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If you want to get your story's messy background out of the way as fast as possible but don't have the budget to shoot the background scenes for the Opening Monologue, then your next best option is the Opening Scroll.

As the name implies, this is a text scroll that passes over (or in some cases into) the screen, supplying all of the relevant information with minimal damage to time or budget. A variation is to have the text fade up and then fade down, but this is something that shouldn't go on for too long as it's terribly dull to watch.

Nowadays, it's most often done as an homage and/or parody of Star Wars, which itself did so as a homage to the Flash Gordon serials. See also War Was Beginning.

Compare Opening Monologue, Title In.

Examples of Opening Scroll include:


Anime and Manga

Film

  • The most famous example is undoubtedly Star Wars, whose "into the screen" scroll spawned a thousand spoofs and imitators.
    • In the Star Wars spoof Spaceballs, as the expository scroll is disappearing into the distance, a small line of text suddenly appears at the end: "If you can read this, you don't need glasses."
    • Ironically averted, of all places, in The Clone Wars pilot movie, where it is instead replaced with an Opening Monologue.
  • Of course, Star Wars pilfered the idea from the movie serials Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe, dating respectively from 1939 and 1940.
  • Probably the worst filmic offender of all: Uwe Boll's film adaptation of Alone In The Dark delivered its entire backstory in a fade-in-fade-out series of title cards that took almost seven minutes of screen time; as warned above, it's dull enough to kill most viewers' enthusiasm for the film about ninety seconds in. If there's any enthusiasm left, it's shortly thereafter extinguished by the fact that it's an Uwe Boll movie.
    • And the worse part? The opening crawl in the final movie was the 'improved' version where they added a narrator to read the text out loud after test audiences complained that the opening was too wordy.
    • And the worst part? The narrator is Uwe Boll.
  • The Movie of Aeon Flux inexplicably starts with the scroll, and then still has a monologue after it. We wouldn't get just one of them? Talk about Viewers are Morons.
  • The Hunt for Red October
  • This is common in "based on a true story" films, to provide suitable historical context. These films also often have a closing scroll to tell us what happened to the real people after the story's end.
  • Airplane II: the Sequel has one that is slanted "into the screen" like the Star Wars one. However, it tells a story that's completely unrelated to the plot of the movie. It gets to the beginning of a sex scene right when a space shuttle collides with the scrolling text, causing it to disappear with a glass-breaking effect.
  • The Judge Dredd movie begins with a scroll that only adds background information for the setting.
  • The Monster Squad opens with a scroll about how Abraham Van Helsing, a hundred years before the story begins, gathered a band of freedom fighters to rid the world of vampires and monsters and save mankind from the forces of eternal evil. It ends with "They blew it." And then the opening scene shows us just how.
  • Scarface opens with one of these, describing how Fidel Castro sent Cubans who wanted to join their families to the United States in 1980, along with the dregs of his jails.
  • Johnny Mnemonic has one.
  • Similar to Alone in The Dark, The Last Airbender has an opening scroll narrated by Katara.
  • Mighty Morphin Power Rangers The Movie opens with an expository scroll about the backstory on the source of the Power Rangers powers. The text is read by a female voice completely straight, making the whole thing sound even more ridiculous than it is already.
  • "Leatherface the Texas Chainsaw Massacre III starts with a lengthy text scroll in an attempt to fill in the gaps between the first movie an the sequel that never happened.
  • Barb Wire
  • Blade Runner has this accompanied by a very eerie ambience that makes the viewer feel appropriately uneasy.

Literature

Live Action TV

  • An Opening Scroll appeared at the start of Red Dwarf season three explaining a number of things that happened off-camera, including the (male) main character giving birth to twins, a bit character from the second season being recovered and added to the main cast, and Holly having a "head sex change". The bulk of the scroll, however, passes so quickly that it can only be read via freeze-frame.
    • The writers were planning to do an episode before this one tying up all the loose plots but couldn't make it funny enough, so they made do with a parody.
    • The scroll also includes the bizarre phrase "The saga continuums..." which many fans take as an indication that the series from this point on follows an alternative continuity based on the novel Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers, which changes several previous claims about Lister's background.
  • The Pretender opened every episode of its first two seasons with a cross between the Opening Monologue and the fade-up version of the Opening Scroll.
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus made a Running Gag of this in one episode. The scroll would always begin, "In (year), (noun) lay in ruins," to introduce subjects such as Hungarians entering tobacco shops, World War I, or The End of the episode. The Spanish Inquisition have one in a different episode, which notes that the "violence, terror and torture" they unleashed make for "a smashing film."
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine opens with a quick text scroll to refresh people's memories about "The Best of Both Worlds", just before they introduce Captain Sisko in the Battle of Wolf 359.
    • Likewise, Star Trek: Voyager starts off with a quick description of Deep Space Nine and the surrounding conflicts, providing the necessary groundwork before going off and doing its own thing. (First shot immediately after this: A small rebel ship flying away and trading fire with a much larger vessel. Hmmm...)
  • Doctor Who had one of these at the opening to "The Deadly Assassin".
  • The Cylons were created by man. They rebelled. They evolved. There are many copies. And they have a plan.
  • Andromeda opens with a static text screen giving one or two quotations from fictional literature.
  • Sharpe has short ones at the beginning of every episode introducing the year, the place, and the situation.

Video Games

  • It should be no surprise that the various Star Wars games have opening scrolls.
  • Mega Man Zero opened with Ciel as the Pursued Protagonist. Future games in the series all started with text scrolls summarizing previous games and the events between games.
  • Stargunner, as befits a game where you fly through space blowing things up in your Cool Ship, plays the disappearing-into-the-distance version straight until a small tongue-in-cheek twist at the end.
  • Escape Velocity has a normal opening scroll, and a couple of humorous Easter Egg alternates.
  • Last Scenario starts with a lengthy text-scroll explaining the backstory. It's all lies.
  • Halo 3: ODST uses one of these. Notable as the only game in the Halo franchise (at the time of its release) to do so.
  • While it's not at the very beginning, clearing the prologue of Rodea the Sky Soldier will cause one of these to provide some background information about the prologue.
  • Both Mass Effect games use this during the opening, in the first to explain humanity's entry into the galactic community, and in the second to summarize the events and ramifications of what happened at the end of the first.
    • It's a small paragraph that takes less than 15 seconds to read. Hardly a scroll.
  • Deadly Towers has scrolling text at the beginning that details the game's Excuse Plot in a surprisingly verbose and well-written way. The game's ending is similar.
  • The Game Boy version of Kid Icarus has an opening scroll introduction, before the title screen.
  • The Flash game Robot Wants Puppy (a sequel to Robot Wants Kitty) opens with a scroll about rebels in the year 20XX plotting to liberate Zeta Sector from the iron-tentacled rule of the tyrannical Morgox the Unborn, followed by the line "Meanwhile, in a completeley different galaxy thousands of light years away, Robot wants puppy," then another message explaining that Morgox the Unborn has literal iron tentacles. Played straight in the third game in the trilogy, Robot Wants Fishy.
  • Some episodes of Commander Keen.
  • Karateka
  • Used in the intro of Saints Row: The Third to describe how The Saints have risen to superstardom and built an entire media empire around gangbanging.
  • Image Fight II

Web Original

Western Animation

  • The television show Arthur episode "Return of the Snowball" has an opening scroll as a homage to Star Wars. And one of the characters reads it, too.
  • The Family Guy Star Wars-spoof movies parody this, naturally: the second starts off normally, before Breaking the Fourth Wall halfway through.

  "Although the Death Star has been destroyed, Imperial troops have - okay, you know what? I realize space is vast, but this scrolling text is still littering. I mean, somebody's gonna run into this thing eventually. Yeah, it might be a thousand years from now, but does that make it okay?"

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