Note: This is a reprinting of an article I wrote for my Classic As the World Turns website.
One thing that makes As the World Turns special is the slow evolution of its opening and closing visuals. While some soaps have made changes every few years and others have abandoned their original inspirational image logos in an attempt to be trendy, ATWT has always had its globe. The look of the globe may have changed, but it is still there, just as it was on April 2, 1956.
During ATWT's first eleven years on the air, the show opened with a black and white shot of a globe slowly spinning in space, just right of center. The camera slowly zooms in until the globe is right in the center of the screen, at which point the title of the show slowly appears in white Lydian typeface lettering, and announcer Dan McCullough says, "And now, live for the next thirty minutes, AS THE WORLD TURNS!" Charles Paul's "Theme for 'As the World Turns'" is played in the D-major key on organ and piano.
In those early years, mid-program station breaks were graced by a beautiful music box like piece in C-major. According to Craig W. Pattillo's 1990 book, The TV Theme Soundtrack Directory, that mid program (closing?) piece was titled "Simple Melody," also by Charles Paul. (Mr. Paul may have given the piece that title as homage to the Irving Berlin piece "(Play a) Simple Melody," which that mid-program music sounded a little like the first verse of.)
By visiting David Jackson Shields' ClassicThemes.com website, I found out about a relatively obscure short-lived theme by Dick Charles and Fay Tishman. Reportedly this theme was used in the 1961/1962 period. If any of you longtime viewers remember anything about this theme, please let me know.
ATWT went from black and white to color on February 13, 1967, so a new color version of the globe opening was in order. Now the globe was always right at the center of the screen, and the title zoomed out at the viewer from the middle of the globe. The theme music remained the same, but in 1973, the organ was retired in favor of a full-orchestral version of Charles Paul's "Theme for 'As the World Turns.'"
By 1981, the beautiful music box-like mid-program music, "Simple Melody," was replaced with a solo piano variation on the main theme song. Also by 1981, Dan McCullough's intro was shortened to this: "AS THE WORLD TURNS. This portion brought to you today by. . ."
End credits lettering before 1978 combined Futura DemiBold lettering with the same Lydian typeface style as the main title. Starting in 1978, the show set its end credits in the modern Helvetica type style that would prevail through 1992, only the letters were white, not yellow. And the end credit version of the main theme song was now in C-major instead of D-major.
Long time fans of ATWT were shocked on the afternoon of November 2, 1981 when, instead of the familiar Charles Paul theme music, they heard a cosmic synthesizer glissando followed by a mysterious pop rock theme in E-minor played on harpsichord, guitars, bass, and synthesizer ("The World Turns On and On," by Jack Cortner for Elliot Lawrence Productions). By February 1982, longtime announcer Dan McCullough was replaced by a much younger announcer named Dan Region, who was with the show until the end of July 1998. This change was one of many occurring in the openings of the Procter and Gamble soaps between September 1981 and January 1982--The Great P&G Soap Opera Facelift.
In the new opening visual, a globe surrounded by a bluish atmospheric glow swishes across the screen from right to left as it spins, then comes back on screen and assumes a position left of center as the title of the show enters from beyond the picture in large gold, metallic sheen Cloister Bold type. The globe represents the O in "world." Once the title is in place, three spotlight style beams shoot out from the globe in different directions. This visual was used for mid-program breaks also. For the end credits, however, the title of the show and end credits appear over a larger centered view of the globe reminiscent of the old logo. From November 1981 to the summer of 1988, the end credit title logo lettering was nearly identical to that in the opening; from summer 1988 to February 2, 1993, however, the end credit title logo lettering changed to Romana Bold.
There was no longer any distinct mid-program music as a shortened version of the main theme was now used.
There would be two remixes of "The World Turns On and On." The first debuted the week ending December 21, 1984 and featured a super dramatic full orchestral arrangement which was in keeping with the change in music philosophy from the pop-rock dominated Mary Ellis Bunim regime to the traditional "back-to-basics" strings and woodwinds of the Robert Calhoun years (1984 to 1988). The second remix debuted around August of 1988, just before Laurence Caso became ATWT's new executive producer, and that version was an all techno synthesizer arrangement with no harpsichord. All opening arrangements of "The World Turns On and On" remained in the E-minor key.
It should also be pointed out that soon after Robert Calhoun became executive producer in October 1984, the traditional two second fade to black between the end of the prologue and the beginning of the main title was done away with in favor of the immediate dissolve from prologue to main title that became the norm on Calhoun's prior shows, Texas and Guiding Light (since spring 1983).
On February 3, 1993, a dramatic roll of the cymbals ushered in the debut of Barry DeVorzon's ATWT theme, a slow, soothing piece in C-major played on piano and synthesizer. The name of the song, by the way, is "Jelinda's Theme (a.k.a."As the World Turns Theme").
Designed by Castle/Bryant/Johnsen, the opening begins with a shot of the letters of the shows titles slowly rolling over the earth; then, four seasons visuals appear inside the letters of the show's title (A=morning clouds, S=storm, T=waterfall in the summer, H=autumn leaves, E=snowfall, W=seagulls flying) before the globe settles in a spot similar to where it was in the 1981-1993 opening. The main title lettering is in the Benguiat typeface, but the arrangement of the title is a continuation of the November 1981 opening, right down to the globe substituting for the O in "world." The word "world," however, is bigger than the letters in all the other words, where the first letter is bigger than the others are. During the first few weeks of this opening, the fade to black between the end of the prologue and the beginning of the main title was briefly reinstated. For mid-program breaks, a shortened version of the opening visual is accompanied by the theme in D-major. (This shortened version with the D-major arrangement has also been used as an opening since early 1995.)
From January 1995 to July 1999, the end credits were run over a choice of either a beauty shot, stills, or live visuals from that days episodes; this format replaced the long-running end credits over the spinning globe shots.
At the beginning of August 1999, ATWT's traditional end credits/titles sequence was done away with in favor "squeezed" end credits on the right side of the screen accompanied by network promos. This change has become the standard not only on CBS, but also on the daytime and primetime shows of other networks. No theme music is played over the end credits of most shows anymore.
The ATWT opening that debuted on November 1, 1999 is both a continuation of the status quo (i.e. the globe) and a major break from the show's tradition. The new visual sequence was designed by Pittard/Sullivan.
Of course the globe is present, but it is now done in an inventive video mosaic style influenced by the 1998 Jim Carrey hit The Truman Show. Two-thousand historic video clips of ATWT have been combined to form the globe, which still spins into its spot in place of the "O" in "world" in the title logo. The title logo lettering setup is somewhat reminiscent of the 1981 to 1993 logo in that every letter in every word is the same height, but the typeface is Bodoni.
Now for the break from tradition: the addition of the cast montage this show had held out against for many years. Each cast member strikes an in-character pose in medium close up against a white background. Most cast members appear solo, but some appear in pairs.
The theme music, by David Nichtern and Kevin Bents, is basically a brass-dominated pop fan fare that goes from G major to D-sharp major.
The Pittard/Sullivan main title for ATWT received a 1999/2000 season Daytime Emmy Award nomination.
On Monday, July 8, 2002, ATWT unveiled a new opening. The elements of the 1999-2002 opening that are used in this new opening are the stylized clips of the major characters and the logotype lettering font. However, the background was predominantly in a rich gold color until late-November 2003, when it changed to sky blue. If you watch carefully, you can see the 1956-1981 logo lettering arrangement in tiny print on the lower left-hand side.
The new theme music is composed by David Nichtern and Jamie Lawrence (Elliot Lawrence’s son).
Finally, I want to point out some changes that have occurred in the cast credits over the years. In the spring of 1981 at least, and from the fall of 1984 through March 1993, cast members were listed in order of seniority. During the Mary Ellis Bunim years, however, cast members were often grouped based on their then-current storyline family ties. Since March 1993, all cast members have been billed in strict alphabetical order with the lone exceptions of Don Hastings, who has been listed first since 1982, and Eileen Fulton, whose name has always come last since at least the 1970s.
If anyone has further information or corrections to add to this section, please e-mail me. Thank you.