- "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
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.
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. 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."
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.
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.
Star Wars crawlsEdit
Episode IV: A New Hope
"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...."
Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
"It is a dark time for the Rebellion. Although the Death Star has been destroyed, Imperial troops have driven the Rebel forces from their hidden base and pursued them across the galaxy.
Evading the dreaded Imperial Starfleet, a group of freedom fighters led by Luke Skywalker has established a new secret base on the remote ice world of Hoth.
The evil lord Darth Vader, obsessed with finding young Skywalker, has dispatched thousands of remote probes into the far reaches of space..."
Episode VI: Return of the Jedi
"Luke Skywalker has returned to his home planet of Tatooine in an attempt to rescue his friend Han Solo from the clutches of the vile gangster Jabba the Hutt.
Little does Luke know that the GALACTIC EMPIRE has secretly begun construction on a new armored space station even more powerful than the first dreaded Death Star.
When completed, this ultimate weapon will spell certain doom for the small band of rebels struggling to restore freedom to the galaxy...."
Episode I: The Phantom Menace
"Turmoil has engulfed the Galactic Republic. The taxation of trade routes to outlying star systems is in dispute.
Hoping to resolve the matter with a blockade of deadly battleships, the greedy Trade Federation has stopped all shipping to the small planet of Naboo.
While the Congress of the Republic endlessly debates this alarming chain of events, the Supreme Chancellor has secretly dispatched two Jedi Knights, the guardians of peace and justice in the galaxy, to settle the conflict...."
Episode II: Attack of the Clones
"There is unrest in the Galactic Senate. Several thousand solar systems have declared their intentions to leave the Republic.
This separatist movement, under the leadership of the mysterious Count Dooku, has made it difficult for the limited number of Jedi Knights to maintain peace and order in the galaxy.
Senator Amidala, the former Queen of Naboo, is returning to the Galactic Senate to vote on the critical issue of creating an ARMY OF THE REPUBLIC to assist the overwhelmed Jedi...."
Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
"War! The Republic is crumbling under attacks by the ruthless Sith Lord, Count Dooku. There are heroes on both sides. Evil is everywhere.
In a stunning move, the fiendish droid leader, General Grievous, has swept into the Republic capital and kidnapped Chancellor Palpatine, leader of the Galactic Senate.
As the Separatist Droid Army attempts to flee the besieged capital with their valuable hostage, two Jedi Knights lead a desperate mission to rescue the captive Chancellor...."
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 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 universe 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, with 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 opening line of the Star Wars crawl, albeit changing the repeated word from "far" to "long".
- In Thumb Wars, an opening crawl is used. In the end, someone yells, "Watch out for that word!" then crashes into the crawl and explodes.
- LEGO Star Wars: Revenge of the Brick uses an opening crawl.
- 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
- The Family Guy episodes Blue Harvest, Something, Something, Something, Dark Side and !It's A Trap! feature an opening crawl. This makes sense, as the episodes are actually re-tellings of A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi using Family Guy characters - the crawl for SSSDS has the same first paragraph as the authentic one of ESB before adding "But you already know this story." and devoting the rest to make fun of 20th Century Fox, while the one for IAT! gets as far as "Luke Skywalker has returned to his home planet of Tattooine...", at which point it devolves into a tirade against FOX, followed by an apology and admission that the previous comments were drug-induced.
- In Phineas and Ferb: Star Wars, a narrator begins to read the crawl, but is interrupted by two off-screen voices. They tell the narrator to read the crawl faster, and funnier if possible. The crawl rewinds, and the narrator starts over, this time reading at a faster pace while using a goofy-sounding voice. The narrator is then interrupted again. The same two off-screen voices tell him to forget about making it funnier. The narrator starts over once more, this time with his normal voice. The crawl starts out as, "Episode IVa: MAY THE FERB BE WITH YOU." At the end of the crawl it reads, "And none of this is canon, so just relax."