The Man Who Created TZ’s Opening Credits Looks Back
It’s hard enough to classify The Twilight Zone after you’ve seen it. Imagine trying to depict what it’s about before you’ve watched a single episode.
That’s the task that fell to Sam Clayberger in 1959. At the time, he was an artist who worked for United Productions of America (UPA), the animation company that CBS hired to do the opening credits for a new TV show hosted by … Rod Serling.
“CBS didn’t want it to be science fiction,” said Clayberger in a 2007 interview. “They wanted something a little broader than that. Something weird, very strange, maybe a little touch of science fiction. But not much — because it wasn’t going to be any one of those. They wanted something a little spooky and scary. The cave might have something to do with my claustrophobia.”
Like most Twilight Zone fans, I enjoy the elements that came later: the vortex, the clock, the eye, the window, etc. But I prefer the Season 1 intro — both art and music — over the many variations that followed. Credit goes to Serling’s pitch-perfect narration (sadly truncated in subsequent seasons) and to Bernard Herrmann’s haunting theme music.
And to Sam Clayberger, who obviously got it even before there was something to get. Thanks, Sam.
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Hope to see you in some corner of the fifth dimension soon!