Unsolved Mysteries has been a pop culture staple since its debut in 1987 and we were thrilled to work on the 2020 Netflix reboot with partners Cosgrove/Meurer Productions. Our series graphics covered a wide range of deliverables, including the title sequence, maps, documents and timelines that were essential in helping viewers track bits of evidence and important time markers. Keeping these elements clean and easy to understand was crucial in maintaining a consistent through-line to the show.
We spoke with Creative Director, John Leamy, about the challenges and successes of creating the show's title sequence.
BGSTR: How much inspiration did you draw from the original, 1987 Unsolved Mysteries title sequence? What did it feel like to help reinvent such an iconic show?
JL: “I drew some inspiration from the original. We went back and looked at all of them throughout the history of the show. What ended up in the final that we did, didn’t resemble very closely what they had done in the past, but it was certainly inspired by the tone that the show originally had. Keeping the theme music largely the same was a big ingredient in tying back into the feeling of the original series. I definitely wanted to stay within the spirit and really have the update be an homage to the tone of the original series.”
BGSTR: What emotions and themes did you feel were most important to evoke in these 30 seconds?
JL: "There’s a certain unsettling, spooky quality to the music and generally to the tone of the show, certainly to Robert Stack. We wanted to evoke that feeling of eeriness and uneasiness combined with real life, or situations that are relatable, as the show has always done. Using material sourced from the episodes themselves helped us a great deal in that regard”
BGSTR: Describe your general creative process for this project. How was it different than your approach to other projects? How was it similar?
JL: “My creative approach for this project begins the same as every project, which is started by doing a lot of research and understanding the past as well as the intentions for the future. Surveying the landscape of what’s been done. Because this is such a recognizable property, and one that so many people have such great affection and memories for, that played a lot in how we went about constructing this. We worked really closely with the directors to arrive at just the right combination of imagery, tone, and movement. My process began the same, and then as most projects do, it changed over time as we worked more and more closely with the directors to find the balance that worked best for them, and the show.”
"We wanted to evoke that feeling of eeriness and uneasiness combined with real life, or situations that are relatable, as the show has always done". - John Leamy
BGSTR: What were some of the biggest challenges in creating this title sequence? What do you think your greatest successes were?
JL: “The challenges lay mostly in creating a series of tableaus that didn’t answer questions, but asked them, in fairly short order. It’s different than what the show has done before. We wanted to bring a very cinematic feeling to the way we created the titles. The recreation sequences that they created are gorgeous, so we wanted to up the production value. That’s not so much a challenge as it is a great problem to solve and it was certainly fun for us to do. The thing that I liked the most about it is the thing that remained unchanged for the whole creative process, which is using the image of Robert Stack at the very end of the sequence as the title is revealed. That was my favorite thing to do - I thought it was important to pay homage to him, however briefly, so that we had that final anchor back to the way the show resonated with people. Most of the comments I’ve seen in particular have been about that. I knew I wanted to to do that no matter what, so it was the easiest part of the whole sequence.”
Photo treatments, archival and newspapers all played off of our main title and series look, tying together the moody but familiar feeling that Unsolved Mysteries has established with viewers over the decades.
Thanks to our partners and collaborators at Cosgrove/Meurer and Netflix - we loved being a part of this iconic series!
Exec. Creative Director - Josh Norton
Creative Director - John Leamy
Exec. Producer - Carson Hood
Producer - Shannon Hall
Main Title Design & Animation - John Leamy, Alec Iselin
Design - Ivan Viaranchyk
Animation - Chris Scales, Ivan Viaranchyk, Jane Wu