The Walking Dead showrunner Angela Kang has detailed the new Season Nine opening titles crafted by Huge Designs, intended to reflect the themes of rebirth and growth explored in the newest chapter of the zombie drama.
"Creatively, season eight was conceived as the closing of the first chapter of The Walking Dead story," Kang told Art of the Title.
"Season Nine opens a new chapter, in line with the time jump that happens in Robert Kirkman's comic books. Chief Content Officer Scott Gimple and I spoke over a year ago about the idea of possibly revamping the main titles to reflect that shift in the story."
Added title designer Tamsin McGee of Huge Designs, "This season is a big change from the previous eight. Not only is it the departure of Rick, but it's also the first time that there will be a substantial time jump. Angela wanted to reflect these changes within the sequence."
The Emmy award-winning titles studio crafted the opening sequences for Downton Abbey and AMC's own The Son and Into the Badlands, and were recommended to Kang by the network. Kang was familiar with their work through Da Vinci's Demons, and was "very impressed" with Huge Designs after viewing showcase reel.
"I spoke to them on the phone for about half an hour about the themes of the seasons and visuals we were thinking about. I talked about how it was a period of rebuilding, and there would be some mystery, and a Western vibe," Kang said.
"I mentioned the murmuration of birds that we see in the first episode, and how we'd be playing with the idea of man-made structures crumbling, but nature creeping back. Life out of death. I told them I kept picturing a skeleton with a tree starting to grow out of it, but made it very clear that they don't literally have to use that image."
"We loved the strength of that image and looked to build off of it," McGee said. "'Life emerging from death. Nature taking over, while other things are crumbling.' That was the fundamental premise of the brief."
The studio turned to a Charlie Adlard splash page from The Walking Dead #127, which revealed a lush and thriving Alexandria following a post-war time jump that launched the A New Beginning story arc.
"There is a particularly stand out image in the A New Beginning issue of the comic depicting Alexandria as a utopia," McGee said.
"It shows everyone working to build this haven, growing vegetables, raising livestock and planting orchards and it just reminded us of the ranchers and settlers in frontier towns of the 19th century American West. The big skies and low angles of the Western genre became the main overarching influence of the concept."
The Huge Designs team turned to the comics, McGee said, bookending Alexandria "by scenes of terrible, external wilderness and threat."
What followed were monochrome, inky textures inspired by The Walking Dead's black-and-white comic book roots, but the halftones and paper textures were ultimately toned down because they made the sequence "too muddy."
"I thought their concepts were incredibly thoughtful and the images were striking. I could tell they'd really listened to what I'd told them but they also weren't afraid to take creative risks," Kang said. "I love bold artistic vision paired with a collaborative nature, so this turned out to be a great match for my own sensibilities and working style."
The finalized sequence was ultimately influenced by Edgar Allan Poe's The Raven.
"Edgar Allan Poe is a huge literary hero of mine, but even if I didn't know there was a Poe influence on the pitch for this sequence, I would've picked this concept because I was immediately struck by the graphic novel-esque feel to the images and I loved that it evoked a sense of classic, American gothic horror," she said.0comments
"The idea of The Raven in the form of the flock of crows really worked organically for our story, and there's just a nice general macabre feel which we also undercut with images of greenness and growth — I like the tension that exists between those extremes. It feels very right for our story."
The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9/8c on AMC.