The first step in the creative process is an idea. That part is obvious. Coming up with what to call that idea can be troublesome. And if you don't have a name for it, then talking about it is a chore.
This is why a lot of things go through a number of names between production and release. The end result may be that you hear actors talk in an interview about a movie they're doing, only to find it came out under a different name all together.
Working titles can also be used defensively, allowing the creators to refer to their project without giving much away. It can help camouflage a ground-breaking project against someone else copying the idea, or sneak an anticipated sequel under the media radar until it is ready for the world to hear about it. Also can be used to get lower production costs for big sequels as locations or prop companies overcharge on big name features.
In many other cases, the working title is the originally intended title that was changed because of last-minute Executive Meddling.
Not to be confused with the British production company affiliated with Universal.
See also Market-Based Title.
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Anime and Manga
Puella Magi Madoka Magica had the temporary title of "Mahou Shoujo Apocalypse Madoka Magica" before they finally decided to get rid of the Apocalypse part.
Watchmen was originally called Who Killed the Peacemaker, as it was written to star characters from Charlton Comics that DC Comics had recently acquired the rights to.
Dinosaur Revolution was called Reign of the Dinosaurs for most of its production, and would have received a companion-show titled Science of Reign of the Dinosaurs. These got merged to form the show that ended up on screen. The European version reinstalled Reign of the Dinosaurs as the title.
1991: The Year Punk Broke, a rockumentary / concert film following Sonic Youth and Nirvana on a European tour together, had the working title of Tooth Or Hair. This was meant as a pun on Madonna's 1991 tour documentary Truth Or Dare, which was referenced several times in the film.
Anyone around at the beginning of The Lion King Adventures would know that the original title for the series was The Lion King: Friends to the End.
The Toxic Avenger was filmed under the working title The Monster Hero - which gets a number of Title Drop moments, as it was changed at the last minute.
Ed Wood's first major movie, Glen or Glenda?, was slated to be called I Changed My Sex, as it was designed to cash in on a sex change operation that had just made the news.
Everyone thought that Cloverfield was just a working title. Then the movie came out under that name.
Star Wars: Return of the Jedi had "Blue Harvest" as a working title to keep the production hidden - besides from overeager fans, they really didn't want to repeat the experience of being overcharged by location managers for The Empire Strikes Back. When Family Guy made their first Star Wars special, they called it Blue Harvest.
It was also originally going to be named Revenge of the Jedi, changed due to a flood of bootleg merchandise with the Revenge name on it and years later retconed to having been done because revenge isn't a Jedi thing. This working title was called back to with Revenge of the Sith.
The Jackie Chan movie The Medallion was originally titled Highbinders during filming. It's easy to tell by looking at the outtakes during the closing credits, since the working title is written on the clapperboard.
The two Matrix sequels were shot back to back under the codename The Burly Man. Possibly in reference, the two major Neo vs. Smith fights in the two sequels are referred to as the "Burly Brawl" and the "Super Burly Brawl".
The Thief and the Cobbler had such titles as "The Thief Who Never Gave up", "Once...", simply "The Thief", or the wildly different and creative "The Cobbler And The Thief". The film was released after Executive Meddling under two names, "The Princess And The Cobbler" and the punny "Arabian Knight", before being released on VHS as "The Thief And The Cobbler".
Not to mention the early period when it was about Mulla Nasruddin, and has names such as "Nasruddin!", "The Majestic Fool" or "The Amazing Nasruddin".
TRON Legacy was going to be called TR2N (or possibly T2.0N). The stylized 2 can still be seen, notably when Rinzler is looking for clues by the End of Line club.
The Ides Of March was originally called Farragut North, after the play it's based on. The original title still gets a Title Drop a few times.
Woody Allen's films usually have generic working titles during production, such as "Woody Allen Fall Project" or "Woody Allen London Project". In one case, the working title simply remained and became the film's actual title: Manhattan Murder Mystery.
Lampshaded with a 1960s comedy starring cast members from The Dick Van Dyke Show titled "Don't Worry, We'll Think of a Title" (probably the one clever part of the movie.)
The Powerpuff Girls Movie originally had the working titles The Powerpuff Girls: Maiden Voyage and The Powerpuff Girls: First Flight.
Christopher Nolan's films have names of his children in working titles, except Batman Begins, which was titled as The Intimidation Game. Mostly, these are just titles used to disguise production.
The first Alien film was known as "Star Beast" in its earliest stages. When the writer went through the script he saw characters constantly referring to the Alien, and then the title came out at him, noting that is both a noun and an adjective.
Brad Bird's upcoming film, previously known as 1952 is now officially titled Tomorrowland.
Starship Troopers (the film) was originally known as Bug Hunt, an unrelated script that was later changed into an adaptation of the novel.
The Call was shot under the title The Hive, which is the nickname for the building where Halle Berry's character works at (managing to even get a Title Drop). The renaming occurred as soon as the film got a release date, as the film's premise is focused around a phone call that links the two leads.
Peter Cook and Dudley Moore's original title for their film Bedazzled was 'Raquel Welch' (who had a small role in the film) - so they could have a poster saying 'Peter Cook and Dudley Moore in Raquel Welch'.
The original script title for Blade Runner was Dangerous Days.
Epic was originally called Leafmen, which is closer to the book the film is based on.
Fantasia had the rather plain title The Concert Feature while in production. A contest was held to find a better title and the musical term fantasia (meaning a free-form composition using familiar themes) seemed the most appropriate. Its sequel Fantasia 2000 was originally going to be called Fantasia Continued.
The Fourth Apprentice for the Omen Of The Stars series
Ambush for The Fourth Apprentice
Betrayal or Dark Betrayal for Night Whispers
Crookedstar's Secret for Crookedstar's Promise
The Great Gatsby had a few working titles: Trimalchio (after a character who throws an elaborate party in Petronius's Satyricon) Trimalchio in West Egg, Gold-Hatted Gatsby (after the dedication quote) and Under the Red White and Blue.
After the fourth book's working title, Harry Potter and the Doomspell Tournament, was leaked, Rowling changed it to Harry Potter and the Triwizard Tournament. Finally she settled on Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.
The Australian drama series headLand had the working titles of Away From Home, Campus and Ten Degrees South. The first title is explained by the fact it was orginally intended as a Spin-Off from Home and Away, but with UK broadcaster Channel Five having no interest in the spin off, Channel 7 decided to make it a separate series altogether.
The UK version of Who Wants to Be a Superhero? had the working title of The Ultimate Superhero at one point. This is evidenced in the episode where the superheroes visit BBC Television Centre and their guest passes read "The Ultimate Superhero".
High School Musical was meant to be a working title, but the title was still being used in post-production and it stuck.
Weirdsister College had a working title of The Worst Witch: The College Years (and ended up being used in an autumn CITV promo).
That '70s Show had the working titles The Kids Are Alright and Teenage Wasteland, but everyone just kept referring to it as "that '70s show" and the title stuck.
Hikari Sentai Maskman was titled Fiveman, which explains why their team symbol is the number 5. It was changed during post-production of the first episode, and the Fiveman name was used three years later.
Torchwood: Miracle Day was originally going to be named The New World, as evidenced by early promotional materials before changing to Miracle Day. However, the first episode keeps the original name and one character name-drops it in the season finale.
Many episodes of Doctor Who were filmed under a different name to the one they were broadcast under. The Deadly Assassin was originally "The Dangerous Assassin", until Robert Holmes decided it didn't "sound right". The Claws of Axos was known as The Vampire from Space right up until transmission, with the first episode being listed in the Radio Times under that title. And threeseperatestories were originally known as Return of the Cybermen, with at least one being changed so the Cybermen would be a surprise.
In his Doctor Who Magazine column for March 2011, Steven Moffat announced what some of the upcoming episodes wouldn't be called: The first episode of the new season wouldn't be "Year of the Moon" ("I really like that title, but absolutely nobody else does in the whole wide world"), the second wouldn't be "Look Behind You!", and the mid-season finale either wouldn't be "His Darkest Hour" or it wouldn't be "A Good Man Goes To War". Neil Gaiman's episode, meanwhile had a story so secret, Moffat couldn't even tell us what it wasn't called. (" Bigger on the Inside", and before that "The House of Nothing").
Star Trek: The Next Generation had a number of these including Star Trek A New Beginning, Star Trek A New Generation, Star Trek The New Generation and Star Trek Enterprise 7 (the latter title is explained by the fact the ship was to be known as the Enterprise 7 rather than the Enterprise D).
Degrassi: The Next Generation was originally conceived as Ready, Willing and Wired. When Stephen Stohn suggested the eventual title, apparently Linda Schuyler disliked the sense of rehashing past successes and felt the Trek reference sounded forced at first. But, since name recognition both in the U.S. and abroad is always an uphill battle for a Canadian Series, tying it in with the still-popularprevious efforts made good business sense.
Perfect Strangers was originally called "The Greenhorn", likely in reference to how new and exciting was for Balki.
Soap was only supposed to be the working title but after getting the show done they couldn't think of a better title so left it.
Both Tattletales and its beta edition He Said, She Said had developmental titles. He Said, She Said was first planned in 1963 for NBC as It Had To Be You, but was shelved for six years and was eventually syndicated. It was redeveloped for CBS under the mame Celebrity Match Mates in 1973 and had Gene Rayburn as the host. Rayburn landed the Match Game reboot, so as the show made it to the air in February 1974 as Tattletales, Bert Convy was tapped as host.
The short-lived Fox series Unhitched was originally titled The Rules for Starting Over.
Kickin' It had the working title Wasabi Warriors; perhaps it was changed to clarify that it's a martial-arts rather than Cooking Duel show.
The working title of The Beatles' song "Yesterday," when Paul McCartney first came up with the music, was "Scrambled Eggs," because it fit the rhythm. According to McCartney, the tune came to him in a dream, and for weeks he thought it must be an old song that he had heard somewhere, so he sang it to everyone he knew to see if it was familiar, using the lyrics "Scrambled eggs, oh my baby how I love your legs." Obviously those were never intended to be the song's final lyrics.
McCartney, as a joke, applied full lyrics to "Scrambled Eggs" and performed it with Jimmy Fallon on Fallon's NBC late night show.
"With a Little Help From My Friends" had the working title of "Bad Finger Boogie", because while it was being recorded John Lennon had injured one of his fingers. Power Pop group Badfinger, who were the first non-Beatles project signed to Apple Records, ended up taking their name from this.
George Harrison apparently had trouble coming up with song titles, at least during the Revolver sessions. "Love You To" had the working title of "Granny Smith." When asked what he was going to call another song, George replied "I don't know," so John exasperatedly suggested "Granny Smith Part Friggin' Two!" An engineer went with "Laxton's Superb," after another apple cultivar, before it was humorously decided to just call it "I Don't Know," and finally, "I Want To Tell You."
Starflyer 59: Jason Martin was initially going to call the band Starflyer 2000; his brother Ronnie even gave a shout out to "Jason Martin and Andrew Larsen and their brilliant new group, Star Flyer 2000!" in the liner notes of his Rainbow Rider album. Jason mentioned in some interviews that he was working on a new album called The Sad Lives of the Hollywood Lovers; it ended up getting released as The Fashion Focus. "Major Awards" from the album Old was initially called "The Sheriff". "The Brightest of the Head" from the album Dial M was originally a demo titled "God Forbid" on the Ghosts of the Future vinyl series; Jason says he changed it because he feared it might be sacrilegious.
Spoon's "The Ghost Of You Lingers" had the working title of "Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga", a title that was supposed to sound like its staccato piano part. Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga ended up becoming the name of the album it was on instead.
Faith No More's "Ricochet" had the working title of "Nirvana", and sometimes appeared on their setlists under that name even after it was released under another title. This inspired its share of Wild Mass Guessing among fans at the time - it doesn't help that the song includes the lines "And I'd rather be shot in my face / than hear what you're going to say". However the band maintain that the working title was chosen because it happened to be written on the day of Kurt Cobain's death (and thus slightly before he was actually reported dead), not because the lyrics actually had anything to do with him.
The Megadeth song "Set The World Afire" was originally called "Megadeth," and was written by Dave Mustaine shortly after he left Metallica.
Richard Strauss originally intended to title his Alpine Symphony after Nietzsche's Der Antichrist.
Beck's "Broken Train" was originally going to be called "Out Of Kontrol" before a last-minute title change - basically shifting the Title Drop from the pre-chorus to the chorus itself. The reason for this was to avoid having Similarly-Named Works - The Chemical Brothers' "Out Of Control" was released as a single a month earlier. Some promo copies of Midnite Vultures still had the song listed as "Out Of Kontrol".
Stephen Malkmus intended to call his solo debut Swedish Reggae, as a humorous Non Indicative Title (since it's a rock album by an American performer) - it came out as a Self-Titled Album instead, supposedly out of concern that the title would be taken at face value and it would be filed under the reggae section at record stores.
The working title of Pavement's Terror Twilight was Farewell Horizontal. Bob Nastanovich hated the working title and came up with Terror Twilight as an alternative, later saying "there was no way I was going to be on the Farewell Horizontal tour for the next year."
The Pink Floyd song Echoes started life as a set of experimental pieces, collectively known as Nothing, Parts 1-24, worked on separately by the band members. The pieces were assembled into The Son of Nothing which was developed further by the band as a whole. It was taken on stage as The Return of the Son of Nothing before being released on the album Meddle under its final name.note Roger Waters, being far more humourous than events a decade later made him seem to be, wanted to name the song We Won the Double in celebration of Arsenal's 1971 victory.
Averted in the case of Generic Universal RolePlaying System, which was never intended to be released under that name, and was always supposed to get an evocative, marketable title at some point... but it never happened. The working title, GURPS, became the title it was released as.
Tell Me More!, a largely forgettable Gershwin musical of 1925, was originally titled My Fair Lady. Apparently the producer didn't think it was commercial enough.
Speaking of My Fair Lady, its working title was Lady Liza, but the song of that name was cut.
The musical Something For The Boys began production as Jenny Get Your Gun. It's no coincidence that the same star and same writers next joined forces on Annie Get Your Gun.
Oklahoma! began production under the title of its source play, Green Grow the Lilacs, but started its out-of-town tryouts as Away We Go.
Ayn Rand originally titled her first play Penthouse Story, but producers changed it first to Woman on Trial and then finally to Night of January 16th.
When Aaron Copland received a commission to compose music for a Martha Graham ballet, his composition bore the heading Ballet for Martha. The Literary Allusion TitleAppalachian Spring was apparently decided on by her shortly before the premiere.
Stephen Sondheim's Road Show went through three of these during the long time it spent in Development Hell: Wise Guys (which had unintended Mafia associations), Gold! (after a song that was already in the show; Sondheim had wanted the show to be retitled Get Rich Quick!) and Bounce (with a new title song, which became "What A Waste" in the show's final revision).
Annie Warbucks, the sequel to Annie, was originally Annie 2: Miss Hannigan's Revenge. The title change was partly because Miss Hannigan was written out of the show, but also necessitating changing the lyrics to one of the songs: "Above the Law" originally had the punny refrain "You can be Annie, too!"
Follies was originally to have been titled The Girls Upstairs.
BIONICLE was Boneheads of Voodoo Island. This was the "defensive" variant, as LEGO is very protective of its intellectual property. While the franchise did have heavy Polynesian themes at first, the BIONICLE canon does not contain a setting called Voodoo Island, (or voodoo of any description) and none of the characters have ever been referred to as "Boneheads". The title was, for a short period of time, shortened to just "Doo Heads".
Another, but earlier, working name that crossed the minds of the creators was "B4◊", as in "before". The "B" part was carried over into the finalized BIONICLE logo.
Halo: Combat Evolved had many proposed names, including stuff like Covenant and even Red Shift. In the end, an anonymous Bungie employee (nobody knows who did it, even today) wrote on the whiteboard for names "Halo". It worked, and the rest is history.
The two titles it went under before being named were Monkey Nuts and, when Bungie co-founder Jason Jones wanted to tell his mother about the new game they were working on, they changed it to Blam!
Twisted Metal was originally High Octane, as seen in the original FMV endings.
The first Fatal Fury game had the working title of Real Bout, which had several title drops thorough the backgrounds of the game's stages. It was eventually used as the actual title for a later sub-series of Fatal Fury games.
Resident Evil 3: Nemesis was originally intended as a side-story to the series and was known under a variety of working titles such as "Biohazard Gaiden" (not to be confused with the later Game Boy Color game of the same name), "Biohazard 1.9/2.1" and "Biohazard: Last Escape". The "3" was added to the last title, as Capcom wanted to release a final numbered Resident Evil game before moving on to the next-generation platforms.
The original plan for Metal Gear was titled "Intruder". In the MSX2 version, pausing the game and typing "intruder" and then resuming play will increase the ammo capacity of every weapon to 999, providing something of a Title Drop.
Metal Gear Solid was originally titled Metal Gear 3 (back when the game was being made for the Three DO) until Kojima figured that not many people played the original MSX2 games.
The first Alone In The Dark 1992 game went through many working titles, such as "Nightmare in Derceto" (from the name of the mansion), "Doom in Derceto" and simply "In the Dark".
Battalion Wars, a Nintendo GameCube installment of Nintendo's Wars series, was initially titled Advance Wars: Under Fire, keeping the Advance Wars moniker the series was introduced to internationally. Ironically the Japanese version was titled Totsugeki!! Famicom Wars, which used the original Famicom Wars moniker.
Konami initially planned to release Contra Spirits in America as Contra IV, since they originally intended to market Contra Force (a localization of an unrelated game titled Arc Hound) as the third game in the series. However, Contra Force got delayed and Konami decided to bump down the title of Contra IV to Contra III.
Almost all of Nintendo's gaming platforms had codenames during development that were different from the names Nintendo actually used on the market. The model numbers of most of the hardware that Nintendo has released more often than not reflect the original codename of the platform (i.e. every Game Boy-related hardware has a model number that begins with the letters "DMG").
The Famicom (Japanese version of the NES) was originally going to be called the "Home Video Computer", which is reflected by the hardware code used by Nintendo (HVC). Likewise, the Super Famicom uses "SHVC."
The "DMG" in the Game Boy's model number stands for "Dot Matrix Game". The Game Boy Pocket's model begins with "MGB", which stands for "Mini Game Boy".
The Virtual Boy was originally called the "Virtual Utopia Experience" (VUE).
The Nintendo 64 was originally called "Project Reality" and then changed to the "Nintendo Ultra 64" (NUS) for a while before it got its final name.
The codename for the GameCube was the "Dolphin" (DOL).
Jupiter: A Saturn-like system with games on cartridges instead of CDs (development abandoned)
Saturn: Originally announced as a code name, but this one stuck.
Neptune: Genesis/32X integrated hybrid (unreleased, though memorialized in Neptunia)
Pluto: Sega Saturn with integrated modem (only a few prototypes produced)
Two competing architectures were developed by Sega to become the basis of the Dreamcast. One was called Katana and the other was called Dural. Sega decided to use the Dural design, but 3Dfx, the company that made that design's GPU, leaked its specs so they chose the Katana to be the Dreamcast instead.
The name "Sonic Generations" was originally thought to be the Working Title for a new Sonic game, but this was averted and confirmed as the game's official title. Oddly enough, the game did have a working title, being marginally leaked as "Sonic Anniversary".
Fallout had a weird situation. After Fallout 2, the team created a project for a prequel and codenamed it "Van Buren." Then Black Isle went bust and Van Buren never saw the light of day. After Bethesda bought it up, they made Fallout 3, which reused nothing from the Van Buren project...and then Bethesda farmed out their next project, Fallout: New Vegas, to Obsidian, the successor studio to Black Isle, who reused a lot of elements from the discarded Van Buren project for New Vegas and elevated Van Buren to Broad Strokes canon. However, all the remaining old material is still called Van Buren.
Multiwinia was originally meant to be a working title with users suggesting the title of this game. However, the original stuck.
Xenogears was originally to be called -Project Noah- after Krelian's plan to restore Merkava, walk with god and revive Deus, but it was changed for unknown reasons mid-development to the name of Weltall's ultimate form. Presumably, Square didn't want the already stretched controversial religious theming to extend to the title.
Chrono Cross was called "Project Kid" at one point while in development. Like Xenogears, this was actually a thing in the game.
Just Dance 2014 was originally called Just Dance 5.
Gojira-kun for the MSX was originally titled Godzilland.
City of Titans was originally announced under the working title Plan Z: The Phoenix Project. This didn't prevent at least two other projects on Kickstarter from using very similar names, so the final title was apparently decided on earlier than planned.
The Monster and The Girl was originally named this as a working title, the author considered other names and but decided in the end to use the working title.
Oban Star Racers originally had the title of Molly: Star Racer. Production fluxed back and forth between the two titles.
In an episode of Justice League, a few heroes get sent into an alternate universe. There there they meet the counterparts to the League in that universe, the Justice Guild, who are based off of some of the 1950s DC heroes. Originally the "Justice Guild" was going to be the Justice Society of America, but it was changed at the last minute because DC had just gotten the JSA popular again and the Society/Guild acted realistic for the 1950s with all the Values Dissonance that includes. It was for the better in the end, since Green Lantern mentions they also were the heroes in the comics of his childhood, which would have made little sense.
Code Lyoko was originally Garage Kids, with a darker theme and lacking Aelita. The digital world was called "Xanadu" instead of "Lyoko". Also, Yumi could use telekinesis in the real world. It was later revamped, with a clearer boundary between the digital world and the real world.
The sequel series to Avatar: The Last Airbender was originally going to be Avatar: The Legend of Korra, taking the basis of the British name for the original series. However, legal issues about the term 'Avatar' meant that it was changed to The Last Airbender: The Legend of Korra. After fan complaints about its bulk and lack of in-universe sense (she is no longer "the last airbender") it became simply The Legend of Korra, maintaining the "Avatar" prefix overseas.
Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! (1969) originally had the working titles Who's Scared? and Mysteries Five. After CBS rejected the original presentation art as too scary, the network's head of daytime and children's programming, Fred Silverman, heard Frank Sinatra's "Strangers In The Night" while flying back to New York and the "scooby dooby doo" tag at the end of the song caught his attention. He called Joe Barbera and told him to give the show a comedy slant, make the dog the star and call him Scooby-Doo. He was originally a sheepdog called Too Much but was changed to a Great Dane as one of the artists at Hanna-Barbera raised Great Danes as a hobby.
In that same season, Hanna-Barbera was developing a show with the title "Stop That Pigeon," which featured a jelly-bellied Red Baronesque figure and a dachshund with pilot's goggles. It evolved into Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines, recruiting the villains from Wacky Races. To this day, some viewers still call the show Stop That Pigeon, as the theme song still used that phrase very prominently in its lyrics.