If you’re diving into BoJack Horseman on Netflix, be sure to keep an eye out during the opening theme song for clues.
[Warning: The following contains spoilers for the show’s fourth season.]
A big theme in BoJack’s fourth season is feeling cornered into caring for an immediate family member despite having no real emotional connection to them. BoJack needs to take care of his ailing mother who is suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease while also trying to foster a relationship with a teenage girl who claims to be his daughter. BoJack is now forced to split his time worrying about himself and coping with a major depressive disorder while also trying to do what’s best for his family.
All of that information can be glanced from the first 30 seconds of BoJack’s opening theme. Here are a couple of examples:
The way the opening title sequence for BoJack Horseman is choreographed, it’s unlikely that people will notice the background characters. The attention of the viewer is pulled in to focus solely on BoJack’s moving head, but it’s also supposed to act as an introduction to the darker cartoon world BoJack lives in.
Creator Raphael Bob-Waksberg told Art of the Title in 2014 that the title sequence should provide hints to viewers about the message the show was trying to get across.
“One of the important things for me was the idea that this was a dark show — it’s darker than a lot of other animated shows,” Bob-Waksberg said. “It starts out sunny and cartoony and it gets darker as the show progress. We wanted a title sequence that reflected that and hinted at the darker moody elements to come so that people tuning in wouldn’t dismiss the show out of hand.
“They’d see the hints and maybe they’d think, ‘oh, maybe there’s something more here.’”
The title sequence for the fourth season embodies the philosophy that Bob-Waksberg and his team have been trying to get across since the show began. In that same interview, Bob-Waksberg confirmed the title sequence was one of the most important parts of storytelling for BoJack Horseman, and that’s why they pay as much attention to the details as they do.
The cruciality of BoJack’s theme comes at an ironic time for Netflix. In March, Netflix began testing a “skip intro” button for its subscribers. The idea was to give those who wanted to watch multiple episodes of series with longer intros, like Friends, BoJack Horseman or House of Cards the chance to do so without having to worry about sitting through the same theme song every time.
In a recent column for The A.V. Club, Myles McNutt, an assistant professor of media and television studies at Old Dominion University, pointed out that Netflix was working toward canceling the need for a title screen after helping to bring it back. McNutt argued that while it’s understandable Netflix would want to cater to its audience, allowing users to skip over the title sequence — often designed to invoke a specific emotion for audiences — takes away from the mood the show’s creator wants to craft for viewers.
These changes are not coming because Netflix has a vendetta against opening title sequences; it’s happening because they have the data about how their users watch these shows, and so they know how many people are reaching for the remote or the mouse and fast-forwarding through title sequences. And because Netflix’s ultimate goal is to create the impression that they are creating a service personalized for each of their subscribers, they are taking steps to make the process of skipping these sequences as efficient as possible.
BoJack Horseman’s theme song contains clues because Bob-Waksberg wants his audience to understand what BoJack is dealing with as a character and what they’re getting themselves into each season. There are other clues in this season’s title sequence — much like in previous seasons — to keep an eye out for the next time you start up an episode.
BoJack Horseman’s fourth season is now streaming on Netflix.