Imaginary Forces creates totally excellent title sequence for Bill & Ted’s big comeback

The Emmy award-winning studio behind TV’s most memorable opening graphics share the 70s and 80s rock references and faux archive trickery behind their film charting the band and characters’ last 30 years.

28 September 2020


The Bill & Ted movies were iconic to any 80s teenager and represent a staple in Keanu Reeves’ diverse oeuvre, so the return of the goofy time-travelling adventure franchise has drummed up a fair amount of hype. Its opening titles, therefore, already had the tough task of echoing that anticipation but also had to get the audience up to speed on what had happened in the 29-year hiatus since the last film. Enter Imaginary Forces, an Emmy award-winning graphic design and directing studio headed up by Karin Fong and Grant Lau, which designed the titles for Mad Men, Boardwalk Empire, Transformers, Stranger Things, and countless others.

Imaginary Forces was asked to create an opening prologue that charted Bill and Ted’s history, starting with how the characters were last portrayed in Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey. The sequence is a short standalone rockumentary of the characters’ band Wyld Stallyns, that pulls from the films and adds new elements in keeping with the franchise’s style. “We wanted to make sure to use the lore and visual language the fans already knew, but imagine how it would have evolved over the last 29 years,” explains Fong to It’s Nice That. “We put this timeline into a fast-moving, docu-style montage that instantly evokes the kind of music journalism we’ve all seen on VH1, news shows and documentaries. The timeline would serve as a piece of pop culture itself.”

The titles use segments like the performance shots in Bogus Journey and ephemera such as the band’s logo as “found elements” and adds graphics alluding to a news broadcast. “Stills were treated so they looked as if they’d been pulled from old magazine covers and articles,” Fong continues. “Of course, it’s been nearly 30 years since the last film, so in order to create imagery of the band, we found photos, both in the media and personal, of Keanu and Alex during that time, and reimagined them as Wyld Stallyns press.”

“One of the most fun parts of the entire process was designing the album artwork that shows the band’s musical trajectory,” explains Lau. “For this, we delved into our own memories of influential artists, starting with the heavy metal artwork, through the various singer/songwriter looks as they get more ‘serious’ with their music. It was extremely important to the filmmakers that we show Bill and Ted earnestly trying to grow, but losing their way as the band hit road bumps and sales plummeted. A classic rock story.”

Using the rockumentary style was a clever way to navigate the variety of mixed media and vast time leap from the last film to the new, and Lau says it “only helped us in making it feel authentic. The film’s director, Dean Parisot, encouraged us to make this a fast-paced, eclectic ride, where we never linger too long on anything. In one case we used a bit of footage that was rather low resolution, but we chose to push that quality since it was supposed to be a broadcast from the early 90s. We added print dots and film grain to give the impression that these images were real artefacts. Fortunately, we’ve both worked on some really cinematic music documentaries before, so we knew how to blend lots of different sources to tell the story.” 

Fortunately for Imaginary Forces, the film stars Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter stayed prominent in the media over the years, so the team was able to use real photos of them as part of its faux archive. “So we used their images as a narrative thread,” Fong says. For the rest of the visual references, she says the project was to a graphic designer “like being a kid in a candy store! It was definitely a deep dive into our music memories and libraries. Late 70s and 80s rock bands: Meatloaf, DIO, KISS, The Rolling Stones and ELO, the art of Frank Frazetta. These influenced early Wyld Stallyns, especially the double album art we created. An old black-and-white Paul Simon cover was the muse for the sensitive songwriter look of the 90s. Classic issues of Billboard, Spin and other magazines, as well as shows like Behind the Music, and surprisingly...David Hasslehoff! Have you ever looked at his collection of album covers? STILL BELIEVIN’!”

GalleryImaginary Forces: Bill & Ted Face the Music opening titles (Copyright © Imaginary Forces, 2020)

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Imaginary Forces: Bill & Ted Face the Music opening titles (Copyright © Imaginary Forces, 2020)

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About the Author

Jenny Brewer

After five years as It’s Nice That’s news editor, Jenny became online editor in June 2021, overseeing the website’s daily editorial output.

Jenny is currently on maternity leave.

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