Lemony Snicket Film Titles

A carriage falls down a chasm created by two silhouettes of Count Olaf

A little while ago I promised to discuss the superlative title sequence for Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. So, without further ado…

Every so often, a film comes out whose film titles don’t just deliver the content flatly, or look really cool for 10 seconds and then become dull, but instead bring life, depth, and entertainment to the opening. And in some rare cases, they meet or exceed the quality and ingenuity of the film itself. I would argue that the titles for Lemony Snicket do just that.

As I mentioned in my last post on this flick, I haven’t read the books. However, the wry, morbid, Victorian-ish atmosphere that the movie pushes is clearly an important part of the telling, regardless of medium. But this mood is also colored with a tinge of wonder and mysterious delight, and this is where the titles succeed brilliantly and the film trades off for Carey’s antics (which are great, but seem to have displaced some of the book’s content and personality). In fact, the titles tell a portion of the tale all on their own, and they do it with such a gorgeous, dark, ornate elegance that I wanted them to actually tell the whole tale. Additionally, the end credits also receive this treatment, giving them a life and attractiveness that’s usually wholly absent from the endless lists of ’gang masters’ and ’key grips’ and ’assistants to the assistants of’.

Before we get into the sequence itself, I’d also like to applaud Jamie Caliri and Axiom Design for not only the credits as a whole, but also the decision to go with Emigre’s beautiful and angular serif family Vendetta and Hoefler & Frere-Jones’ architectural geometric sans serif Gotham. They fit in perfectly with the visual theme and don’t suffer from cartoonish typographic caricature. Both avoid the pitfalls of ’creepy’ or ’scary’ fonts that demand more stage presence than they deserve, which allows the superb animation and art to guide the piece.

Alright, now I’ll let them speak for themselves.

Bright, happy claymation elves and forest creatures gather together singing. The elf has a shotgun and ammo belt on.

This one deserves an explanation. The movie opens with a fake claymation sequence about happy elves (I forget the name they use for it) singing a saccharine song with forest creatures. My favorite detail is the hunting gear on the elf. The song is cut short as Lemony Snicket interrupts the merriment to announce that this is not the movie you came to see.

Stylized waves, like pieces of paper, with ornate patterns on them, in front of a stormy sky, behind small credits

The children ride a tiny raft, on stylized waves, like pieces of paper, with ornate patterns on them

The children's raft is lifted into the air by a giant stylized silhouette of Count Olaf, on whom an eye and a few clothing details are visible

A stylized pinwheel spins around with the credits over top of the center axis

A stylized pinwheel spins around with the credits over top of the center axis

In front of a dark cloudy sky, the children ride a bicycle down a hill which bears a striking resemblance to Count Olaf's head in silhouette towards two trees that look eerily like hands.

A large ornate design that looks like an eye dominates the screen. The iris is a stylized ferris wheel.

Violet rides in a one of the ferris wheel's seats, with a credit over one of the wheel's structural elements

The title of the film appears as silhouettes of the children run down a tunnel. The children and the tunnel's top and bottom have a beige pattern, whereas the tunnel wall is a dark grey and black. The words are embellished with calligraphic scrolling.

A roughly drawn pinstripe pattern is revealed as many of Count's suited arms, pulling the children upward in gilded birdcages.

A close view of the stylized hand-drawn children in the back of a car.

The car, seen from the side, drives down a spooky, overcast country road, underneath a small black rain cloud that hovers over them persistently. Inside the cloud are the credits.

The children float down past a dirty burlap-textured sky, using umbrellas as parachutes.

On a black screen, the children run through a large eye-shaped form, surrounded by five smaller eyes, randomly placed, with black irises and white pupils.

The children carefully traverse a ledge with their back to the wall. The ledge is the brim of the Count's hat, the wall is the top of it, and below is the Count's silhouette protruding from what appears to be a building.

The end credits scroll over a faded pattern, that looks like old wallpaper. The motif is of blue and red circles with starburst shapes inside.

The end credits scroll over a pale faded curly star pattern on the same dirty wallpaper. The children parachute down by the credits, casting shadows on the patterned wall behind them.

I’d also like to point out how amazing the music is in the opening credits sequence. It’s a mysterious, dark, and yet lively score that is pitch-perfect for the visuals. It’s also not performed by a traditional orchestra, which made it even more intriguing. I would really, really like to find a copy of this song. I’m not sure if it’s on the official score they released.

If you’d like to see more of the work that Axiom Design did for the film and its promotion, check it out here. They also did work on Tim Burton’s recent Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

2 Responses to “Lemony Snicket Film Titles”

  1. I had similar experiences with both this movie and Catch Me If You Can. They were both fun movies, but the titles were even better than the film itself. Breathtaking! I remember being really impressed when I experienced the titles for The Island of Dr. Moreau when I saw it in a theater. I have grown a great deal as a designer since then, so I wonder what I would think of them if I saw them again.

    What did you think of the titles for Napoleon Dynamite?

  2. chris r says:

    I actually don’t remember them too well, but I do remember my wife and I liking them. They were done with cafeteria food, right? Or was it his sketchbook? In any case, I was so underwhelmed by the movie (largely due to the immense hyping it got) that it may have overwhelmed my memory.