Today is the actual first anniversary of this blog’s creation! Yaaaaay! (I’ve only been on WordPress since January though– I started out on Blogger.)
So how many of you guys remember the days when it was a REALLY BIG DEAL for a big-budget movie to be shown on broadcast television? If not, here I am to jog your memory a little with movie intros from back in the day. Some of them are before my time, but that doesn’t mean I don’t think they’re cool.
Don’t get confused, now. When I say “movie intros”, I don’t mean the actual intros from movies. I’m talking about the opening animations made by the network. You know, like the HBO in Space intro.
Why were movies on TV such a big deal? Well, because even though VHS was rapidly becoming common in the early 80s, it wasn’t common yet for pre-recorded movies to actually be affordable. So it was cheaper to get some blank tapes and record the sucker. (Still is!) And before the days of home video and pay-TV, it was a big deal for obvious reasons: when a movie was done in the theatre, you had to either wait for a re-release or wait for it to come on TV to be able to see it again!
Anyway, since movies were an event, the movie intros were generally pretty flashy. And since I’m a sucker for old graphics like this, I’m gonna show you some.
We’ll start with NBC.
Brief history lesson time! NBC wasn’t exactly at the top of their game during the 70s or the first half of the 80s. As a matter of fact, things were looking pretty bleak for them until The Cos came along in 1984 and changed everything.
In spite of their ratings being in the toilet, NBC managed to make some interesting movie intros. Here’s one from 1981 (with a quick station ID at the beginning):
I dig that animation of the filmstrip becoming the 11-feathered peacock logo. Pretty nice CGI for the time. Note that the 11-feathered peacock has a stylized “N” logo behind it. That’s what NBC’s logo was from roughly 1979 to 1986. For a while before that, they used the “N” by itself. Personally, out of all of them, this “Proud N” is my favorite NBC logo. The peacock looks so much friendlier and the “N” behind it is a nice touch.
I also like the little musical theme used in this intro. Can’t say I care for the blocky typeface though. And this definitely isn’t the pinnacle of NBC movie intros– it’s actually pretty low-key when compared to some of the others, like this next one I’m going to show you.
This one’s from 1985. Frankly, I’m not a big fan of it. It’s bombastic and pretentious and the music is really obnoxious, but that CGI is pretty nice. I actually have a vague memory of seeing this once or twice when I was a kid– I would’ve been about three years old at the time. There are a few of these kinds of things that I remembered even though I was so young. I guess they just made that big of an impression on me.
Finally, here’s my favorite one from NBC. We’re jumping back to 1979 here.
Okay, so the graphics themselves aren’t all that great, I guess, but damn if that music doesn’t make up for it. Something about this intro just charms the hell out of me. I also just noticed that at the end of the sequence, the graphic looks like a layer cake with the Peacock on top and fireworks shooting out of it. How awesome is that?
Now we move on to CBS.
CBS was the king of television for many years, but finally slipped to second place in the 70s, and went on something of a ratings slump in the 80s. But for my family, CBS was probably the most-watched network. Mostly because I loved its Saturday morning lineup, and it was the place to watch animated holiday specials such as Charlie Brown and Garfield back then.
I also remember my parents watching a lot of the made-for-TV movies on there, and back then they were preceded by this:
That one was used mostly in the mid-late 80s. The CGI is slick, but I don’t care for the music– it sounds more like a news open than a movie open if you ask me.
I prefer the animation on this earlier version dating back to 1983…
…mostly because of that classy bit where the filmstrip becomes the CBS Eye. The music also seems to fit it better.
However, I think my favorite CBS movie intro is this gem from the mid 1970s:
I love that shiny, spinning film reel! The music is pretty and catchy, and that typeface is one of my favorites of all time, even though it screams “1970s” at the top of its lungs. I think I like it BECAUSE it’s so 70s. Also, they didn’t need CGI back then to have cool animations like this.
And finally, ABC.
It was ABC that ousted CBS from the top spot in the 70s. As I understand it, ABC’s dominance was due in part to their Movie of the Week. The Movie of the Week was an extremely popular showcase of made-for-TV films. It started in 1969 and they made a slitscan-tastic intro to go with it. Yeah, I know, this kinda doesn’t count because Hollywood movies didn’t air under this banner, but it’s a piece of television history, and I’m fond of it.
Like I said, this sequence was created in 1969– before CGI. They used slitscan, which is…some kind of animation technique using cameras and multiple planes and stuff. I can’t explain how it works, but it was also famously used in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Now, at the time, this thing was hot shit. There had never been TV graphics quite like this before. Also, the nice, happy music was composed by Burt Bacharach, and has a tendency to get stuck in my head. (Note: the audio quality isn’t due to poor compression, either…that’s just the way TV audio was back then. Stereo audio on TV didn’t become common until the mid-80s.)
Now, here’s the intro they used for Hollywood movies in the late 70s:
I like this one; out of all the ones on TV at the time, I think it’s the nicest (though NBC’s 1979 intro up there looked and sounded a bit more “modern”). It’s colorful and catches your eye, and isn’t too pretentious. The music is grand without being overbearing. Looks like this one might have been done with slitscan too, but I’m not sure. There are also several different color schemes, and usually there would be a voiceover saying the words as they would appear on the screen. I prefer this “clean” version, though. Also, this color variation is my favorite of all the ones I’ve seen.
In the 80s, they were still going strong, broadcasting some pretty huge movies (Poltergeist, Superman, and Raiders of the Lost Ark to name a few). And to accompany those movies was one hell of an intro.
This particular capture of it has lots of stuff included. At the beginning, there’s a pre-emption announcement, then the “Closed Caption” bump, then after the intro sequence there’s a preview of the movie in which they really play things up. It emphasizes how big an event this kind of thing was.
That right there is probably the best graphic ever to be shown on network television. It’s almost as awesome as HBO in Space! (If my sources are correct, the theme is even composed by the same guy.) I realize that the graphics may not be all that impressive now, but imagine seeing that in 1981 when they first started using it. The music is really what makes it, though. It’s a perfect prelude to a great movie.
So there we have it. And hey, I’m still meeting my deadline! It’s only 10:33 here (I’ve been working on this damn post for a few hours now…phew).