Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (2014)

The opening title sequence to Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, designed by Kelli Miller and Trollb├Ąck + Company, is a bright and fast-paced collection of imagery that is organized and thoughtful in its design and execution. This title sequence sets the mood for the show through its use of movement and transitions, use of live action and photorealistic animation, and through it use of typographical movement and placement.

The overall design of this title sequence can be boiled down to this: an object, photo-realistically animated or a live-action element, is shown with a comedically incorrect Latin phrase above and an English keyword below the object. As many as almost two dozen objects can be shown on screen at once, but, alternatively, only one can be shown at once at a time. To transition from one group of objects to the next, the designers here use movement to set the tone. The camera can pan from one side to another while rotating 90 degrees from one scene to the next. Additionally, the camera can also shown zooming in or out from one screen to the next. This use of rapid, yet fluid and playful, motion from one group of objects to the next gives the audience an idea that this will be a fast paced show that moves fluidly from one topic to the next while interjecting its topics with a sense of playfulness and fun.

The next way the designers of the title sequence set the tone of the show is by using either photorealistic animated elements or live-action photography. The movement of the life-like objects shows the viewer that the show will be based upon real-life elements, yet the animation applied to these elements implies that these elements will be embellished with an added element; in this show’s case, comedy. Some such animated objects include: a glowing torch on the statue of liberty, an ape walking on all fours, a rotating model of Earth, and a gun that shoots out a flag that says “BANG.” The movement of these objects also injects an additional sense of motion into the title sequence, adding to its kinetic energy and giving the audience an idea that this show will try to balance many moving pieces at once.

Another way the designers of this title sequence set the tone of the show is through the use of typography, and specifically, the movement and placement of the typography. As each object in the title sequence is shown with its comedic (and fake) Latin phrase above it, an English keyword is shown unfurling from the underneath the center of the object. This key phrase, central to the the image and centered in explanation without any bias, explains what the object is to the viewer, much like how the host of the show will later on attempt to explain to the viewer each topic he presents. Additionally, every fake Latin phrase is placed above the object except for on one key object: the host himself, John Oliver. Here, the object itself is sandwiched in between the fake Latin phrase, showing the viewer that the host is central to the show they are about to watch.

Additionally, one last playful use of typography is shown on the logo itself at the very end of the title sequence. When the title reveals itself, the word “Week” is shown backwards, before flipping around to correct itself. This last element of playfulness through animation indicates to the audience that jokes are to be abundantly sprinkled throughout the show that follows.