The Andy Griffith Show's Ron Howard Needed Help With His Opening Credits Rock-Skip

In an homage to the opening credits of the classic TV series "The Andy Griffith Show," in 2019, actor-director Ron Howard shared footage on Instagram of himself successfully skipping a rock across water. In the familiar sequence from the beloved '60s show, where the future director starred as Opie Taylor, Howard can also be seen throwing a rock into the water as the timeless theme tune is whistled in the background.

That classic TV intro was not quite what it seemed, though, as eagle-eyed viewers have noticed for decades: Once Howard throws the stone, there appears to be a small glitch in the footage, as the rock seems to travel an unusual path before it splashes. As "The Andy Griffith Show" assistant director Bruce Bilson said in a 2016 guest lecture at the New York Film Academy, Howard, who was only 6 years old when took the part of Opie, wasn't exactly a gifted rock tosser at the time. To get the shot that they needed, Bilson had to employ a little trickery. 

Young Ron Howard felt the pressure

Though Ron Howard was only 6 when "The Andy Griffith Show" first aired, the future "Apollo 13" director remembered feeling the pressure to get things right when it came time to film the opening sequence for the show. In a 2019 interview in The New York Times, Howard admitted some of the show's fishing scenes were also faked, too. "[T]he prop man had to wade in and put a catfish on the line," Howard said.

"That was Franklin Canyon," Howard added, referring to a frequent filming location for the show, "and we were only allowed to put two fish a day in, because it was actually the drinking water for Hollywood." Both Griffith and Howard carry fishing poles in the classic show's intro, but no fishing takes place. As for the opening-credit scene shoot: "I was only allowed to throw two rocks in the water for the same reason. Yeah, there was a lot of pressure on that rock toss. I had to get it right," the former child star said.

Howard kept missing the lake

To help young Ron Howard get the shot, a prop person was posted behind the boulder near where Andy Griffith and Howard are standing, according to Bruce Bilson. Howard makes the motion of the throw, but the rock that splashes into the water was thrown by the crew member. This explains the small jump cut that appears in the footage and the somewhat physics-defying approach the rock takes before landing.

In the Instagram footage Howard posted in 2019 of an expertly executed rock skip, he says: "OK, this is me skipping stones." He then adds, "Still got it," once the rock skips several times into the distance. According to Bilson, what Howard should have said was: "Some skills really do improve with age." Despite that editing sleight of hand, Howard otherwise has positive memories of his time on the show, as well as his TV dad, played by Andy Griffith. In 2012, Howard told Entertainment Weekly, referring to Griffith: "He was fantastic."