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.

TZ S1 credits 1

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.”

TZ S1 credits 2

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.

TZ S1 credits 3

***

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Hope to see you in some corner of the fifth dimension soon!

 

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About Paul

Fanning about the work of Rod Serling all over social media. If you enjoy pics, quotes, facts and blog posts about The Twilight Zone, Night Gallery and Serling's other projects, you've come to the right place.

Posted on 05/26/2016, in Twilight Zone and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. The first season is one of my favorite openings, but I think I like the one with the breaking window the best. There something about that sound that really gets my attention. I can’t imagine dreaming it up ahead of time. I guess that’s what makes people professionals.

    • The breaking-window effect is cool, no question. I also like the one where Serling says “that’s the signpost up ahead” just before we smash through the letters. They’re all good, really — a sign of true talent!

      • I was going to mention that line but I didn’t remember what season that was from. It certainly raised my BP a few points when he says that, such intensity.

  2. Yes, the Season 1 opener is my favorite! Nice to know who did the artwork — I’d always wondered! Great post!

  3. Absolutely agree, the first season theme is my favorite. The Herrmann theme is much harder to hum than the Constant one, so that’s probably why not many remember it. But the haunting score and vaguely eerie images just fit the tone of the show so well. Thank you for the insight on this topic!

    • You’re welcome, Adam! And you’re right — his otherwise first-rate work DOES lack a “hook”. That “dee doo dee doo” theme just lodges in your brain and tells you immediately what you’re in for!

  4. Each one has its impact on my memory, Paul. The Twilight Zone was a major change of pace from the silly situation comedies and the drama’s which were kind of “hokey.” TZ was well imagined and plots were creative while stretching our own minds, like into a time warp. :)

    • It certainly was. Such a unique and well-crafted work stands out on any TV schedule, whether it’s now or 50 years ago. Thanks for stopping by!

      • Just came by to see if I was missing your posts and found the last one but glad you didn’t have too much for me to read. :) Trying to hope the Cavs win since I probably already mentioned I was a Cleveland “girl.”

      • Yeah, having too much to read is rarely a problem around here! Dan is Mr. Prolific, but I’m lucky to get two or three a month posted. Hoping to change that, though — I have plenty of ideas. Ironically, during my first month blogging (exactly five years ago), I actually cranked out a post a day for about three weeks. Anyway, good luck to your Cavs!

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