The 2017 Emmy race for Best Main Title Design heated up this week when FX released the 75-second opening credits sequence for their upcoming anthology series “Feud” (watch above). The first installment, “Feud: Bette and Joan,” stars Susan Sarandon and Jessica Lange as legendary real-life actresses Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, respectively. This is the third FX anthology series from showrunner Ryan Murphy. “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story” used a mere title card in place of credits, but “American Horror Story” produced an elaborate new sequence for its first five seasons under Kyle Cooper of Prologue. In turn, “AHS” was nominated for its credits three separate times at the Emmys, for “Murder House” (2012), “Asylum” (2013) and “Freak Show” (2015).
Unlike the live-action sequences for “American Horror Story,” the “Bette and Joan” sequence is more classically animated, which might help get Murphy his first win in the category. The motion and title design branch of the TV academy frequently awards hand-drawn esthetics over computer-generated visual effects and live-action fare. The “Feud” titles pay homage to classic titles designed by Saul Bass, especially his iconic graphics for Alfred Hitchcock around the early 1960s when “Bette and Joan” is set.
Credited as creative director for “American Horror Story: Freak Show” and designer for “American Horror Story: Asylum,” Murphy has lost this category twice to animation. “Manhattan” (2015) won with architectural diagrams, while “Da Vinci’s Demons” (2013) won with sketches reminiscent of Leonardo da Vinci.
“Bored to Death” (2010) pulled off one of the more surprising upsets in recent years for the category; its sequence portrayed the show’s live-action characters as draft-stage sketches in the vein of the middle pages of comic books. Like “Manhattan,” “Da Vinci’s Demons” and “Bored to Death,” the “Feud: Bette and Joan” sequence is both animated and minimalist. “Bette and Joan” is much more colorful than those three champs, which mostly stuck to greyscale palettes, but its use of color is more or less simple. “Feud” depicts what resemble paper cut-outs, most silhouettes solidly colored and defined only by their overall shapes.
The nominated sequences from the last decade that the “Bette and Joan” titles most resemble are those of “United States of Tara” (2009) and “Mad Men” (2008), which also employed 1960s-inspired cut-outs and silhouettes. It bodes well for “Feud” that both prevailed at the Emmys.
“Feud” will contend for Best Main Title Design at the Emmys this summer against new industry favorites with memorable opening credits sequences like “The Crown,” “The Night Of” and “Westworld.” Do you think it will win? Vote in our poll below.
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