“Stranger Things” was announced Sunday, September 10, as the Emmy winner for Best Main Title Design and Best Main Title Theme Music. The recipients of this Emmy for design include creative director Michelle Dougherty, executive creative director Peter Frankfurt, designer Arisu Kashiwagi, and compositor/designer Eric Demeusy. And the music award went to Michael Stein and Kyle Dixon. This is the first Emmy win for all of them. Watch the winning title sequence above, and check out the complete list of Creative Arts Emmy winners.
The 2017 nominees for Best Main Title Design showed that title sequences still have great impact. In addition to “Stranger Things,” the nominees included Starz’s “American Gods,” Netflix’s “The Crown,” FX’s “Feud: Bette and Joan,” and HBO’s “Westworld.” In an era when many shows ditch title sequences in favor of a basic title card, these five nominated series went the extra mile to create stunning visuals.
The menacing “Stranger Things” intro transports you instantly to the 1980s, the skeletal robot playing piano in the “Westworld” main titles is chilling, and the “Feud” sequence tells an entire story in just one minute. “The Crown,” “Feud,” “Stranger Things,” and “Westworld” are also nominated in their respective top program categories, while “American Gods” received just one other bid, in Best Special Visual Effects.
Similar to the Best Main Title Theme Music category, there is no obvious pattern to the Best Main Title Design winners, outside of inventive visuals. There have been plenty of top program nominees that have won, but three out of the past four winners have been shows with few other nominations (“Da Vinci’s Demons” in 2013, “Manhattan” in 2015, and “The Man in the High Castle” in 2016).
Below was our analysis of the five nominated title sequences.
“American Gods” — Creative Director: Patrick Clair
The first of Patrick Clair’s three nominated title sequences was for “American Gods.” The 90-second sequence is chock-full of religious and mythological iconography like the Laughing Buddha, an angel, a Menorah, the gorgon Medusa, and the world tree. In keeping with the show’s subject matter of old gods in modern times, each of these images includes contemporary references like guns, pills, and cable wires. It is by far the fastest-paced sequence of all the nominees.
“The Crown” — Creative Director: Patrick Clair
The next opening produced under the creative direction of Clair was “The Crown.” This sequence features extreme close-ups of a gold crown being elegantly created, filmed almost like an advertisement for the latest iPhone or a new car. Unlike those sleek commercials, though, we also see the wear and tear, reflecting England’s hard-fought history. It is a fittingly luxurious opening to a show about Queen Elizabeth II, while also hinting at the struggles of her reign.
“Feud: Bette and Joan” — Creative Director: Ryan Murphy / Director: Kyle Cooper
The “Feud: Bette and Joan” sequence, directed by Kyle Cooper with creative direction by Ryan Murphy, sums up the story of Bette Davis and Joan Crawford’s rivalry through stylized animation. The paper cut-out design is clearly inspired by main-titles master Saul Bass, who created the memorable title sequences for “Vertigo,” “Psycho,” and “North by Northwest.” This sequence goes through Davis and Crawford filming “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?” in addition to their behind-the-scenes drama and feuding over the Oscars.
“Stranger Things” — Creative Director: Michelle Dougherty
The “Stranger Things” titles by creative director Michelle Dougherty were the simplest of the five nominees here. As the credits flash on screen, we see the red, stenciled “Stranger Things” logo gradually come together. On a closer look you can see the names and title flickering, providing a vintage effect that jibes with the ‘80s throwback nature of the show itself. For the now-iconic logo, the design team used the ITC Benguiat typeface seen on many books, movie posters and album covers in the 1980s.
“Westworld” — Creative Director: Patrick Clair
The final nominee that came from Clair’s creative direction is the main title sequence to “Westworld.” The sequence consists of unseen technicians creating the lifelike androids featured on the show. With black and white imagery we watch the androids play piano, have intercourse and shoot guns on horseback, with guidance from their masters. The credits have a detached, clinical feeling to match the artificiality of the Westworld theme park itself.
Be sure to make your Emmy predictions so that Hollywood insiders can see how their TV shows and performers are faring in our Emmy odds. You can keep changing your predictions until just before winners are announced on September 17. And join in the fierce debate over the 2017 Emmys taking place right now with Hollywood insiders in our TV forums. Read more Gold Derby entertainment news.