Tuesday, 23 November 2010

The Awesome Intro

Intro sequences to TV shows are a dying breed. They used to be a lovely set up for a show, give you a glimpse at the characters, maybe even explain things a little incase you are new to the program, but now the people making the shows realise that these intros are taking valuable seconds away from the main bulk of the show. As a result, sitcom intros go from something like this:

To this:

That Fresh Prince intro is nearly 2 minutes long! No way that would happen now. It did get cut down a bit in later episodes but it was still a hefty chunk of Will Smith and it does give you a good jist of what the story is and who the lead character is. By comparison the Ugly Betty intro is blink and you miss it, and it usually pops up a good 10 or 15 minutes into the show which just makes it seem all the more unnecessary.

This technique of chopping intro for seconds has also been applied to cartoons, most noticeably with sitcom-esque series like The Simpsons, American Dad and Family guy. As the series progress you notice them chopping the intro songs for a quick glimpse of the title as right on into the action. Now there's nothing wrong with ditching the intro everyone fast forwards through to make way for more story, but it is a bit sad that there aren't as many killer intro sequences about as there used to be. Half of the time these are the things people remember first, like the Fresh Prince intro for example. Mention that program to anyone and I guarantee that the intro song is the first thing they think of. The same goes for the Ninja Turtles or Transformers. Cartoon Network has been pretty good at keeping the awesome intro alive, with the likes of Foster's Home For Imaginary Friends, Dexter's Lab and The Powerpuff Girls, which are all great shows with top notch intros. However, nothing quite holds up to the stuff you got in the 80s and 90s. This is partly to do with the rose tinted glasses of nostalgia but it also has a lot to do with the kinds of programs that were getting made then. There was a lot more action figure driven, high adventure shows on TV back then, or at least that's how it seems...

Check out the intro to the Dungeons and Dragons cartoon, one of my favourite cartoon series ever. This intro packs a punch; average kids go on a ride, get thrown through time and space to some crazy world, get attacked by a badass dragon with loads of heads, get magic weapons, meet the evil wizard Venger and get sent on an epic quest... all that set up in the space of a minute. When you are a kid this is very exciting.

The same thing goes for the intro to Jayse and The Wheeled Warriors. This has a good deep voiced dude set the scene before following with an epic bit of 80s soft rock. The great thing is they explain things a bit, but none of it really makes sense. Who is Jayse? What are the monster minds? Why does Jayse have to defeat them? What's the magic root? what are the Lightning League? Who is Saw Boss? What does any of this mean? The answer is 'who cares'. There's all kinds of stuff getting smashed and some good synth-bass going on.

My favourite bit of scene setting is for Thundarr The Barbarian. The story is a bit of a mish-mash of Conan The Barbarian and Star Wars but has a really dark edge for a kids show. If you can find episodes online I recomend it highly. It's all set after the awful apocalypse of 1994 (damn!) and the settings often show destroyed landmarks such as Mount Rushmoore or Big Ben, just to scare the crap out of you that every things gonna go to pot in '94. The intro dialogue is so well written that literally everything sounds super badass. Bellow is the dialogue from the Thundarr intro and everything that is awesome is in bold and everything super awesome is in bold caps.

The year: 1994.
From out of space comes a RUNAWAY PLANET, hurtling between the Earth and the Moon, UNLEASHING COSMIC DESTRUCTION !
Man's civilization is cast in ruin!
Two thousand years later, Earth is reborn...
A strange new world rises from the old:
But one man bursts his bonds to fight for justice!
With his companions Ookla the Mok and Princess Ariel, he pits his strength, his courage, and his FABULOUS SUNSWORD against the forces of evil.
He is Thundarr, the Barbarian!

Now that is how you set up the story!

They may not really have much point after you've seen them more than once but you gotta love a good intro.

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