Thursday 7 August 2014

Analysis of Soap Opera Title Sequences

Over the summer we were set the task of watching and analysing 4 soap opera title sequences, these had to include 2 UK, 1 American and 1 Australian titles. I chose to look at Coronation Street, Emmerdale(UK), The Young and The Restless (US) and Neighbours (AUS).

UK soap operas- Coronation Street and Emmerdale

Coronation Street's title sequence- The programmes title sequence has changed over time and in total there have been 8 main title sequence changes which have all largely followed the same format and layout which follow on from one another with only slight variations to incorporate recent trends.

It was when their broadcasting channel became available in high definition the soap decided to change their title sequence and make them more modernised, it was first used on television on Episode 7351 on the of May 2010. The title sequence incorporates scenes from the centre of Manchester where the soap opera is based as well as other shots from around the set, the title doesn't actually show any of the shows characters or current storylines and is based around the location of the programme as this will not differ for the majority of the episodes unless the cast are on location. Regular viewers will be familiar with the shots used within the title sequence and this may evoke happy memories from watching the soap opera for some years; this is particularly key for the shot with the cat as this has been an essential ingredient in Coronations Street's opening title sequence for four successive title sequences. Shots of the Rover Return and slate tiles on the roofs of the houses are easily identifiable and are notoriously associated with Coronation Street. The simplicity of the title sequence really reflects the verisimilitude of the soap opera and connotes the feeling of simplicity to the audience members. The soap has been on television for 54 and the non-dietetic theme music has only been adapted over the years to modernise the soap, this iconic music allows audience members to instantly recognise the beginning of the programme and even for people who do not watch the soap they are able to identify the soap opera without even being in the room.

The title sequence also doesn't show any characters which emulates just how iconic the soap opera is and also allows them to keep the same titles for many years unlike soap operas like Hollyoaks where the cast is often changing so they need to ensure their title sequence is kept up to date and also introduces new popular characters to the audience. Coronation street however has never shown any characters within its opening sequence and this is almost a tradition which they wish to continue.

Emmerdale's title sequences- 

The title sequence to Emmerdale traditionally contains various shots of the Dales (the setting for the soap opera) followed by an aerial shot of the village and also a close up. Since the beginning of the soap opera there have been 9 changes to the title sequences however they all contain and follow a similar structure and format to help the soap opera flow and to continue continuity throughout the episodes. However this was changed when producers decided to modernise the title sequences in 2011 where they chose to incorporate more iconic images and locations from the soaps setting. This include scenes in the Dingle family home, The Woolpack and also the king family home all of which are iconic and associated with the soap opera. Although the soap opera has been modernised and changed dramatically from the previous images of the rolling hills they still incorporate the final image of the aerial shot over the village followed by the appearance of the logo.

The producers that created the new updated title sequence stated "We wanted to challenge perceptions of Emmerdale, but at the same time, ensure what we created was true to the programme’s heritage. We took our inspiration from the surprising narrative aspects of Emmerdale. What you see isn’t always what you get, stories unravel and secrets are revealed. We created a completely new brand identity, new opening titles, updated logos and a refresh of the renowned theme music."

Initially the show focused on the farm and the Sugden family who lived on and ran it. As time went on, the show's focus moved to the nearby village of Beckindale. To reflect this change, the show's title was changed on 14 November 1989 to Emmerdale. The original theme tune created by Tony Hatch was the longest ever to be used. For a number of episodes in 1972 a longer version was used to open episodes but from 1973 a shorter version was used. In 1992, an upbeat piano version was made and used for the opening and closing credits. When the titles changed again 1993 the original theme was used for the closing credits again. But when the titles changed in 1994 the new theme tune was used until the big change in 1998. In 1998, the theme tune was re-recorded for a more orchestral sound to coincide with the move from Esholt to Harewood. It was given a slight tweak in 2003. In 2011, it was re-recorded to give a contemporary fresh look with a modern synthesizer to create the sounds needed.

Again as previously mentioned Emmerdale's title sequence contains no characters as seen in Coronation Street, this is common in UK soap operas and is only challenged by Hollyoaks and Doctors where they include extracts from previous episodes and characteristics represented by props and colours surrounding each character.

American soap operas-

The Young and the Restless

While many soap opera opening credits go through a complete change when they are redesigned, The Young and the Restless (Y&R) chose to just update their contract players main images which are shown at the beginning of the title sequences and scene images when their name and likeness appears on screen. The same, look, feel, and graphics template and music (Nadia’s Theme) are still played throughout the titles it is simply the images which have been changed. The iconic image of the woman walking through the hall way is still shown however the most recent titles have been shown in black and white compared to all of the previous sequences which have been in colour, some may say that this has made the titles look more dated however many agreed that this felt like there was quite a large change to the feel and look of the programme and in fact modernised the programme more than they had expected. Not everything on screen is in black and white however the writing that reads the characters names and also the Y&R logo is written in red to help it stand out and also relate to the sex appeal associated with the soap.

Australian soap operas-


The soap opera were forced to change their title sequence after recent cast changes which meant that the sequence was no longer relevant and correct. This may have been seen as confusing for new viewers which is when they decided to update the 'old fashioned' titles. Since the beginning of the soap in 1985 there have been many different versions of the title sequences which are played at different times throughout the week and allow alternative versions to be shown every other episode. The first title sequence contained 3 different versions compared to today's title which includes more than 5 different versions. Neighbours use their title sequences to introduce new characters and also show familiar & popular characters which regular viewers will recognise.

The residents of Ramsay Street are depicted outside their respective houses coming together for a street party, complete with pavlovas and cricket, a celebration of the show’s community spirit and idyllic Australian lifestyle. The modernisation of the title sequences also incorporated the soaps new logo which was based around the same idea as the sequence 'community'. The new logo incorporates 6 overlapping circles which represents the 6 houses off Ramsay Street. The bright summer colours which are used through out the whole of the title sequence is used to represent the summery, happy Australian lifestyle which the soap opera looks to portray. All of the characters shown within the extract are smiling and having a great time which is what peoples stereotypical view of Australia consists of, this is key to the soaps success especially over here in the UK where the soap is also shown. If the stereotype was not met then the soap may not have been so successful and attract as many viewers as it does. 

The healthy lifestyle and bright and sunny atmosphere of Neighbours is noticeable almost immediately, in the opening credits as well as reflected in the non-dietetic music that is the theme song, these lyrics haven't changed much since the programme started back in 1986, the meandering lyrics, 

"Neighbours, everybody needs good Neighbours 
With a little understanding, you can find the perfect blend 
Neighbours, should be there for one another 
That's when good Neighbours become good friends"

These are sung as different extracts of daily activities and family scenes are played out for the viewers, although the changes to the cast have meant the titles are often changed the concept of the sequence is often the same; depicting family and friends having a good time amidst lush green grass. The idea of the neighbourhood was reinforced in the 1990 credits as they began and ended with map-like images of streets (one drawn, one satellite image-like), highlighting the cul-de-sac and starting the episode on a ‘feelgood’ note. While the opening credits and exact song changed over the years, many qualities of that original opening sequence remain in the current Neighbours title credits, which have been used since 2007. The song lyrics, updated and simplified; 

Neighbours, everybody needs good Neighbours 
That’s when good Neighbours become… 
When good Neighbours become good friends 

are sung at a more energetic tune, as images of the cast on brightly coloured backgrounds weave through the screen. Alternating between showing characters happily posing with family members in a photo booth (2002 titles) and images of characters interacting over a myriad of drawn settings (on a dock, walking along the beach, canoeing, sitting on the front steps to a house), the opening credits shown in 2003 show all of the cast members happy and enjoying themselves with their family and friends. The idea of the show being not only about neighbours, but friends, is reinforced by the lyrics of the theme song. The credits close with several of the photo booth images propped up in drawn grass, a “Ramsay Street” sign in the background, with the title “Neighbours” coming into focus.

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