Netflix’s The Cuphead Show! brings the zany energy of the game to life with short comedic episodes, in the vein of old Mickey Mouse adventures. Right away you’re sucked into the opening sequence, which couples an infectious theme song with gorgeous, throwback visuals. It’s such a banger that you might not even hit skip when loading up the next episode. But even though it is such an integral part of the show, it almost didn’t happen.
“That theme was contentious,” recounts art director Andrea Fernandez. “It wasn’t a given that it was gonna happen. Because [in] streaming, it doesn’t need to happen. Dave [Wasson] was really adamant that he wanted it in the show. Not just that he wanted a theme and an intro, but he wanted a crazy-looking one.”
“There was a lot of discussion about do we even really need an intro on a streaming service where a lot of people skip intros?” says executive producer Dave Wasson. “I was like … my kids, if they’re watching a show, and they really love the intro, they don’t skip it. I think if we make this thing right, this could be something that everybody really loves. And then we [Wasson and co-executive producer Cosmo Segurson] wrote the song. They were like, Well make it 15 seconds long. And we wrote a song that was 45 seconds long. We were like, We can’t! We shortened it a little bit. We can’t be shorter than 45 seconds long! It has to be that.”
Wasson cites the intros of Spongebob Squarepants and Pee-wee’s Playhouse as the “gold-standards” he wanted to emulate. Not only do those opening sequences have really catchy theme songs, but they are also jam packed with fun visual details that are prime for watching multiple times.
But the team had to create the opening sequence in tandem with working on the show. As Fernandez says, there was no “extra magic time” or extra budget to produce the sequence, and even if it was against their best interest, the team had enough gumption to make the sequence happen. So they chipped away at it in between other projects for the show.
“My favorite tidbit about the intro is that we had capped out our stop motion locations. We had been told, Don’t even think about it,” says Fernandez. “I remember being like, OK … but begging our line producer, But what if we have a map that unfurled and then it opens up? I’m like, I’ll draw the map. No new sets need to be built.
“I look at that intro now and I’m like I was so lucky that we sweet talked our line producer into getting that one extra shot. It paid off. It paid off for sure.”
The Cuphead Show! is now streaming on Netflix.