Opening crawl

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An example of the famous Star Wars roll-up. This one is from The Empire Strikes Back.

Opening Crawl

A comparison of how the opening for A New Hope has been altered to include 'Episode IV'.

"One of the things we still have to shoot is the opening crawl. Shooting that crawl is actually one of the hardest things on these shows. The artwork itself is only about four feet long and maybe a foot wide. The camera is real low to the ground and we use a tilting lens to eliminate a lot of the focus problems. But everything has to be lined up just perfectly and you spend days running through tests. Every little blemish shows up. Any little bump, any little movement of the camera is going to screw up this big 2,000-frame-long take. It's fun, but pure torture."
Ken Ralston during production of Star Wars: Episode VI Return of the Jedi[src]

The Star Wars opening crawl is the famous opening to the Star Wars saga.


Each of the six Star Wars films begin with nearly identical openings, in which the text "A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away...." is displayed, followed by the Star Wars logo over a field of stars. A subsequent downward pan reveals the film's episode number, the subtitle in all-capital letters, and a three-paragraph summary of events immediately prior to the events of the film.

Two typefaces were used in the crawl: News Gothic bold for the main body of the crawl and Episode number, and Univers light ultra condensed for the title of the film.

In the widescreen (or letterbox) versions of the Star Wars films, each line of the opening crawl text appears directly in its entirety from the bottom of the screen. In the fullscreen (or pan and scan) versions, the sides of each line of opening crawl text are visible only after that line reaches the center of the screen.

Differences in crawlsEdit

Though each crawl is roughly similar, the individual films contain some differences in their presentation. For instance, in Episode II: Attack of the Clones, the camera pans upwards after the text finishes, rather than downwards as seen in all of the five other films.

Some words or names are in all-capital letters to stress their importance to the story (such as "DEATH STAR" in A New Hope, "GALACTIC EMPIRE" in Return of the Jedi, and "ARMY OF THE REPUBLIC" in Attack of the Clones). There are no words emphasized by all-caps in any of the odd-numbered films. The text is in simple, yellow, sans-serif type, and it is pitched at a sharp angle. The text scrolls upward into the distance, toward a horizon located just below the top of the screen. In a trademark of the film series, each title crawl ends with a four-dot ellipsis except for Episode VI which ends with a three-dot ellipsis.

When originally released in 1977, the first film was simply titled Star Wars, as Lucas was not certain if he would follow the film with a sequel. Following The Empire Strikes Back, the film was re-released in 1981 with the subtitle 'Episode IV A New Hope'. The original version, without the subtitle, was not released on home video until the 2006 limited edition DVDs.


SWV Opening crawl

Richard Edlund prepares to shoot the opening crawl for Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope.

The roll-up (alternatively called the "crawl") is an homage to Flash Gordon serials of the 1930s and 1940s, which Star Wars creator George Lucas enjoyed as a child.[1] It is also for this reason that many of the subtitles of the six films have a "pulpy" sound to them or are reminiscent of the Gordon serials.

George Lucas in an interview in 2005 described how the final phrasing of the roll-up in Star Wars 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, and he threw his hands up in the air and said, 'George, you're out of your mind! Let me sit down and write this for you.' He helped me chop it down into the form that exists today."[2]

Lucas has openly admitted that the opening crawl is inspired by the same opening crawl that can be seen at the beginning of each episode of the original Flash Gordon film serial that inspired Lucas to write much of the Star Wars saga.[1]

According to Dennis Muren (who worked on all six films), on the audio commentary track of the Star Wars Trilogy DVD release, the roll-ups on the "original trilogy" films: A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, were accomplished with physical models laid out on the floor. Muren says the models were approximately two feet wide and six feet long. The crawl effect was accomplished with the camera moving longitudinally along the model. It was, says Muren, difficult and time-consuming to achieve a smooth scrolling effect.

With the advent of computer-generated graphics, the "prequel trilogy" films: The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, the roll-ups' effect was achieved much more quickly. However, because nobody had taken notes on how the original ones were accomplished, the design team had to rewatch and piece together the elements to make the new opening crawl.

The 2004 DVD special edition versions of the original trilogy were later updated with computer-generated roll-ups as part of their restoration and enhancement.[source?]

In other Star Wars mediaEdit

The West End Games roleplaying game supplement Galaxy Guide 1: A New Hope suggests that the opening crawl from A New Hope was actually written by Rebel Alliance historian Voren Na'al to end his account of the events surrounding the Battle of Yavin. The account includes the phrase, "A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away..."

A large number of LucasArts computer and video games feature an opening crawl. Games based on one of the films usually include the same crawl as the movie, while other games have original crawls. Some of the games' crawls differ from the traditional film versions. Star Wars: TIE Fighter plays The Imperial March over the crawl, while Rebel Assault uses a spoken version, starting with the first paragraph from A New Hope and differing afterward. Dark Forces has an unused spoken version in its cutscene data. The Phantom Menace video game begins with the film's crawl, but features a second, original one part way through the game. The LEGO Star Wars games include an opening crawl at the beginning of each chapter, with five to six chapters per movie.

An opening crawl plays when a character is loaded for the first time in Star Wars: The Old Republic. A shortened variation plays every subsequent time a character is loaded, recapping the story so far.

A number of Dark Horse's Star Wars comics have used the same format as the opening crawl to serve as a recap of the previous events in the series. These series include Dark Empire, Tales of the Jedi and many others.

The original edition of the novel Heir to the Empire included a still-image version on its back cover.[3]


  • The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Movie uses a crawl to set up the clips of the shorts featured. The crawl reads "A long long long long long...time ago, in a galaxy far, far, far, far, far...away."
  • Airplane II: The Sequel begins with a crawl of the text of an erotic story that is "broken" like glass by a space shuttle flying through it.
  • The 1986 Hungarian animated film "Macskafogó" (Cat City) uses an opening crawl which is a direct spoof / reference to Star Wars.
  • The Mel Brooks film Spaceballs opens with a similar, but much more humorous crawl, with gags such as "unbeknownst to her, but knownst to us". At the end, in small letters, it reads "If you can read this, you don't need glasses".
  • The Red Dwarf episodes Backwards and Dimension Jump both feature similar, humorous crawls, the former scrolling too fast to be read without freeze-frame.
  • Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me opens with a similar crawl. It is accompanied by a voiceover.
  • "Weird Al" Yankovic's "The Saga Begins" begins by turning the opening line of "American Pie" ("A long long time ago, I can still remember...") into the crawl, albeit changing the repeated word from "far" to "long".
  • In Thumb Wars, an opening crawl is used. In the end of which, someone yells, "Watch out for that word!!!" he crashes into the crawl and there is an explosion.
  • Those who attended Nintendo's online Camp Hyrule 2006 were greeted with an introductory opening crawl sequence.
  • Recent editions of Apple Computer's iMovie software feature a similar title effect called "Far, Far Away" in reference to Star Wars. Recent editions of Windows Movie Maker also include a text effect in reference to Star Wars.
  • The movie Fanboys starts with a Star Wars-style opening crawl, ending with "Sent From My iPhone". Also featuring a parody crawl that reads "You are very, very, very, very high" when Linus and the other protagonists have eaten peyote laced guacamole

Notes and referencesEdit

  1. 1.0 1.1 Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith DVD commentary
  2. Pearlman, Cindy (May 15, 2005). The force behind 'The Force'. Chicago Sun-Times.
  3. File:HeirEmpire_HC.jpg

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