Kyle Cooper Q&A: ‘American Horror Story: Freak Show’ main titles
You may not know his name, but you’ve certainly seen his work. Kyle Cooper has designed the opening credits sequences for over 200 films and television series, including “Se7en” (1995), “Spider-Man” (2002), the “Iron Man” series, “The Tree of Life” (2011), “Argo” (2012), “Pain & Gain” (2013) as well as “Homicide: Life on the Street” and “The Walking Dead." He’s worked on every season of “American Horror Story,” reaping Emmy bids for the first two. In our exclusive webcam chat (watch below), he delves into the challenges faced in setting the mood for the latest installment, “Freak Show.”
“One of the initial thoughts was the first three ‘American Horror Story’ titles were all live action,” which he says, sparked the idea to try animation. “For this, I was looking at real freaks throughout history –photographic documentation of them — and I felt to just show photos of them was maybe not the right way to go, and so coupled with the direction to have it be animation, I thought maybe stop motion animation would be a great way to think about it. I didn’t want to show the people photographically because I thought maybe that was sad, rather than spooky or scary.”
Cooper speaks candidly about the hard work that went into the creation of the miniature carnival set and the different freaks within it. “We wanted it to look like this eerie, old stop-motion circus,” he explains, “and we used computer-generated characters as well as real stop-motion characters, as well as a little bit of live action.” He talks at-length about the particulars, touching upon everything from where he got his materials to where the typography was placed within the credits. “We wanted it to all feel integrated,” he concludes. “It’s very complex. We always try to make them playful editorially but also scary.”
He also reveals what drew him to designing titles in the first place, saying, “when I was younger, I would always look forward to the theme music on particular shows, and part of the experience of your favorite television show is the experience of that opening credits sequence: it’s very familiar, and it’s not a problem for you to watch it over and over again. A lot of people have told me specifically about 'Freak Show' that they usually fast-forward through credit sequences, but they always watch that one.”
Cooper won an Emmy for Outstanding Short Form Picture Editing for his work on 2009 Oscars Academy Awards and was nominated as well for editing the 2002, 2005 and 2007 Oscarcasts. He also contended for his title design for "Elementary" in 2013.
Watch our full interview below to learn more about this fascinating first taste of one of TV's hottest shows.