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NBC News Studios

To End All War: Oppenheimer & The Atomic Bomb

Ahead of Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer, MAMMAL was approached by Christopher Cassel, Executive Producer and Director for NBC News Studios, to create a visual design system, narrative animations, scientific explainers, and a title treatment for the feature-length documentary, “To End All War: Oppenheimer and The Atomic Bomb.”

Challenges + Solutions

We needed to use our imagination when it came to the more intimate details of Oppenheimer’s life. To fill in these gaps within our narrative sequences, we began by researching the time, place, and people involved in each scenario to make the narratives feel as authentic as possible. Understanding complex concepts of physics, like atomic energy and nuclear fission, is integral to Oppenheimer’s story. To explain such esoteric information in an engaging way, we needed to create simplified visual representations that would also maintain visual cohesion with the narrative aspect of the film. We were also responsible for the title treatment that would conclude the documentary’s cold open. Knowing that the edit for this cold open would end in an explosive finish, we needed to create a title treatment with design and animation that matched the energy of the edit. We created animations that weave seamlessly between the film’s interviews, archival footage, and photography. The narrative sequences portray historical events while building emotional value; the science graphics simplify complex facts; and the title treatment punctuates the tension created by the cold open. Together, these graphics solidify the tone of the film and reinforce the time period by honing in on the grainy, tactile aesthetic of old film.

"Now I am become Death, the Destroyer of Worlds."

Science Infographics

To keep the audience engaged with the information, we turned to the instruction manuals, scientific papers, and news headlines of the WW2 era. Clean typography and linework stay true to the informational tone, while simple reveals and a staccato animation style allow us to intuitively guide the viewer through the information with an air of mechanical and tactile feedback.

Title Sequence

The title design needed to be simple, of the era, and industrial — all qualities we found in the DIN typeface — to complement the documentary’s mixed-media cold open. Starting with a tease of key themes, figures, and moments from history, the title culminates in a reverse explosion that resets the stage for Oppenheimer’s story.

Animation Process

While our animation approach varied by scene, the principle themes that guided our animation style were dreamlike, 40s-inspired, and tactile. To achieve a look that was equally dramatic and tangible, we combined the use of 3D environments with 2D illustrations and photography to create seamless composites, as seen here.

Thank You.