Star Wars’ Iconic “Opening Crawl” Text Was Inspired By?
Answer: Flash Gordon
The “opening crawl” of text scrolling in front of the viewer is now an iconic feature of films in the Star Wars franchise. Each of the episodic films opens with “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…”, followed by the Star Wars logo appearing, then a downward tilt that reveals the film’s episode number, the subtitle in all-capital letters, and a brief three paragraph prologue to the film that sets the tone and guides the viewer into the film.
George Lucas has stated that his inspiration for the use of opening crawls came from the openings of early sci-fi serial films Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers due to how well the technique fit with his similar episodic storytelling and how the aforementioned film franchises inspired him to create Star Wars.
Historically, the crawls were filmed manually using a special camera rig. The process was, as told by production crews, an agonizing one that required them to film 2,000+ frame sequences perfectly as any bump, shudder of the camera, or imperfection in the process became incredibly apparent when blown up to silver screen sized proportions. The advent of computer generated graphics removed the need to spend days and days testing and reshooting the crawl. As a result, the only films that featured an analog crawl are the original three films, Episode IV: A New Hope (1977), Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980), and Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (1983).
Image courtesy of Universal Pictures.