View Full Version : The Movie Title Sequence

January 21st, 2009, 02:38 PM
The doorways into movies. They set the tone, backstory, character development, and transition; not to be confused with opening title credits, with which they share only one function - contractually required screen credit.

The opening credit was the layout of a movie until the 1950s. In the early years, most movies listed all the credits at the start. with a simple "The End" at the finish. Gradually, some credits were transferred to the end, but the opening remained a static listing of title, actors, director, etc., usually accompanied by an overture from the score.

Some early creativity from the 1949 The Third Man (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=te9fqm6rUPY&feature=PlayList&p=E692FBCDC86E3B7E&playnext=1&index=8), in which Zither music was prominent.

The birth of the modern title sequence was in 1955, and its father was Saul Bass (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saul_Bass), a graphic designer who created the opening for Otto Preminger's Man With the Golden Arm (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dhFm4QATiJw), a story about a musician's heroin addiction. Regarding his work, Bass had said that his goal was ďto create a climate for the story thatís about to unfold.Ē The title shouldn't upstage the movie, and therefore, can't be judged as a stand-alone art form, but how well it compliments what follows.

Bass created the titles for three notable Alfred Hitchcock films, along with a master of the music score, Bernard Herrmann (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bernard_Herrmann)

Vertigo (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LaOaUGPpkoo) (1958)

North By Northwest (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gtwAbYUlOdY) (1959)
Modernist building as grid for kinetic typography. One of Hitchcock's best cameos.

Psycho (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qmAiy2RpY-8) (1960)
Some similarities in style with their previous work.

Herrmann's edgy all-string score. After the hectic pace of the title sequence, the movie opens with a subdued shot of a Phoenix afternoon. Hitchcock said, "I played the audience like a violin."

Typical 1960s graphics:

The Pink Panther (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RlzHIGxnSnE) (1964)

It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kTbg49kud8M&feature=channel_page) (1963)
The figures flying off the spinning globe at the end relates to the movie. A tweak at actors' egos (there were many in the film) with the switching of billing.

The time-frame of Catch Me if You Can (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gaLDyrun_Cc) (2002) is established in the opening graphics.

Other notable title sequences:

Sweeney Todd (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CNkPqPVCXX8&feature=related) (2007)

Dr. Strangelove (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bRVywMBlhHs) (1964)
The only sex in the movie.

Se7en (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SEZK7mJoPLY) (1995)

Reservoir Dogs (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tLZ5AVHfnCs) (1992)
Love this one.

Halloween (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vhcPs-cS1No) (1978)

Thank You For Smoking (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DHKBIKv0HjA) (2006)

The title sequence that I think is still a benchmark after 4 decades was created by an ad agency graphic designer and art director. In the early 1950s, Stephen Frankfurt graduated Pratt Institute and headed for Hollywood. None of the studios were interested, so he headed back east, and developed notable ad campaigns, such as Wings Of Man for Eastern Airlines, not the crass We Earn Our Wings Every Day theme it degenerated into. He eventually became the youngest president of Young & Rubicam (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Young_%26_Rubicam)

In 1962, producer who knew Frankfurt from his Hollywood days, asked him to create the title sequence for his movie.

YouTube and other links are dead, had to find a hi-res clip. Just as well:

To Kill a Mockingbird (http://www.artofthetitle.com/media/film/60s/mockingbird.html?keepThis=true&TB_iframe=true&height=430&width=730) (1962)
A few notes of the Bernstein score play at the studio logo, then fade to a child's voice. A cigar box of memories. Inside the box, Gregory Peck. The window on the marbles. The wavy line that echoes the ball-chain. The music credit is displayed by bringing a whistle into focus.

Another notable:

Raging Bull (http://www.artofthetitle.com/media/film/80s/raging_bull_480p.html?keepThis=true&TB_iframe=true&height=514&width=856) (1980)

The ring appears huge, yet the boxer is confined to one edge, a self-made cage in which he paces like an animal. The slow-motion shadow-boxing and melancholy intermezzo from Cavalleria Rusticana prologue the tragedy that will unfold. This isn't Rocky.

There had been movement in the film industry over the last decade or so away from title sequences, to get right into the movie. Put everything into impossibly long closing credits, which can be sped up for TV rebroadcasts, and still satisfy the lawyers. Also, the expense; separate artists must be hired.

I think it would be a mistake if the art-form disappeared.

January 21st, 2009, 07:56 PM
Some early creativity from the 1949 The Third Man (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=te9fqm6rUPY&feature=PlayList&p=E692FBCDC86E3B7E&playnext=1&index=8), in which Zither music was prominent.

Great conversation starter. The Third Man is probably my favorite of all time...bookend the credits with the arresting ending (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Es3gBldyR4k). Add it up...Reed, Karas, Cotton, Valli, Welles...sublime.

My Man Godfrey (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x5UP6vyAHO8&feature=PlayList&p=A555D20CD6BFBAD6&playnext=1&index=62) has the creative credit pedigree as well...

January 21st, 2009, 11:33 PM
I think it would be a mistake if the art-form disappeared.
Judging from the work (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wDSR9ZDOYj8) of this University student we needn't worry. (The inspiration (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q_BWcVakHHw).)

January 23rd, 2009, 12:31 AM
That was pretty good.

January 23rd, 2009, 01:05 AM
I can't find the titles for Francois Truffaut's Fahrenheit 451. YouTube has it blocked in the US. Hello world, Bush is gone. We're allowed to read again.

That sequence perfectly fits the movie.

January 23rd, 2009, 02:33 AM
Shadowplay Studio did the titles for Thank You for Smoking, and also Juno (2007), both directed by Jason Reitman.

Co-founder Gareth Smith:

When we first met with Jason director Reitman] about it, he played some of the music he was thinking of using in the soundtrack, including Kimya Dawson's songs with the Moldy Peaches. This music, the tone and originality of the screenplay, and the uniqueness of Juno's character, led us down the path toward creating a low-fi, hand-animated title sequence."

We wanted to create something that had texture and a little bit of edge, but also imparted the warmth and heart of the screenplay.

Jason also let us know that he wanted the opening title sequence to take place after the first scene of the film - the scene in which Juno is admiring a discarded living room set on a lawn. Because we were able to start the process of designing the title sequence before the film was actually shot, it allowed us to create something that integrated very nicely into the story-line of the film. It seemed natural to show the credits while the audience followed Juno from the opening scene, through her neighborhood, and to the convenience store where she gets her pregnancy test."

Juno (http://www.shadowplaystudio.com/juno/)

Credit where itís due (http://www.cbc.ca/arts/film/credits.html)

January 23rd, 2009, 09:51 PM
Saul Bass was brilliant. His titles for Vertigo are incredible for the year that film came out.

It may interest you to know that Saul Bass also designed a few album covers for the Smithereens. You can either go to the Smithereens website or Google images to see the master's work.