little fockers

  • set decorator
    David Smith SDSA

    production designer
    William Arnold


    Spy Nook
    Jack Byrnes [Robert De Niro] working on his “circle of trust”

    Photo by Glen Wilson ©2010 Universal Studios. All rights reserved. Not for copy or reprint.

  • set decorator
    David Smith SDSA

    production designer
    William Arnold


    Spy Nook
    Byrnes genealogy board

    Photo by Glen Wilson ©2010 Universal Studios. All rights reserved. Not for copy or reprint.

  • set decorator
    David Smith SDSA

    production designer
    William Arnold


    Chicago Apartment Living Room
    Converted Victorian gives bones to contemporary abode

    Photo by Glen Wilson ©2010 Universal Studios. All rights reserved. Not for copy or reprint.

  • set decorator
    David Smith SDSA

    production designer
    William Arnold


    Chicago Apartment Sun Room
    The birthplace of mission style…

    Photo by Glen Wilson ©2010 Universal Studios. All rights reserved. Not for copy or reprint.

  • set decorator
    David Smith SDSA

    production designer
    William Arnold


    Sun Room/Guest Room
    The sleeper-sofa came from the elder Fockers’ Florida home

    Photo by Glen Wilson ©2010 Universal Studios. All rights reserved. Not for copy or reprint.

  • set decorator
    David Smith SDSA

    production designer
    William Arnold


    Greg & Pam’s Bedroom

    Photo by Glen Wilson ©2010 Universal Studios. All rights reserved. Not for copy or reprint.

  • set decorator
    David Smith SDSA

    production designer
    William Arnold


    The Twins’ Bedroom
    The kids have outgrown their shared space

    Photo by Glen Wilson ©2010 Universal Studios. All rights reserved. Not for copy or reprint.

  • set decorator
    David Smith SDSA

    production designer
    William Arnold


    Chicago Apartment Bathroom
    A significant scene takes place in this tiny room!

    Photo by Glen Wilson ©2010 Universal Studios. All rights reserved. Not for copy or reprint.

  • set decorator
    David Smith SDSA

    production designer
    William Arnold


    Apartment Kitchen
    High ceilings & a breakfast nook – it’s Chicago!

    Photo by Glen Wilson ©2010 Universal Studios. All rights reserved. Not for copy or reprint.

  • set decorator
    David Smith SDSA

    production designer
    William Arnold


    Greg’s Office
    He’s the head nurse of a Chicago hospital

    Photo by Glen Wilson ©2010 Universal Studios. All rights reserved. Not for copy or reprint.

  • set decorator
    David Smith SDSA

    production designer
    William Arnold


    Party Entrance
    Gigantic likeness of the twins’ heads overlook the crew setting up for the gala extravanza

    Photo by Glen Wilson ©2010 Universal Studios. All rights reserved. Not for copy or reprint.

January 14th, 2011

“You’re next in line and taking responsibility for both the generation before you and the one after.”        

— Director Paul Weitz

Ten years after the original MEET THE PARENTS and six after the sequel MEET THE FOCKERS, Universal Studios offers us the opportunity to meet the LITTLE FOCKERS in the newest top box office incarnation of the hit film series.

Director Paul Weitz turned to his “circle of trust”, Production Designer William Arnold and Set Decorator David Smith SDSA, who have been mainstays in bringing about the director’s visualization for three previous films*, to help create the current chapter of the Focker/Byrnes humorous family saga.

Incorporating a few elements from and paying homage to the first two films, the design and decor team provide a window into Greg [Ben Stiller] and Pam [Teri Polo] Fockers’ lives as a young couple establishing their own identity. We meet them in the Chicago apartment that they have outgrown—their twins, Samantha [Daisy Tahan] and Henry [Colin Baiocchi], are now kindergarten age and due for their own bedrooms. Thus, the Fockers are readying for a move into the “American 4-square” house they have purchased and are in the process of renovating.

Both sets of in-laws, Jack and Dina Byrnes [Robert De Niro, Blythe Danner] and Bernie and Roz Focker [Dustin Hoffman, Barbra Streisand] arrive to celebrate the twins’ birthday, as does Pam’s still besotted former lover, the very wealthy and sweet Kevin [Owen Wilson], who produces an incredible party on the meadow of his timeshare estate.

Jack’s spy nook

The biggest nod to the original film was Jack’s spy nook, which has become the hub of his research into the Byrnes genealogy. “Our approach was that we would try to make it as ‘authentic’ as possible, because there is a sort of obligation to the other two movies and their fan core,” Smith shares. “I think that that’s what we all do… if you do a re-shoot or if you’re trying to re-create something, you try to replicate it as tightly as feasible.” The drawings no longer existed from the original film, so…“We used images from the movie,” says Smith, “and examined them closely, paying extreme attention to details.” The final result: Robert De Niro asked to have the Byrnes genealogy board from the spy nook as a memento.

Chicago Apartment

Greg & Pam’s apartment is on the top floor of a classic red-brick Victorian with turreted corners. The floor plan and interiors were purposely designed to reflect the apartment flats of the mid-West. Arnold having lived in Chicago and Smith in Cleveland brought a knowledge of the styles of the area and a deep sensibility of place.

Mission furniture and furnishings were mixed in with Pottery Barn and Crate & Barrel pieces – C&B was established early on in Chicago, before it became a national hallmark of contemporary style. Smith shopped the city’s Field Museum and Art Institute of Chicago: a Frank Lloyd Wright panel hangs in the sunroom, a large Gustave Caillebotte print over the sleeper sofa.

Ironically, that floral sofa, which turns the sunroom/study into a guest room for the Byrnes, came from the elder Fockers’ more flamboyant Florida home, as did the shells and fertility sculptures…of course! A more traditional blue wingback chair and a few eagles from the Byrnes’ household are pulled in to add to the familial mix of furnishings that young couples often have in their starter homes.

To fit with the period wood trim throughout the apartment, Smith had a large Victorian dresser mirror cut down and refitted with hooks to serve as a contemporary hall tree at the entry. Vintage and modern lighting were blended, as were fabrics and accessories. [See below for complete list of Resources.] For another bit of authenticity, all the moving boxes set around the apartment and new house were from a Chicago company.

Birthday Extravaganza

Often throughout the process of creating a film, scripts change, sets are added/eliminated or sometimes increased in scope. What was initially to be a children’s party became a gala manifestation of Kevin’s rather uneven spirituality-seeking path. The bright primary colors were replaced with a more sophisticated palette of white and yellow. The kids’ birthday celebration was transformed into an over-the-top Tutera-esque huge fest set on 5 acres, replete with a myriad of exotic attractions, Eastern mystic firewalkers, Polynesian dancers, giant masked Indian gods and acrobats.

Filmed at the beautiful Huntington Botanical Gardens, Arnold designed a spectacular entryway composed of bamboo towers, giant topiaries and enormous sculptures of the twins’ heads. Smith provided a sea of Moroccan tents, bounce-houses, a colossal custom-made white bounce-castle with tower slides, firewalker bed of hot coals, buffets and booths with accoutrement…and a vast ball pit, almost 30 feet in diameter!

The size upgrade and concurrent changes were determined just 10 days before shooting, not sufficient time to exchange the 70,000 brightly colored balls required for the pit. So Smith’s crew painstakingly hand-selected 40,000 balls of colors that worked best with the new palette, and those were placed in the top layers of the 3-feet deep pit, in which a significant action scene takes place.

Besides the tight time frame for such extensive changes and only four days to set up the massive set, there were additional challenges, among them: weather. Smith remembers, “We actually set the party up the week before Thanksgiving and we shot through the end of December. ‘It never rains in southern California’…except during our party shoot. At one point, it rained and got so cold that when we arrived on set the next morning, the entire grounds had frozen and there was a layer of ice over everything.”

When the interior of the majestic Moroccan Tea Palace tent had to be re-created later for an insert shot, everything had to match what was already on screen. Only problem: the two chairs that were part of a yellow velvet sofa/chairs set from Universal’s prophouse had been reupholstered in white silk for another film! Smith’s longtime buyer Eva Firshein rushed out to find fabric for re-reupholstering, fringe was hand-dyed. Smith says sanguinely, “You just make it happen. That goes back to my days of theater, where you did it all.”

A man for all seasons, all situations…

Smith has worked in Europe, Brazil and all over the US, in films, television and theater. Adaptability is one of the keys of a great set decorator. When asked how he developed this vital characteristic, he replies, ““Well, besides being lucky and having worked in so many places, it goes back to my youth and my training. I grew up in the theater. I wanted to be an actor and I was an art student. When I got put into the prop department where I started to help tell the story visually, I sort of found my niche.”

“Over 170 plays in 14 years of regional theater was a great training ground, to do that variety and to decide what was necessary for each set. We did drawing room comedies from the 1930s and 40s, contemporary plays, Shakespeare and pageantry. It was great fun and it was a wonderful training experience, much of it hands-on. We built the furniture, beaded the curtains, tied the fringe and knit the afghans. I was also a costume designer at that time. I think all of that helped give me a certain adaptability. But then, we all look at each project…you figure out what you know how to do and what you don’t know how to do, and you research what you don’t know how to do and find the right people to help make it happen.”

“In Rio, when we were doing the period film THE GAME OF THEIR LIVES, I had 4 buyers, and they were all terrific. Only one of them spoke really fluent English…certainly they all had more English than I had Portuguese…but she kept saying, “Oh David, you’ll never find this. You’ll never find this.” And yet, she was always willing to go around with me, and ultimately, we found everything we needed. She was quite astounded. But I think it’s determination and being persistent.”

“Working in LA, we have incredible resources. We have the prophouses, we have trained craftsmen that are readily available and access to a great variety of vendors and expertise. Since we were shooting the majority of LITTLE FOCKERS here, we tried to use as many LA resources as possible.”

“Yet, wherever you are, the miraculous thing is how you can always make things happen. All of us. Sometimes you get it just in the nick of time, but you get it…It’s amazing.

* Director Paul Weistz, Production Designer Will Arnold and Set Decorator David Smith SDSA collaborated on the films AMERICAN DREAMZ, CIRQUE DU FREAK: THE VAMPIRE’S ASSITANT, and IN GOOD COMPANY


LITTLE FOCKERS Set Decorator David Smith SDSA generously shares his resources:

Greg & Pam Focker Chicago Apartment

Draperies throughout entire apartment set: Created by Universal Studios Drapery Dept. from Rose Brand fabric

Blinds throughout entire apartment set: American Screen and Window covering

Drapery Hardware throughout entire apartment set: Restoration Hardware, DK Enterprises

Radiators throughout entire apartment set: Freeway Building Materials

Rugs throughout entire apartment set: Lawrence of La Brea

Apartment Living Room/Dining Room

Dining table: Round table custom made to match Crate & Barrel chairs because only rectangular was available

Dining chairs: Crate & Barrel

Coffee table: Custom mission design

Entry table: Crate & Barrel

Entry mirror: Victorian antique, originally from Wertz Brothers, custom alterations and fitted with hooks from Restoration Hardware

Floral pillows: Crate & Barrel

Art: Film Art LA, Hollywood Studio Gallery

Green glass lamp on entry table: Universal Studios Property (originally purchased by Smith for the pilot of PARENTHOOD from Crate & Barrel) fitted with a shade from Anthropologie 

Brass floor lamp, silver table lamp: Lamps Plus

Surveyor lamp: Brown and Gold

Hall sconces: Rejuvenation Hardware

Pottery: Katy Maxey, Target, Marshalls

Television: Product Placement

TV stand: Table from Crate & Barrel (original glass top changed to wood)

Baskets: Crate & Barrel, Ikea, Marshall’s Home Goods

Rug: Universal Studios Property (originally purchased by Smith for the film CIRQUE DU FREAK from from Lawrence of La Brea)

Apartment Sunroom/Study/Guestroom

Mission desk: Wertz Brothers and refinished

Desk chair: Wertz Brothers

Kids’ tent: Ikea

Mission side tables: Fenton MacLaren, Berkely CA (a source Smith discovered when he decorated the pilot for PARENTHOOD)

Coffee Table and matching end table: Crate & Barrel

Leather chair: Crate & Barrel

Bookcase: Plummers

Mission stained-glass lamp: Lamps Plus

Frank Lloyd Wright panel: Art Institute of Chicago

Black and White Photo: Art Dimensions

Sofa: Universal Studios Property (originally from MEET THE FOCKERS)

Lamps: Lamps Plus, Pottery Barn

Framed lithograph over desk: Painting by Majoli, provided thru Film Art LA

Framed print over sofa: Paris Street; Rainy Day by Gustave Caillebotte, Art Institute of Chicago provided through Film Art LA

Apartment Master Bedroom

Bed: Crate & Barrel

Spread: Crate & Barrel

Dressers & bed tables: Crate & Barrel

Chair: Wertz Brothers

Lamps: Crate & Barrel

Trunk Pier 1

Apartment Kids’ Room

Beds & furnishings: Pottery Barn

Play kitchen: Pottery Barn painted yellow by LF Paint Department

Children’s table and chairs: Ikea

Easel: Ikea

Framed art: Sara Fletcher through FilmArt LA, Hollywood Studio Gallery, child’s art by LITTLE FOCKERS young actors

Aquarium: Burbank Snails and Tails

Sconces: Rejuventation Hardware

Doghouse lamp: Lamps Plus

Apartment Kitchen

Hanging lamps: Lamps Plus

Refrigerator: GE product placement

Wine rack: Pier 1, Target

Crockery: Target, Marshall’s Home Goods, K Mart, Koonts Hardware

Dishware: Target and Marshall’s Homegoods

Curtains: Custom made, fabric from International Silks and Woolens

Apartment Bathroom

Window & shower curtains: Target

Vintage sconces: Rejuventation Hardware

Mirror: Medicine Cabinet built by LF Construction and finished by LF Paint Department

Sink: Signature Hardware

Toilet: Bellacor

Tub: Rejuventation Hardware

Bakers Rack: Target

Towel holder: Rejuventation Hardware

Towel bars: Restoration Hardware

Towels: Marshall’s Home Goods, Target

Greg’s Office & Hospital

Desk: Custom by Advanced Liquidators

Office Furnishings: Advanced Liquidators

Red cars: Fausto/Hollywood Studio Gallery

Lamps: Lamps Plus

Computers: Dell as product placement

Art: Hollywood Studio Gallery, PSW, Oona Yaffee, Katie Hawley

Fockers’ New House

Furnishings: [See apartment above]

Draperies: Set Masters

Menorah: Set Masters

Christmas decorations: Dr. Christmas

Christmas tree: Brad Austin Imaginative Florals

Birthday Extravaganza

Tents: Raj Tents, Anza Tents and Events, Aztec Events and Tents

Moroccan Tea Palace: Tent: Anza Tents and Events; Draperies, Moroccan lamps chairs and tables: Raj Tents; Sofa & chairs: Universal Studios Property; Pillows & throws: Universal Drapery Department (some originally purchased by Smith for the film CIRQUE DU FREAK), Pier 1: Moroccan furnishings: Omega Cinema Props

Jump houses: Magic Jump Inflatables, Rewin Entertainment, Inflatable Stop, Adventure Inflatables

Jump castle with slides: Magic Jump Inflatables

Ball pit: Magic Jump Inflatables, Intertech Corporation/Funballs

Stage: LF Construction Department, skirting by Universal Drapery Department fabric from Exotic Silks

Giant topiaries: Green Set

Giant heads for Entrance: LF Construction Department

Bamboo towers: Construction bamboo from Green Set

Giant heads worn by actors: Built by Holly Sudduth

Chinese lanterns: Party Lights.Com

Prayer flags: Dharmaware Inc.

Table décor: Bob Gail Enterprises, Green Set, Barnard Ltd.

Flags, skirting, table coverings: by Universal Drapery Department, fabric from Exotic Silks

Indian garlands: Ravissant

Spy Nook

Desk: Custom Adaptation by LF Construction Department, McMaster Carr base, Office Max File Cabinets

Chair: CP4 (Omega Cinema Props)

Stool: CP4 (Omega Cinema Props)

Typewriter Table: Ebay

Tools: EC Props

Lava lamp: Universal Property Department

Computer, monitors: Playback Technologies

Additional resources for sets not pictured:

Aim Product Placement

Art Dimensions

Dazian Fabrics

Dina Art Company

F&S Fabrics

Hand Prop Room

History For Hire

Aaron Foster Artwork from Jaxon Home

Lennie Marvin’s Prop Heaven

RC Vintage


The Field Museum, Chicago




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