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The Making of Barbie


Barbie Set
Margot Robbie on the Barbie set.

You could almost make a movie about making the Barbie movie.


This comedy/fantasy flick doesn’t take itself too seriously, but the pros working behind the scenes certainly did.


“I can’t tell you the meetings we’ve had about pink,” said director Greta Gerwig in an interview with Architectural Digest. “What is the pink, and how do the pinks interact?”


According to production designer Sarah Greenwood, it was this commitment to colour that helped create a worldwide problem.


“The world ran out of pink,” she told Architectural Digest.


Adding to this pink paint shortage were supply chain issues, thanks to Covid-19. As well, the film and theatre paint supplier, Rosco, experienced an unprecedented temperature drop at their Texas facility in 2021 that froze and damaged stock.


Other production challenges, however, were easier to solve. With Gerwig’s insistence that “everything should be beautiful” designers and set builders had a clear directive for the look and feel of the sets.


“I want everyone to feel like they can reach onto the screen and touch everything,” said Gerwig.


Greta Gerwig and Cast
Director Gerwig and cast on set. Image: WBUR

The Barbieland scenes were shot at the Warner Bros. studio in Leavesden, England, while the “real world” scenes were filmed at Venice Beach, California.


In both locations, Gerwig borrowed shooting and set construction techniques from classic Hollywood films. The sets are real; there is no CGI.


For example, at the Warner Bros. studio in England, a giant painted sky that measured 800 feet wide by 50 feet high was stretched around the set. Designers then placed mountain “cutouts” (35 feet tall) against the backdrop.


Miniatures of each set were made before construction began, and one issue quickly emerged: The open floor concept in the Barbie dreamhouses had very few supporting walls. Lack of walls made it easy to maneuver film equipment, but upper floors needed to be properly bolstered. Designers worked around this by adding a chimney to each house for stability.


Achieving the right scale was important, too. Gerwig said they studied a Barbie dreamhouse, and they noticed the house-to-doll scale was a bit wonky.


“The ceiling is actually quite close to one’s head, and it only takes a few paces to cross the room,” said Gerwig. “It has the odd effect of making the actors seem big in the space, but small overall.”


Barbie is a movie designed to be seen on the big screen, and you can see it at Stettler's Jewel Theatre from August 4-10. Check jeweltheatre.ca for showtimes, and plan to come early to beat the ticket and popcorn lines.


See you at the movies!

Ruth

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