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'Barbie' - Oscar Material? Let’s Break Down Its Design Brilliance

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As the 2024 Oscars approach, ‘Barbie’ has not only leaped from the toy aisle but also seized the hearts and awards chatter of viewers and critics alike. This live-action spectacle is more than just a game for children; it’s a visually breathtaking masterpiece that reinterprets the world of the iconic doll in a manner that is both playful and thought-provoking. Let's take a peek behind the curtain and explore the design elements that make 'Barbie' a contender for cinematic gold.


A Manufactured World of Magic: Production Design

Step into Barbie Land: Warner Bros. Studios Leavesden transformed into a vibrant dreamscape for filming, thanks to the meticulous work of production designer Sarah Greenwood. Inspired by the ‘Truman Show’s’ artificial world, director Greta Gerwig and Greenwood meticulously crafted a land bathed in an "authentically artificial" glow. Natural light is a rarity, only appearing when Barbie (played by Margot Robbie) ventures beyond the candy-colored confines.


Eagle-eyed viewers might spot some delightful Easter Eggs hidden within the hand-painted panoramas stretching over 250 feet. A subtle nod to Warner Bros. themselves resides alongside a painted Los Angeles, mirroring the iconic yellow brick road from 'The Wizard of Oz.' Speaking of Oz, keep an eye out for a movie theater showcasing 'Wizard of Oz' posters as Barbie cruises by.


But the color palette is where things get truly interesting. Shunning the starkness of black and white, the production design embraces a riot of color, perfectly encapsulating the vibrancy of Barbie's world.




A Dreamhouse Come True: Architectural Inspiration

Towering over 25 feet tall, the iconic Barbie Dreamhouses serve as a centerpiece within the film. Drawing inspiration from the mid-century modernism of Palm Springs, these dream homes pay homage to the classic Barbie playsets. Bringing these larger-than-life structures to life was a monumental task, requiring the expertise of hundreds of artists and designers.


Fashion Fit for a Plastic Princess: Costume Design

Jacqueline Durran, a two-time Oscar winner for Costume Design, brings her magic touch to Barbie's wardrobe. Drawing inspiration from Mattel's extensive archives, Durran meticulously recreates iconic looks spanning Barbie's history, from her very first swimsuit in 1959 to the most contemporary designs.


Some of the film's most memorable moments come alive through dazzling costumes. Think Barbie and Ken (Ryan Gosling) rocking out in their disco jumpsuits, or their eye-catching neon leotard sets as they navigate the "real world."




The Power of Pink: A Color Story

It wouldn't be Barbie without a healthy dose of pink, and the film embraces this signature color with gusto. From the sets and costumes to the lighting, various shades of pink are thoughtfully incorporated to create a cohesive visual style. The color grading of the film was so impactful that it won the 2023 FilmLight Colour Awards, with Company 3’s Yvan Lucas receiving the award for the grading of a theatrical feature.




The Matrix Influence: A Playful Choice

Adding a layer of humor for fans of 'The Matrix,' the film incorporates a playful reference to the iconic scene where Neo chooses between the red pill and the blue pill. In 'Barbie,' this pivotal decision point is presented through a choice of footwear: a stiletto heel (staying in Barbieland) or a Birkenstock (venturing into the unknown).


As the Awards Season Heats Up...

As the awards season reaches its climax, many wonder: Will ‘Barbie’ win the coveted Oscar? The film has earned eight nominations, including for its impressive production design and costume design.


Do you think it deserves the ultimate prize? Did the creative and design elements of 'Barbie' capture your imagination? Let's discuss in the comments below!



Images: Warner Bros

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