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Creating those wild "White Lotus" wallpapers and the hidden meanings within

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HBO's satire "The White Lotus" is the story of a vacation gone wrong for many guests and workers at a luxury Hawaiian resort. That's putting it mildly since one of them ends up dead. But you only have to watch the fascinating – and foreboding – main titles sequence to understand that something rotten is indeed afoot.

Presented as a series of tropical-themed wallpapers, the opening credits begin with images of paradise: lush monstera leaves, hibiscus blooms and snoozing leopards. But soon they make way for darker skies and deadlier creatures, like a camouflaged snake and stinging jellyfish, while images start to bleed and decompose. By the time the title "The White Lotus" flashes onscreen, viewers have been taken on a disturbing odyssey.

Katrina Crawford and Mark Bashore of studio Plains of Yonder spoke to Salon about the process of understanding the show's themes to create the main titles.

"The white lotus flower in all these cultures stands for rebirth and other different things," said Crawford. "It has roots in the mud, and yet is this gorgeous flower that presents itself beautifully at the surface. Also, [series creator Mike White] mentioned 'The Lotos-Eaters' poem, which is all about drifting through life and not actually integrating with things and wanting to hide from the realities of life."

That duality of experiencing beauty while something darker lurks beneath is a theme that also plays out in the main titles. Nothing is what it seems, and this was further inspired by the "tropical kabuki" philosophy practiced by resort manager Armond (Murray Bartlett).

"Armond in the first [episode] mentions something about 'tropical kabuki,' which was a term that we immediately latched onto – this idea of performance," said Crawford. "And then I think because [the show] is a mystery, we really could home in on idea that details mattered. We try to really reward an audience for their time, for paying attention, and so we try to put little treats and surprises in."

Plains of Yonder hired Australian illustrator Lezio Lopes to draw the actual tropical images. These were then digitized in order to add details like "misregistered seams" and wallpaper-like textures. Subtle animations of key elements highlight the themes of toxicity and betrayal. Throw in an extra bit of cheeky symbolism, and it's safe to say you can't pick up these wallpaper patterns at any Crate and Barrel.

Take a look at "The White Lotus" main titles:


© Salon

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