Tuesday, November 28, 2023

How those opening frames create imaginative worlds to draw viewers into a series

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Company: The Mill Creative
Directors: Chet Hirsch, Mike Schaeffer

“I think Guillermo del Toro is the most generous director there is in terms of sharing his influences,” says Chet Hirsch of the Mill, the studio behind creating the main title to “Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities.” ”He shared journals, films and history of actual cabinets of curiosities, so immediately the concept became much larger.” Hirsch, along with Mill creative director Mike Schaeffer, channeled those ideas to conjure a beautifully sinister journey through a cabinet of creatures, oddities and mystical arts.

The storyboarded sequence sees doors fly open and the cabinetry consuming the viewer to reveal a three-headed haunted mask, a creepy game-playing automaton, a spiraling image of human bones, a ghastly mermaid, a mummified hand and an abstracted clock unwinding itself. The twisted world ends on a spine of books contained within.

Motivating the imagery was the spiraling motion throughout. “Del Toro loves the Haunted Mansion ride at Disneyland, so we started thinking about this journey as a ride. But we were conscious of creating a beginning, middle and end where the stakes increased as we went,” Hirsch says. A shifting sense of scale and powerlessness grows within the hallways. “The camera moves are a little disorienting, but that was adding to the feeling that you’re trapped,” Schaeffer adds. Even the title lettering of the Netflix anthology series echoes the macabre and was inspired by writing manuals from the 1500s. Del Toro, Schaeffer says, “listened, and he added and corrected where necessary. And that was from the very beginning. It was exciting to experiment with him.”

Favorite title design: Hirsch — “The Dunwich Horror” (1970); Schaeffer — All of James Bond

The “Hello Tomorrow!” opening sequence is a retro-futuristic timeline of invention with a touch of something more sinister beneath the surface.

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