Star Wars opening crawl
Star Wars is an American epic space opera franchise centered on a film series created by George Lucas. The opening crawl is the signature device featured in every film of the series. It opens with the static blue text, "A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away....", followed by the Star Wars logo and the crawl text, which describes the backstory and context of the film. The visuals are accompanied by the "Main Title Theme", composed and conducted by John Williams.
The sequence has featured in every Star Wars film produced by Lucasfilm. Although it retains the basic elements, it has significantly evolved throughout the series. It is one of the most immediately recognizable elements of the franchise and has been frequently parodied.
Each film opens with the static blue text, "A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away....", followed by the Star Wars logo shrinking in front of field of stars. Initially the logo's extremities are beyond the edge of the frame. While the logo is retreating, the "crawl" text begins, starting with film's episode number and subtitle (with the exception of the original release of Star Wars – see below), and followed by a three-paragraph prologue to the film. The text scrolls up and away from the bottom of the screen towards a vanishing point above the top of the frame in a perspective projection. Each version of the opening crawl ends with a four-dot ellipsis, except for Return of the Jedi which has a three-dot ellipsis. When the text has nearly reached the vanishing point, it fades out, and the camera tilts down and the film begins. Episode II: Attack of the Clones is the only film in which the camera tilts up after the crawl.
Two typefaces are used in the text, both in yellow: News Gothic for the episode number and main body of the text, and Univers for the title of the film. Several words are in all-capital letters to stress their importance: "DEATH STAR" in A New Hope, "GALACTIC EMPIRE" in Return of the Jedi, and "ARMY OF THE REPUBLIC" in Attack of the Clones. Each line of the text spans the width of the screen when it enters from the bottom. In the "fullscreen" (4:3 aspect ratio for standard-definition television) versions of the films, the full lines of text are cut off on the sides until they have scrolled further onto the screen. As a result, by the time the full lines are visible, the text is much smaller and harder to read. In addition, the viewer also has less time to read it.
The animated Star Wars: The Clone Wars is the only theatrically released Star Wars film that does not feature an opening crawl, but instead features a narration of the past events over several clips. The narration (provided by Tom Kane) is meant to evoke World War II newsreels.
Lucas has stated that the opening crawl was inspired by the opening crawls used at the beginning of each episode of the original Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers film serials, which were the inspiration for Lucas to write much of the Star Wars saga.
In a 2005 interview, George Lucas described how the final phrasing of the text for A New Hope came about. "The crawl is such a hard thing because you have to be careful that you're not using too many words that people don't understand. It's like a poem. I showed the very first crawl to a bunch of friends of mine in the 1970s. It went on for six paragraphs with four sentences each. Brian De Palma was there...". De Palma helped to edit the text into the form used in the film.
According to Dennis Muren, who worked on the six films, crawls on the original trilogy films were accomplished by filming physical models laid out on the floor. The models were approximately 60 cm (2') wide and 1,80 m (6') long. The crawl effect was accomplished by the camera moving longitudinally along the model. It was difficult and time-consuming to achieve a smooth scrolling effect. Furthermore, different versions in other languages (such as German, French and Spanish) were produced by Industrial Light & Magic.
With the advent of computer-generated graphics, the crawls for the prequel trilogy were achieved much more quickly. The 2004 DVD special edition versions of the original trilogy were later updated with computer-generated crawls as part of their restoration and enhancement.
Episode IV opening crawl
The opening crawl in the first Star Wars film is very different from Lucas' original intention. The original text, used in the rough cut he showed to friends and studio executives in February 1977, appears in the Marvel Comics adaptation of the film. When originally released in May 1977, the first film was simply titled Star Wars, as 20th Century Fox forbade Lucas to use a subtitle because it could be confusing, since there had been no other Star Wars movies prior to 1977. In addition, it was not certain if the film would be followed with a sequel. When The Empire Strikes Back was released in 1980, the subtitle "Episode V THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK" appeared as the first two lines of the opening crawl. To match its sequel's crawl, the subtitle "Episode IV A NEW HOPE" was added for the 1981 re-release of the original Star Wars film, where it continued to appear throughout the film's home video releases. The original version, without the subtitle, was not released again until the 2006 limited edition DVDs.
A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away....
It is a period of civil war. Rebel
spaceships, striking from a hidden
base, have won their first victory
against the evil Galactic Empire.
During the battle, rebel spies managed
to steal secret plans to the Empire's
ultimate weapon, the DEATH STAR, an
armored space station with enough
power to destroy an entire planet.
Pursued by the Empire's sinister agents,
Princess Leia races home aboard her
starship, custodian of the stolen plans
that can save her people and restore
freedom to the galaxy....
- Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace DVD commentary
- Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith DVD commentary
- Pearlman, Cindy (May 15, 2005). The Force. Chicago Sun-Times.
- Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope DVD commentary
- Thomas, Roy (2007-06-01). "Star Wars: The Comic Book That Saved Marvel!". starwars.com. Archived from the original on 2009-12-18. Retrieved December 5, 2012.
- The official Star Wars website
- Episode I: At First Glance - article about the creation of the opening crawl for Episode I