. Our direction for the UI was something that felt uncomfortable and organic. We envisaged a holographic control interface, almost a life form, being controlled and manipulated against its will.  We looked at jellyfish forms and translucency, and explored buttons and controls almost protruding through the skin. Controls changed and adapted as the user interacted, but the interface almost looked as though it was under stress as it was being manipulated. It was an incredible design challenge we had set ourselves and credit goes to MPC for final execution of our vision.

Kyln Prison

The Kyln Prison screens needed a degraded military look and feel, reflecting a pared down functional aesthetic. The screen elements, including tower schematics, etc, needed to help explain Rocket’s escape plan, so balancing plot point with visual simplicity was key.


Exitar Space Port

In crafting the graphic assets for Exitar, the main city on Knowhere, our reference from UI art director Alan Payne was to really evoke the sense of being in Deep Deep Space. We considered the challenges of living on the edge of the universe, what the culture was like, and how street signage and advertisements would look. This pushed us to look at alien languages featured in old Marvel comics, experimental computer graphics from the 1960s and 70’s, the concept art, costume and props departments. Ultimately, we created a series of bespoke fonts to use throughout the set and we added glitches and interference to the neon-style graphics to make them feel authentic within this rough and ready, multicultural space port.


Bespoke Fonts

There were many different worlds, space ships and alien races in this film, and each one had to have a distinct visual language, UI treatments, fonts and graphic styles that felt fresh and unique. To achieve this, we crafted bespoke fonts for each alien race that felt representative of their culture, attitude and role in the film.


Project Credits


Creative Director David Sheldon-Hicks
Motion Designers Peter Eszenyi, Nick Hill, Ryan Rafferty-Phelan, Marti Romances, Martin Aggerholm, Yugen Blake, Jay Dingle, Gabor Ekes, Ryan Jefferson Hays, David Penn, Alasdair Willson

Compuhire - Playback


Director James Gunn
Production Designer Charles Wood
Set Decoration Richard Roberts
Art Director Alan Payne
VFX Supervisor Stephane Ceretti
VFX Producer Susan Pickett


Editors Cristina Casanova, Marti Romances
Audio Zelig Sound

© 2014 Marvel Guardians of the Galaxy


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