As striking and unsettling as the series itself, the opening credits of Westworld set the stage for each episode. The main titles, created by Elastic, combine the visuals of host design with Ramin Djawadi’s instrumental composition. Judging by fans’ reactions, it’s another successful pairing from the team who also brought the world the much-loved and often-imitated main titles of Game of Thrones. After the debut of Westworld, Art of the Title took the opportunity to speak with Elastic’s creative director, Patrick Clair, at length about the company’s process for developing and creating the opening credit imagery.
According to Clair, influences for the project included Bjork’s robot-loving video for “All Is Full of Love,” directed by Chris Cunningham. He tells Art of the Title, “I was happy to be a bit shameless about it because I worship Chris Cunningham, and it seemed like the perfect place to riff on it. I hope no one feels that it’s derivative, but, for me, it seemed like a chance to exorcise this deep fandom that I’ve had for it. And it seemed like the perfect place to do it because it was dealing with all the right themes and all the right aesthetics.”
He also mentions being “obsessed with circles and squares and symmetry and balance.” Clair and his team assembled their influences and worked with series creators Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy to firm up their concept, with a little plot slipped into their main titles. Clair says, “Jonah’s got this brilliant writer’s mind, and he dug into it and started throwing out some ideas that were more emotionally challenging than I would have been willing to walk in and pitch. That’s when I felt like we were let off the leash, in a real way, but also in a very collaborative way. That’s when we started to dig into the idea of the host who becomes redundant, who is somehow killed at the end.”
The credits display several pieces of western iconography; Clair explains his choice of presentation in the interview. “What are the most epic, beautiful Western conventions that we can think of, and then take what’s at the core of that and put it in a really sort of stark, beautiful, graphic, sci-fi frame, and, from there, try to give it this strangeness that comes from seeing a galloping horse with an exposed ribcage?”
A major component of the opening credits is, of course, the music. According to the interview, Djawadi was involved from early on, and Clair reports that he and the composer “went back and forth” a lot.
The creative director reveals a surprising fact, as well – that the hand playing the piano in the credits isn’t created out of a random model, but based on the composer himself. “What was coolest is that Ramin’s team sent us a bunch of videos of them playing the piano so that we could match all the notes. I got to give a big shout-out to them to say thanks for that, and then, also, to our team, to Yongsub and Raoul, who then matched that. That was a great collaboration between the composition teams and the animation teams.”
Art of the Title’s interviewer confirms, “So, we’re actually seeing, basically, a skeletal version of Ramin’s hands in the titles?” to which Clair replies, “Yeah, totally!”
Art of the Title goes more in-depth with Patrick Clair at the source about the ins and outs of Westworld‘s opening credits, so make sure to check out the complete interview!