ALICE IN WONDERLAND Set Decorator Karen O’Hara SDSA
Production Designer Robert Stromberg
For a fabulist filmmaker renowned for creating fantastical and breathtakingly elaborate worlds, Lewis Carroll’s rich tapestry of characters and their magical world afforded Director Tim Burton ample opportunity to run wild with his imagination, putting his own, indelible stamp on the material, particularly with the teams he assembled to make it come to life, including Oscar® winning Production Designer Rob Stromberg, Set Decorator Karen O’Hara SDSA and their incredible art department & crews.
"This is the first time I've dealt with a lot of green screen, and it drives you nuts," Burton said. "On a live-action [film], you've got actors, you've got sets and that's what I like…particularly grateful for the elaborately detailed sets and costumes that did exist…We had some reality to hang onto there a little bit. It helps, believe me.”
Stromberg recalls, “We gathered all the artwork from all of the various artists who’d illustrated ALICE IN WONDERLAND and put it up on the wall, to get a mood, a flavor going. Then we started talking about how we could keep it true to the book, but take it to a place that hadn’t been seen before.”
With that as the footprint for Alice’s flashbacks/dreams of her first trip down the rabbit hole, the creative team could shift into a more Burtonesque world for her current visit.
Throughout, the practical set elements give truth to the fantastic. “Twas brillig…,”as the Jabberwocky would say.
INCEPTION Set Decorator Larry Dias SDSA
Set Decorator Doug Mowat
Production Designer Guy Hendrix Dyas
“You mustn't be afraid to dream a little bigger, darling,” posits Eames the forger [Tom Hardy] in the innovative hit thriller INCEPTION.
Architects Cobb [Leonardo Di Caprio], Mal [Marion Cotillard] and Ariadne have the opportunity to design and “build” places that could not exist in reality in this paranormal action film – whereas Production Designer Guy Henrix Dyas, Set Decorator Larry Dias SDSA, Set Decorator Doug Mowat and their teams designed, built and decorated unique places that could exist practically and yet step far beyond normal limitations.
Director Chris Nolan notes, "There are definite similarities between the way these characters create an entire world for someone to exist in and the way that filmmakers construct a reality for an audience. To me, the material demanded a very large-scale approach. That's why we wound up shooting in six different countries, building enormous sets, and really pushing the boundaries of what could be achieved practically, as opposed to computer effects.”
Nolan followed the advice Cobb is given, “Assemble your team. And choose your people...wisely.”
Some of the most involved sets included: a hotel corridor rotating 360 degrees, a revolving hotel room, a gimbaled ultra-contemporary bar, the Penrose steps, a Japanese-style castle, a multi-leveled ice and steel fortress in Canada, a Paris bistro that withstood extreme special effects, and a training center that devolves into dreamscapes.