Each of the six Star Wars films begin with nearly identical opening crawl 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 against a black background. A subsequent slow zoom-out reveals the film's episode number and subtitle (in all-capital letters), followed by a three-paragraph summary of the events which describes the situation immediately prior to the events 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.
The "roll-up," or "opening crawl," first appeared in George Lucas' rough draft of The Star Wars in May 1974. As with much of the script, this was an homage to the Flash Gordon serials of the 1930s and 1940, which Lucas enjoyed as a child.
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."
According to Dennis Muren 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.
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 angle tilts 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 until the 2006 limited edition DVDs. The opening crawl was re-created to not include the now familiar subtitle specially for the 2006 DVD.
- 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".
- Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me opens with a similar crawl. It is accompanied by a voiceover.
- 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 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."
- Those who attended Nintendo's online Camp Hyrule 2006 were greeted with an introductory opening crawl sequence.
- The Red Dwarf episodes Backwards and Dimension Jump both feature similar, humorous crawls, the former scrolling too fast to be read without freeze-frame.
- 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 Family Guy episode Blue Harvest features and opening crawl, it makes references to the later Star Wars films as well as to Angelino Jolie.
NOTE: I openly invite anyone to add to this list. As long as you use the section edit links, edit conflicts shouldn't be much of a problem.
- Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace
- Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones
- Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
- Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope
- Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
- Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi
- Rebel Assault II: The Hidden Empire
- Star Wars: Battle for Naboo (?)
- Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
- Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords
- Star Wars: Bounty Hunter
- LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga
- Star Wars: X-wing
- Star Wars: Rebellion
- Star Wars: Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy
- Star Wars: TIE Fighter (Uses the Imperial March)
- Star Wars Galaxies
- Star Wars: Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II
- Star Wars: Dark Forces (CaPs)
- Star Wars: Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast (CaPs)
- Star Wars: The Clone Wars (CaPs)
- Star Wars: Jedi Knight: Mysteries of the Sith
- Star Wars: Rogue Squadron III: Rebel Strike
- Star Wars: Jedi Starfighter
- Star Wars: Demolition
- Star Wars: X-wing Alliance
- Star Wars Battlefront: Renegade Squadron
- Star Wars Episode I: The Gungan Frontier
- LEGO Star Wars: Revenge of the Brick
- Celebration IV ad
- Family Guy: Blue Harvest
- LEGO Star Wars: The Han Solo Affair
- Dark Forces: Soldier for the Empire audio drama
- Dark Forces: Rebel Agent audio drama
- Dark Forces: Jedi Knight audio drama
- Star Wars radio dramatization
- The Empire Strikes Back radio dramatization
- Return of the Jedi radio dramatization
Notes and referencesEdit
- Ben Burtt on the TPM commentary.
- The Making of Star Wars: The Definitive Story Behind the Original Film