And Now for Our Feature Presentation…

For most people, this phrase signals the beginning of a film which is the main event. However, many movie-goers will attest that one of their favourite parts of going to the movies is the trailers. For some reason, trailers make the theatre experience that much more enticing. In some ways, I think it’s something akin to having an opening band at a concert to hype up the crowd before the main group comes out. This has somewhat of an opposite effect; a dress rehearsal for quietly watching the film.

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I have a particular love for all things film. I have always been a pop culture fan and enjoy just about everything about film: clever scripts, excellent effects or animation, beautiful cinematography, and most of all an intriguing story. Another portion of film—and television—I enjoy is title sequences. And I am not the only one. An entire website called Art of the Title is completely devoted to both title sequences and end credits for film, television, gaming, and more.

Saul Bass is the famed father of title sequences, beginning the fascination with the credits for The Man with the Golden Arm back in 1955. In more recent years Kyle Cooper has been credited for a creative revival of credit design. However, in no way are these two the only names in the title sequence game.

Title sequences are great for setting the tone of a movie. In a few minutes, they are able to convey what kind of movie it is and the general aesthetic of the film, which sounds a lot more inconsequential than it really is. Similarly to previews, this title sequence really lets you know exactly what you’re getting into with investing 60+ minutes of your time.

But what about after the movie is finished? When the final word has been spoken, the final chord struck? Most people are already shuffling around before the lights have even had the chance to turn on. Those people are missing a particularly delightful and artistic part of a film: the end credits.

In my experience, few people tend to notice the end credits because they’ve already left the theatre or turned off the tv because what’s the point in sticking around after the movie is over? Unless you’re an avid Marvel fan, you’re pretty accustomed to the movie being over once the credits start to roll. For me, however, this is one of my favourite parts of a film.

I first payed attention to ending sequences at the end of Lord of the Rings: the Return of the King.  I remember seeing it in theatres, and countless times at home, and being blown away by the beautiful pairing of song and illustration to bid farewell to one of my all-time favourite series. The illustrations of the cast, sketched by Alan Lee, as well as other tidbits of conceptual design, really help finish off the film on a bittersweet note. Ever since then, I’ve been addicted.

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Another stand-out credit sequence is that of the 2009 version of Sherlock Holmes. These credits encapsulated the dark, gritty aesthetic of the film wonderfully. The way the illustrations integrate with and expand on the live action portions create a very interesting movement that keeps me interested until the very end. I also think the handwritten typeface perfectly reflects the “notebook” aesthetic that works so well for these credits. The music, with its clever main tune and accented with deeper, darker, punchier parts, really gives a “cogs and gears” feeling that finishes off the film perfectly.

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End credit storyboard from finished sequence — Henry Hobson, Simon Clowes, and Lisa Bolan. Retrieved from Art of the Title.

 

As I had mentioned before, most Marvel movies have hidden second or third endings peppered in the credits for those patient enough to wait. I think that is part of the reason that their sequences are so interesting. They know their audience is going to stay for the end scene, so may as well give them a show while they wait.

The first Iron Man stands out, probably because it is also what sort of launched Marvel’s huge success, at least in my opinion. While the original X-Men series paved the way for a super hero revival, Iron Man gave the audience a sarcastic, billionaire protagonist wrapped up in an awesome metal suit with killer effects.

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Creative Director: Danny Yount. Prologue Films.

Since then, there have been heaps of really interesting credit scenes produced for Marvle films. The Captain America ones, for both The First Avenger and The Winter Soldier have excellent tie-ins with history that make them especially interesting. For the first one, Creative Director Steve Viola of Method Design (formerly Rok!t Studio) chose to reimagine WWII propaganda posters using 3D software to make them come to life.

The second film’s credits Creative Director Erin Sarofsky, of Sarofsky Corp, had incredible insight when putting together this sequence. Instead of crudely paraphrasing it, I’m going to directly paste a portion of the article from Art of the Title because it’s too good not to share.

What were some of the inspirations for this sequence?

The movie evokes 1970s conspiracy thriller cinema, but with a modern twist. We wanted to create a main title sequence that acknowledged that. So we worked within a style that has simple, graphic compositions with strong, legible typography.

Jim Steranko is an American graphic artist, comic book writer/artist, historian, magician, publisher and film production illustrator. His most famous comic book work was with the 1960s superspy feature “Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.” in Marvel Comics’ Strange Tales and in the subsequent eponymous series.

Of course, we are respectfully bowing to the master, Saul Bass, here… But we were also inspired by the graphic styling associated with Jim Steranko. His bold, graphic illustration style really spoke to us when it came time to illustrate the characters.

The simple compositions spoke to us in a Russian constructivist kind of way. The use of positive and negative space also takes the look to another level, using the theory of gestalt to its full potential. And, in stereoscopic, this is brought to life in a way we’ve never seen before.

Wow, right? Not only are is the design inspiration evident, but you can tell after watching the credits that the designers even paid homage to the credits from the previous film, whether intentional or not. Though very minimal, you still get a sense of 3D-ness from the sequence.

So, next time you are at the movies, pay special attention to the credits, whether at the beginning of the film or the end. They might surprise and inspire you more than you’d expect.

Have a favourite credit sequence I missed? Leave it in the comments!

Cheers,

Camilla

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