How the makers of The House’s title sequence set the tone for the nightmarish Netflix comedy

We talk to Nexus Studios’ Nicolas Ménard and Manshen Lo about bringing their own unique 2D “flavour” to a “beautiful three-course meal of stop-frame films”.

Date
9 February 2022

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When Netflix’s stop-motion anthology The House landed onto our screens with an unsettling thud last month (14 January), Nexus Studios directors Nicolas Ménard and Manshen Lo opened its first creaking door with a hand-drawn title sequence. Directed by Emma de Swaef, Marc Roels, Niki Lindroth von Bahr, Paloma Baeza and produced by Nexus, The House opens with a tour of the house for an intro sequence. Manshen and Nicolas were faced with the considerable challenge of setting the mood for The House’s three distinct stop-frame worlds in these 30 seconds, while creating something visually separate from the animation to follow.

“Straight from our first chat with The House directors, we were instantly aligned in how we knew we needed a visual contrast between the intro and the films; 2D animation was a no-brainer,” Manshen and Nicolas tell It’s Nice That. Nineteenth-century woodcuts were used as a starting point, helping shape a distinct visual signature for the sequence: “elegant” but “tension-filled”, as they put it. As for this mood, the directors explain that finding the right tone was a balancing act: “Not all three films are horror, so we were constantly trying to make sure [the sequence] didn’t feel too ghostly.”

To create a visual language that would represent all three films, Manshen and Nicolas turned “instinctively” to the “neutrality” of black and white for its potential for mystery. They also referenced specific elements from the film in the title sequence; the presence of a living, moving staircase nods to the architect who keeps changing the house’s layout in the Emma de Swaef and Marc Roels film.

“What struck us when watching the anthology was that although the house had similar features from chapter to chapter, it didn’t seem to have a specific layout,” Manshen and Nicolas explain. “It was shape-shifting. This gave a rather eerie quality to the spaces featured in the films; one struggles to create a mental map of the place. So that felt like a great foundation for the theme of our intro sequence.”

Elsewhere, the directors collaborated with designer Jolin Masson for the typeface; Fermín Guerrero’s Brick was utilised, a type based on “old Brick Lane pub signage”, completing the vignette look of black prints on a black screen. They explain that the type also felt fitting to introduce a world inspired by England. For final touches to the animation, Manshen and Nicolas state: “We tend to be animation purists, so we forced our animator Duncan Gist to animate the staircase by hand. Same goes for our animation lead Iris Abols, who carefully animated the stylised orchids, making sure each petal has a lovely volume.”

GalleryNicolas Ménard and Manshen Lo, Nexus Studios: The House title sequence (Copyright © Netflix, 2022)

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Nicolas Ménard and Manshen Lo, Nexus Studios: The House title sequence (Copyright © Netflix, 2022)

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About the Author

Liz Gorny

Liz (she/they) joined It’s Nice That as news writer in December 2021. After graduating from the University of Bristol, they worked freelance, writing for independent publications such as Little White Lies, Indie magazine and design studio Evermade.

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