This week I wanted to put on my designer hat for The Microbrew and take a look at movie title sequences, analyzing their role in setting the stage for the movies we love. The general role of a title sequence is to introduce the “main players” of a movie or television show, but recently, they have become an art form in and of themselves. Here is my list of my favorite title sequences:
- Catch Me If You Can: The opening title sequence to Catch Me If You Can has always been one of my favorites, even before I was involved in design. This title sequence is a great mix of traditional handmade media, computer graphics and fitting music. The story takes places during the sixties, and this title sequence has that same look and feel of title sequences of that time. It is reminiscent of Saul Bass, who was one of the top title sequence designers of his time and beyond. One of the things I love the most about this sequence is the use of real stamps and traditional animation techniques for the characters. This really gave the look so much more character and vibrancy. John Williams and Steven Spielberg really hit the nail on the head with the coordinating music, making it No. 1 on my list.
- To Kill A Mockingbird: The first time I saw To Kill A Mockingbird I was 8 or 9 years old, and even as a child, there was something about this title sequence that captured my attention. It starts with just the little girl humming while she starts to draw and color with her crayons. The composer Elmer Bernstein said, when composing the music for the title sequence, they “had to put into perspective that we were seeing an adult world and really serious adult happenings through the eyes of children.” When I watch this sequence now as an adult, I get chills and immediately become engulfed in what is happening on the screen in front of me. The simplicity of the macro-photography and the perfect entrance of that innocent musical composition is what grabs you, pulls you in, and doesn’t let you go.
- Se7en: This list honestly could not be complete without Se7en. This title sequence is beyond creepy … and it’s so fantastic! It is often compared to my previous pick of To Kill A Mockingbird, with its similar close-up photography. Something that is interesting is how much of the work for this title was hand done, the type was hand-etched on a black scratchboard and was then distorted using different methods. It gives a very disturbing feel, appropriately setting you up for this chilling movie. In 2011, the title sequence was rated by the IFC as the third greatest of all time, behind A Hard Day’s Night and Vertigo.
- Casino Royale: The Bond opening sequences are almost as iconic as the movies themselves. One of the reasons I chose Casino Royale was that it is not overcomplicated or overdesigned. The Casino Royale title sequence uses some great motion graphics all revolved around playing cards and the symbols on the cards, for obvious reasons, but done in a way that doesn’t make it overdone and “cheesy.”
- Juno: The title sequence to Juno is another one that I admired before I was ever into design. The music combined with the playful illustrations bring you into Juno’s world and how she see things. The designers used stop motion and cut paper mixed with hand-drawn illustrations. With all the technology and software available in this day and age, to see designers going back to using traditional, yet modern, techniques is always interesting and in my eyes, deserves respect.
I have linked all of the title sequences to the website ArtOfTheTitle.com, which has a large library of title sequences, along with interviews with the designers. I highly recommend checking out this website to learn more about the behind the scenes secrets for each of the sequences on my list or to simply get inspired.
What title sequence, movie or television, has caught your attention and inspired you?