JDK designer blog

Kramer Comes to Frogtown


DVD cover, Hell Comes to Frogtown

Every designer has projects they are not exactly proud of. Hell Comes to Frogtown is one of those projects that I shouldn’t be proud of, but I will admit, I am. While I will never include this in my professional portfolio, as freelance projects go, this one has been worth a lifetime of bragging rights.

Hell Comes to Frogtown barely rates as even a ‘B’ movie. It starred ‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper (They Live) and Sandahl Bergman (Conan, the Destroyer). Frogtown tells the story of Sam Hell, survivor of a post-apocalyptic America, where he is apparently one of the last surviving fertile men on the planet. As such, he is greatly valued by the female leaders of the nation under martial law. His mission; penetrate Frogland, a mutant wasteland, then find and impregnate as many fertile women as he can. Once there, he finds that a city of giant, bi-pedal toadmen has captured several women to serve as his personal harem. Hell must save the women, and return them safely to MedTec headquarters.

This film was very popular on the TMC and Showtime program Drive-In Theater, hosted by Joe Bob Briggs. It was also the subject of an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000.

I am endeared to this project because it was my first freelance project, and in fact was my first project of any kind the summer following my graduation from college (Woodbury University). I landed this project (which paid $500 at the time, if I recall correctly), through a friend of the film’s art director (I think). A close friend of mine at the time (who is now a prominent 3D animation modeler, having worked on a number of Disney and Pixar projects), landed the project, which required us to produce three posters that were to appear in the background of one scene. Folks familiar with the movie will recognize this as the scene wherein Sam Hell gets fitted with an explosive-equipped chastity belt. As he sits in the room waiting to find out why he’s been detained, he scans the room, which pauses on each of the posters seen below.

One of the anecdotes regarding this project (an anecdote of which I am not terribly proud), is that while we had two months to create these posters, we waited until the night before we were to hand them off before we remembered that we hadn’t even started on them yet. Fortunately, living in Los Angeles at the time, we were able to head to a 24-hour artists’ supply store in Universal City to get the needed materials. We then proceeded to my friend’s apartment in the San Fernando Valley, where his roommate was having a party of a dozen or so people, broke out the materials, and completed the posters in record time (while drinking beer and wine coolers; Bartle’s & James was very new and popular at that time).

In this first poster, my friend illustrated the image of the nurse, while I executed the lettering using gauche and ruling pens on rough matte board. The poster was shown using a top-down pan, shown here spliced together. In general, I am very unhappy with the digital transfer of the movie, as the images are largely over all much too dark and slightly out of focus. However, I feel lucky this movie was released to DVD at all.


Drawing text by hand on linen-textured matte board is anything but fun

In this second poster, I also drew the illustrated dropcap by hand, as well as the bordering decorations using gauche, colored pencils, and markers. The sans serif text was laid in with vinyl letters (because, hey, we started this the night before it was due, and we were drinking, so I think that was the right choice given the conditions).


Obviously widows and orphans were not a huge consideration for me at this time

Finally, this last piece again made use of vinyl lettering for the smaller text, with the larger text and graphic painted in using gauche. The MedTech logo at the bottom-right of the poster was provided by the art department, and painted in by hand.


A favored message to many young college men in the mid-1980′s


I should create a listing in IMDB to promote my Hollywood fame

Wanna experience Hell Comes to Frogtown? Get yourself a case of cold beer, a few bad pizzas, your closest half dozen friends, and get ready for a mind blowing evening of badness…and if you decide to abandon the movie after the first 15 minutes, I wont be offended; you will have already seen my work by then.

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One Comment to "Kramer Comes to Frogtown"

  1. Henry Sato says:

    Hey Jim,

    It’s Henry! I hope all is well with you and Pinky
    and family!
    I too have fond memories of ‘Hell Comes To
    Frogtown’ and I am glad it is getting the…er…
    recognition it deserves!
    Just thought I should clear up the fact that I am
    a CG Animator and I have never worked at

    Hope to hear from you,


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Musings from a work-a-day graphic designer