It’s Wednesday and once again your rewarded with another Survivor Oz Top Ten! This week, Ozlet Aaron Robertson, takes a look back and ranks the ten best opening credits! The opening credits are always a big talking point of the season, with fans keen to see the new intro and the music that goes with it, whilst the people who competed on the season love seeing their names and pictures in the opening credits of the show. But which ten are the best? We’ve now seen twenty-eight different ones so there is bound to be some controversy in Aaron’s list! Make sure you comment below to let us know which season’s you thought deserved to make the list!
I started watching Survivor during Guatemala and I was instantly hooked because of two things: One, the challenges and two, the music. Whenever a new season of Survivor was about to start or I bought a DVD of an earlier season, I was always most excited about the opening intro because it’s one of, if not my favourite part of the episode. Maybe it was because I’ve always been a music person and I love the theme in general. Maybe because I’ve gotten so attached to it. It serves to introduce the castaways and helps me remember them. Toward the latter part of the season, I now have formulated opinions on these characters and remember them either fondly or with some light hatred. Not to mention that I have most of Russ Landau’s soundtracks and listen to them all the time, especially the Ancient Voices theme. This is what prompted me to create a top ten for these wonderful intros. I didn’t look into just the music but also the theme of the season, if the shots match the music well or includes awesome clips of castaways. Some intros, like Caramoan or Tocantins have a catchy beat along with some interesting shots, (Like Allie, Eddie and Erik from Caramoan or Debbie from Tocantins), but overall lack something to push it over the edge – I think it’s harder to convey Fans vs. Favourites in music or in a short intro than Thai culture. Others like Guatemala have a lot of theme but the music doesn’t really gel with the intro’s shots. This is why these seasons missed making the top ten.
After much thought and moving things around, I finally have a Top Ten Opening Credits List!
10. Cook Islands
This season was revolutionary for a lot of reasons, (Final Three, different Idol rules), but nowhere was it more revolutionary than with its intro. Musically, this is the first time we have the format of the theme for eighteen to twenty castaways that Russ has used pretty much for every season since. Also this is the first time the beat is not emphasised in syncopation but on the beat, which gave it a different feel from the previous twelve. (That’s the music major in me coming out.) Last but not least, the text font they had used in Exile Island replaced the usual font for the castaways and stayed that way until Gabon. Of the seasons that included pictures of the castaways in their intro, I felt Cook Islands had some of the better effects with the fire burning the photo or the ash splashing around it. I am also a big, big fan of theme and even though the nautical theme wasn’t as emphasised as other seasons’ themes, it is prevalent enough to take note of. Not to mention the Cook Islands are beautiful and the scenic shots successfully capture the beauty of the location of the season.
Favourite Castaway Shots: The entire Puka Puka tribe and Jonathan.
For a long time, I didn’t really think much of the intro or the music and generally thought of it as a generic tribal-like intro. Then I remembered, that this was the first time we saw shots of island tribal members – we did see people in Africa but it’s rare that we see non-island tribes). Cinematically, this is the first time we’ve also seen more than one shot for all the castaways. Another thing relatively unique about this intro is the fact that there were also complementary shots that either came before or after a castaway was introduced, (either a picture or a motion shot like Gabriel running, Gina high-fiving someone, Tammy chopping a coconut), that added to the story and gave the opening a drive to it that hasn’t been captured in recent seasons. So it deserves its spot on the list because Marquesas is a revolutionary intro.
Favourite Castaway Shots: Gabriel and Gina
It’s volcanic, it’s shaky like an earthquake, it’s intense and those make for a very cool opening intro. I love the introduction of the castaways with the oar revealing the “Eighteen Castaways” and the exploding volcanoes that went with the music. The tribal shots are just epic with the guy jumping off a high platform and another guy shooting a spear. Out of the effects for the photos used throughout the first half of seasons, these are perhaps my favorite with the shakiness and multilayered photos on top of each other. Some of the shots of castaways are just beautiful and captures the franticness of the “cannibal” theme and establishes that it is a true battle of the sexes.
Favourite Castaway Shots: Rory, Leann, Eliza and Lisa
7. The Amazon
Not all opening credits have to be intense to be a great intro and The Amazon proves just that. The one thing I love most about this intro is how calm and serene it is. From the theme with it’s Brazilian cowbell and the little female vocals that sneak in and out, to having different Amazon voices filling in for the usual chorus at the “39 Days” part, all of the elements in the music work really well off of the slow moving shots. Speaking of shots, the effects they used for each castaway’s photo were really cool. For some they used this cool red lighting, sometimes they had shimmering lights but my favorite was when the shadow moved across the pictures. Altogether, the intro works really well from start to finish but there are still other intros that better utilise the location and theme for their season.
Favourite Castaway Shots: Shawna and Heidi
Some intros have awesome music, others have great shots but Heroes vs. Villains has both. The music is amazing and I love the contrast at the beginning with the low G minor, (the first time a main theme has started in this key, discounting an unused Pearl Islands theme) to represent the Villains and then the key change to our normal A minor with the brass to represent the Heroes. Every shot brings a sense of nostalgia for castaways we love and excitement for each new episode. However, I feel that the Top 5 better utilised their respective themes and cultures in their music and visuals so this intro lands here.
Favourite Castaway Shots: James, Russell, Jerri, Rob, and Sandra
This season they fully embraced the pirate theme and that certainly is the case for the opening intro. The music Russ composed this time was a perfect match for the feel of the season with all the sounds of cannon fire, a pirate laugh and whales. As for the film, I find the scenic shots to be amazing because they go along with the music and add a cinematic edge to the intro. However, the intro falls short in the shots of the castaways. Some of the pictures have great effects and also go along with the music, but I found in general there weren’t very many exciting shots of them. On the whole, that leaves me wanting more out of this intro in that department and is hence why it’s down at number five.
Favourite Castaway Shots: Tijuana and Michelle.
Like the Pearl Islands, Palau fully embraced its military, World War II theme. The military inspired beat helped drum up the feeling of being in a war zone. Again, like Pearl Islands the scenic shots went along great with the music, but unlike Pearl Islands, I felt the castaway shots in Palau were more exciting and went along better with the theme of the season. Also this was the one and only time Russ had configured a twenty person intro with the extended theme that was similar to the way he handled All-Stars before switching to the Cook Islands format that stayed intact from then on.
Favourite Castaway Shots: Bobby Jon and Caryn, plus the opening shots of Stephenie and Jonathan diving in the water.
This season receives a lot of flack from people and for good reason. However, I believe Thailand has one of the best opening credits. The first few seconds with all the colorful images of the buildings and scenery really set up a beautiful opening. As for the music, Russ really utilised the local instruments and helped to immerse us in the culture of the area. This is also the case for the Top 2, but for Thailand, I love that the voices were slightly changed to match a more Thai sound. However, it wasn’t a translation of “Hey, Lolee Lolee” the song that the choir sings throughout the song. The clips of castaways in the grand scheme of intros maybe weren’t as visually appealing as other intros but they went along perfectly with the music and the scenic shots.
Favourite Castaway Shots: Jake, Jed, Tanya and Stephanie
Africa is another season that’s not necessarily appreciated but it has an amazing intro and it definitely deserves this number two spot. From the shots of animals to the opening shots of the castaways jumping in the air is just beautiful. Even the way the opening credits looks alone with the bright images you can feel the heat of Africa and that’s something that you don’t see a lot in intros. Like Thailand before, the regular Russian voices were partially replaced by an African choir and the fact those voices were used increased the authenticity of the music and reinforced some of the themes of the season. The first few seasons had their share of dramatic clips and Africa was no exception. This intro was the start of an experimental phase before they finally settled on the Thailand format that was held for several seasons until China. There were action shots with pictures, some people had complimentary shots which helped to pull the intro together and told a story; which was something which I noticed in Marquesas as well. Finally the effects like the bright circles and quick zoom-ins were great and helped to give the intro good pacing.
Favourite Castaway Shots: Frank, Silas and Kim
Wow, what an introduction to a season. The intense shots match the music beautifully, the music itself is culturally inspired and conveys the feeling and themes of the season, which immerses you in the show from start to finish. Like Africa and Marquesas, I love how they incorporate shots of what the castaway’s are doing and then introduces them. (For example, when we see Courtney picking the leaves or Fei Long shove their battering ram in the wall after Amanda’s shots). This is also a revolutionary intro because they started using two action intro shots for each castaway. Like Thailand and Africa the fact the regular Russian voices were partially replaced by a Chinese choir is something that added to the authenticity of the music and reinforced the themes of the season. This was not my favorite intro when I first saw it, but it and the theme slowly grew on me and as you can see has stood the test of time.
Favourite Castaway Shots: Frosti and Amanda
What do you think of the top 10? Do you agree? Disagree? Is it in the wrong order or are there ones that didn’t make the top 10 that you feel should’ve? Leave a comment below to let us know your thoughts!