These Ain't Just Opening Credits: The Art of the Title Sequence
by Ethan Anderton
December 29, 2009
The opening moments of any film are truly pivotal in fully capturing the audience's attention amidst the opening of snacks, late audience arrivals and post-trailers chatter. Some movies just throw you right into the story, while others like to ease you in with a not-so-distracting credit sequence that runs throughout the opening scenes. But then, there are some movies which have meticulously crafted opening sequences to not only make sure you know damn well the people who worked so hard to bring it to you, but also to introduce you to the world where you'll spend the next few hours. And herein lies The Art of the Title Sequence.
A couple of guys have taken it upon themselves to bring more attention to the "Art of the Title Sequence" at their blog of the same name. There they take the time daily to post various opening credit sequences that usually go above and beyond simple title cards. In addition to commentary and sometimes interviews with the credit sequence creators, every now and then they'll even focus on end credit sequences as well. While complex and intricate title sequences are something that have become easier and more common due to the advent of various computer technologies for animation, editing and the like, there are title sequences from all different decades highlighted on the site.
One of my personal favorites is the opening credits from Steven Spielberg's 2002 film Catch Me If You Can. Accompanied by a spectacular score from the masterful John Williams, the credit text interacts with the minimally styled animated characters and provides the environments and obstacles that the characters we are about to meet will take on throughout the rest of the film. It essentially is a short and sweet animated silent film version of the entire movie, and is enjoyed slightly more upon a second viewing. Watch it below:
A more recent favorite comes from Peter Berg's 2007 Saudi Arabia-set action film The Kingdom, where the opening sequence acts as both credits and an abridged animated lecture that combines graphs, timelines, maps and archival footage to inform people of the delicate situation in the Middle East. The most powerful and striking use of this effect comes when a 3-D bar graph in the shapes of the countries identified as top oil consumers swivels around to show the United States' towering #1 bar split into the Twin Towers as a plane flies into one of them. The imagery is powerful and sudden, and sets the tone for the rest of the film.
In addition to featuring incredible spotlights on other personal favorite title sequences like Coraline, Juno, Kung Fu Panda, Lord of War and Thank You for Smoking as well as fantastic closing credits sequences for Jon Favreau's Iron Man as well as Pixar's The Incredibles and WALL-E, they also have special features like their currently running series on long single take shots that run through title sequences as well as a focus on films that you may never have heard of before. Personally I'm waiting to see a little focus on what I think to be 2009's best opening title sequence: Watchmen. What are some of your favorite title sequences?