On September 13, 1989, French spectators discovered Tim Burton's Batman in theaters. A film which opened with an extraordinary and unforgettable credits, the creation of which was a landmark. And that we owe to a legend in his field.
On September 13, 1989, French spectators discovered in theaters, stunned, a superhero destined for a great career in theaters, even if it was sometimes up and down: Batman. Risky choice by Tim Burton to entrust the title role of the Batman to Michael Keaton, while many fans of the superhero thought he was incapable of donning the costume, and did not hesitate to let Warner know.
But, even before seeing the performance of the trio Michael Keaton, Jack Nicholson and Kim Basinger on screen, the audience was already captivated from the brilliant and catchy first notes of the opening credits of the film signed by Danny Elfman, who will estimate even later that its fabulous soundtrack was nevertheless mistreated.
Is it a bird? A batcave? No, it's the Bat symbol!
His score accompanied an extraordinary and unforgettable theme song, which gave chills to the audience. Plunged into darkness, the spectators followed with their eyes a camera twirling in furrows which resembled trenches. Or rather what appeared to be some sort of stone structure, still indistinct.
Were these details of the famous batcave or another iconic element of the superhero universe? Until the camera finally rises high enough to reveal the final structure: nothing less than the very symbol of Batman, which was redesigned by designer Anton Furst.
For (great) pleasure, see again below…
An unforgettable memory, creation of an immense artist totally unknown to the general public, a design legend: Richard Harrison. In a career spanning over forty years, he has worked with Terry Gilliam, the Wachowskis, Jean-Jacques Annaud, Kenneth Branagh, Neil Jordan, Ridley Scott, David Lean, Bernardo Bertolucci, Stephen Frears, Martin Campbell, andso, to name just a tiny handful.
He has created more than 200 credits for cinema and series. Alongside Kyle Cooper, another legend in the field, and with a spiritual father who was none other than Saul Bass, Richard Harrison is a leading authority in his field.
“No one had done anything like this before.”
If he began his career by creating the credits for an obscure film in 1979, Quadrophenia, the launch of his career was effective thanks to his work on the credits of Batmanas he himself wrote.
“I guess the turning point in my career was with Batman in 1989. My idea of using the brand, the famous Bat Symbol, in a non-traditional sense of the word allowed me to win this job” .
The sitehad also collected his comments. “I didn't know Tim before, so I had to pitch the project. We just had to make sure what we were doing. I sat down with him for a few minutes and then walked around the Gotham City set.
And that was really it. I remember very clearly sitting in the car on the way home, and all of a sudden I knew. I knew it had to be something about the classic Batman comic book logo.
I thought, “What if we thought about this in a 360° motion? What if it was in the form of a landscape? What if I made it into something that you can move, so you don't know not really what it is?”
So that was the idea, and then I just invented the world around it. No one had done anything like this before, so it probably retained its timeless appearance.”
In a fascinating interview he gave in 2008 to the site, Richard Harrison details a little more about his meeting with Tim Burton on this film; first collaboration in a long series to come: the filmmaker had indeed loved the work he had done for on his film Brazil.
“As a creative, it’s the idea that’s important and when the idea works, it’s normally quite simple. […] Tim […] saw it right away and he just loved it, because I think he saw this stripped-down idea, and he realized that it was ultimately something simple [dans le concept] and that was appropriate. I later learned that this also suited his psychology. This idea of obscurity, the unexplained which is sudden, then explained.”
Two models of the Batman symbol were created for this credits. A first of 4.50m, the one which was used for the camera movements traversing the furrows. The second model, almost 2.50m long, was used to film the final revelation of the symbol in its entirety. The result is there, masterful. And unforgettable.