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March 21, 2013

‘Oz the Great and Powerful’ and the art of the opening title sequence

Posted in: Movies

Disney has released the opening title sequence for Sam Raimi’s $200-million fantasy “Oz the Great and Powerful” online, and before you start mumbling, “Who the heck cares?” keep in mind that this is not just your run-of-the-mill title sequence. This is a work of art.

Yu + Co, a design firm based in Hollywood that also created opening titles for “The Life of Pi” and “The Walking Dead,” was tasked with crafting the title sequence for “Oz the Great and Powerful,” drawing inspiration from the Theater of Perspective, a pre-cinematic form of 3-D entertainment, according to a post on its website.

The credits are especially dazzling when seen in 3-D, but even without the additional perspective, they still capture the early 20th century sideshow magic that permeates the film.

The most memorable credit sequences always do reflect the spirit of a film in some unique way, of course. The mini-film before the film title sequence from “Catch Me if You Can” created by the design firm Kuntzel + Deygas comes instantly to mind.

So do those famous red lips singing “Science Fiction/Double Feature,” the opening track from landmark midnight movie “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” The hypnotizing video has been viewed more than 1.8 million times on YouTube.

The late graphic designer Saul Bass created iconic title sequences for Otto Preminger, Alfred Hitchcock, Billy Wilder and  Martin Scorsese, among others. One if his most famous sequences is from Hitchcock’s “Psycho,” where the fractured text mimics Norman Bates’ fractured sanity.

Kyle Cooper’s groundbreaking title sequence for David Fincher’s “Seven” managed to be terrifying all on its own (more recently, the opening titles for Fincher’s English-language take on “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” received plenty of praise as well).

Cooper is also responsible for the flying letters in the opening sequence from the first installment of Raimi’s “Spiderman” trilogy.

On a more upbeat note, the opening credits from “The Big Lebowski” are a straight-up love letter to the ballet that is bowling, and perfectly set up the tone of the movie.

And no list would be complete without at least one James Bond opening sequence. The opening credits from “Goldfinger” were created by Maurice Binder, an American graphic designer who created title sequences for 14 Bond films.

Got any favorite title sequences of your own? Let us know in the comments.

– Deborah Netburn

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