Maurice Binder and DePatie-Freleng – “Charade” and “The Pink Panther”

Here’s another excerpt from my research on animated title sequences. Here I discuss Maurice Binder (Charade) and DePatie-Freleng (The Pink Panther):

Charade - Title Card

Although Saul Bass is a monumental figure of cinematic graphic design during the Golden Age, he is not the only title designer by any means. Working within the similar genre of Vertigo—that is, adventure, thriller, and mystery—is Maurice Binder. Binder is probably most known for his work on the James Bond film series, most notably the famous gun barrel sequence beginning with Bond’s first outing in Dr. No (1962). While Binder slightly departs from the geometrically-based designs created by Bass with the use of groovy silhouetted dancers, he does bring in a series of color-changing circles—symbolic bullet holes—that advise the audience to expect dangerous adventure: the wild side of Mr. Bond. Binder’s work on Stanley Donen’s Charade (1963) illustrates a more abstract version of what will occur within the film. Charade, another mystery-thriller, recounts the murder of Charles Lampert, the husband of Regina “Reggie” Lampert (Audrey Hepburn), and how three men are in pursuit of the money Charles allegedly stole from them. Thus, these men suspect Reggie of the money; with the help of Brian Cruikshank (Cary Grant), in the form of multiple aliases, Reggie Lampert escapes the clutches of the three men, and ultimately ends up in love with Cruikshank. The opening title sequence displays the multifaceted and entirely intertwining storyline and characters through the use of constantly moving shapes. Perhaps the most elucidating shapes Binder uses are arrows and spiraling pinwheels. Arrows are continuously overlapping and spiraling into a ball of comedically-wonderful confusion, which is precisely the effect of the film. The viewer is always second-guessing who should and should not be trusted, yet it is still a fun and entertaining romantic-comedy of sorts. The pinwheel also accommodates this feeling of fun confusion; the twirling shapes only heighten the awareness of this fast-paced romantic-thriller. The combination of flashy colors and abstract symbols illustrates the core of the film—this chaotic thriller will have a multitude of twists and turns that will leave the viewer wildly entertained.

The Pink Panther

Veering away from the use of such abstract shapes is a welcome addition to the animated title sequence roster. DePatie-Freleng Enterprises, formed by director Friz Freleng and executive David DePatie, was constructed in 1963 (Beck, 2004). DePatie-Freleng Enterprises’s first assignment was for Blake Edwards’s The Pink Panther (1964), in which the duo created the eponymous character in animated form. This famous panther is seen in pantomime, cleverly interacting with the titles, a glove, and a curious inspector. The panther’s playfulness and sly attitude illuminates the human “panther,” Sir Charles Lytton, who is in search of the pink panther jewel. This is a departure from the majority of Bass’s and Binder’s work because we get an actual character within the sequence. As Beck (2004) points out: “The cool, contemporary style of the design and graphics, Henry Mancini’s distinctive theme music and the pantomime comedy were a complete departure from the cheaply made theatrical cartoons created by competitors,” as well as other opening titles (p. 208). The title sequence readily provides us with the sense of a comedic mystery-thriller; the audience will feel attached to this panther (even in human form) because of his wit and charm. The sequence itself also provides us with the overall action of the film: discovering the jewel and outlasting the nosy inspector; the sequence does not give everything away, but subtly hints about the overarching mystery.


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