Barbie is a film about the doll who inspired generations of children to follow their dreams. Created by Ruth Handler for her daughter Barbara, Barbie hit the shelves in 1959 and was the first contemporary doll for girls not modeled on a baby. Pretty groundbreaking, right?
Before the advent of Barbie, a little girl’s connection with her dolls was exclusively a motherly one. So, while at its core the movie explores the themes of the mother-daughter relationship, the filmmakers valiantly attempt to free Barbie from any conflation with patriarchy — because quite simply, we’re all Barbie.
From its opening sequence which pays homage to Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, the Barbie movie breaks the mold of cinematic universes. The film’s auteur director, Greta Gerwig, conveys the impact of the titular doll by capturing the imagination of millions of girls around the world. Barbie encourages young girls to look outward and represents the endless possibilities of what they may achieve if they so desire.
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Beyond the elaborate dance numbers and choreography is a fish-out-of-water story that shifts into a reversal of roles. In her Barbie movie, Gerwig reveals another side of the iconic doll that is much more than a piece of merchandise geared toward young girls ages 3-12 years of age.
The director cleverly illustrates the idea that anyone can imagine themselves in the titular role of Barbie, and pink isn’t a dreadful by-product of the patriarchy, but rather a color with a history of empowering women.
Now, some may feel a sense of unease or even resentment about how the Barbie movie makes them feel — but that’s on purpose! The film doesn’t only challenge gender roles but also holds a mirror up to the audience in the real world. In Barbie Land, the gender roles are flipped and women hold every position of power, while the men serve as second-class citizens who vie for the Barbies’ attention and approval.
What Gerwig does so well is take said gender roles of circa 1959, and flip them on their heads. Ruth Handler envisioned more in life for her daughter than only becoming a housewife or a secondary role in the workplace. Barbie could be a doctor instead of a nurse. A pilot rather than a flight attendant. A president over a first lady.
So, why emasculate Ken? Ken doesn’t just represent men but in this mirror world, he also represents the women and how they are treated in a patriarchal society. After he turns Barbie Land into a Kentriarcy, he asks, “How does that feel?” Not only is he addressing Barbie, but the audience, too.
Such themes make Barbie more than just a fantastical comedy but also a meditation on today’s world and the relationship between genders. Just as the Kens need more than “Beach,” women desire a purpose in life that extends beyond motherhood.
Discover how Gerwig and her team of filmmakers adapted the world of the iconic doll for the silver screen, while masterfully conceiving a new kind of cinematic universe that is quite simply a fantastical marvel.
This is The Look of Barbie.
- Tech Specs
- The World
- Production Design
- Costume Design
- Practical FX
💋 BARBIE TECH SPECS 💋
- Aspect Ratio:
- 2.00: 1
- Arri Alexa 65, Panavision System 65 Lenses
- Company 3, Los Angeles (CA), USA (dailies)
- Company 3, New York (NY), USA (color, finish)
- Warner Bros. De Lane Lea, London, UK (digital dailies)
- Negative Format: Codex
- Cinematographic Process:
- ARRIRAW 6.5K, source format)
- Digital Intermediate (4K, master format)
- Printed Film Format:
- DCP Digital Cinema Package
💋 THE WORLD OF BARBIE 💋
The world of Barbie Land is a feminist paradise where every day is as sunny and as fabulous as the last.
Speaking of paradise, have you heard of the Barbie Paradise Pool Playset?!
Well, to be fair, this waterfall is closer to a bird bath — but a girl can dream…
But just before you start thinking the whole movie is just one big ad, we would insist that merchandising is foundational to the very concept of Barbie. Plus, there’s much more depth than your average commercial spot. Barbie is a collective force that must seek self-awareness from the real world to improve the quality of life for its class of Kens. It’s an allegory, duh!
Even Mattel, the company behind Barbie, is a patriarchal force in the film that tries to manage and control Barbie. In any case, it’s essentially all played for laughs and Mattel’s ineptitude even leads to some loveable Barbie flops from over the decades.
Except for Allan. Whoever created that guy should have been fired and is hopefully burning in — oh, hello Allan!
What’s his deal? And did you see that cardigan? BLAH! Anyway…
The Land of Barbie is a direct foil to the outside world, specifically represented by Century City in Los Angeles and Venice Beach. In a fish-out-of-water sequence, Barbie and Ken are struck by the patriarchy. Men serve in most positions of power but “hide it better” as one businessman discloses to Ken. Barbie not only contends with catcalling construction workers and the male gaze, but even her target audience that she once inspired no longer shares her unwavering optimism.
The Barbie movie is jam-packed full of popular film references and easter eggs — one of our favorites was from The Matrix. In this case, Stereotypical Barbie must choose between maintaining the status quo with the pink heel or entering the real world with the Birkenstock. Will she accept a flatfooted existence like the rest of us?
Another reference was a la Jon Voight in Midnight Cowboy as Barbie and Ken wander the streets dressed in western-themed wear. Plus, there was the montage of traveling between worlds. That was highly reminiscent of Buddy the Elf trekking from the fantastical North Pole to the real world of The Big Apple.
The movie then shifts into a reversal of roles plot as Ken takes the real world’s patriarchal ideas, and slinks back to Barbie Land to plan a total Ken takeover. The genders subsequently face off. However, the Barbies somehow withstand the combined might of a Ken-wide serenade, even fighting off the unadulterated charm of the Kens’ cover of Matchbox Twenty’s Push.
“I wanna push you a-round, well I will, well I will! I wanna push you down, well I will, well I will. I wanna take you for graaaannted!”
Jealousy ensues leading to an epic dance battle showdown where many Kens courageously fall to rolled ankles and wardrobe malfunctions.
💋 PRODUCTION DESIGN 💋
The Barbie movie had the monumental task of taking a miniature, idealistic plastic world and making it a life-sized reality. Fortunately, the production design was in the very capable hands of Sarah Greenwood, who is also known for her work on Anna Karenina and Darkest Hour.
Greenwood along with longtime collaborator set decorator Katie Spencer, conceived of the contrast between the pastel world of Barbie Land and the gritty streets of Los Angeles. The reason Gerwig chose Greenwood and Spencer was because of their reputation as builders of complete worlds.
Production took place 20 miles northwest of London at Warner Bros’ Leavesden Studios. Interestingly enough, the production took place amidst a gray and dreary English winter. So, inside the dull, dreary hellscape that is an English winter, the Barbie production shone bright like a pink gemstone amidst a perfect summer day.
Greenwood and Spencer found inspiration for Barbie Land directly in the merchandise. Most notably, the Barbie Dreamhouse playhouses. This was in conjunction with the midcentury modernism of Kaufmann Palm Springs Desert House by Richard Neutra and the photography of Slim Aarons. Neither playing with Barbies as children, the duo ordered their first dreamhouse off of Amazon and made up for lost time.
“We were literally playing with it with the Barbie dolls we had in the office.” —Sarah Greenwood, Filmmaker Magazine
The filmmakers found themselves motivated by what Barbie represented, especially when her first dream house was released at a time when few women owned their own houses. Gerwig’s vision was to create an “authentic artificiality,” like a hand-painted backdrop of the sky or an oversized toothbrush and hairbrush. In fact, the cloth they used was over 800 feet long and 50 feet high. As the director puts it, “Everything needed to be tactile, because toys are, above all, things you touch.”
“We’re not recreating Mattel, we are interpreting the dream houses through the last 70 years,” Greenwood tells IndieWire. “And it’s an amalgam of all the [Palm Springs] houses. But it had to work for our story and also to make it suitable.”
CONSTRUCTING BARBIE’S DREAMHOUSE
The result was the 360-degree, open-air neighborhood of dollhouses otherwise known as Barbie Way. Its open architecture allowed the filmmakers to cross-shoot into the houses. Then, they downscaled the structures by 23% to match how a Barbie doll fits in a toy dreamhouse. While it helped contain more in the frame, it also made the ceilings closer to the head and rooms traversable by merely a few steps.
While each dreamhouse’s design forgoes walls and doors that may be unsuitable for you and me, its architectural design is more than fitting for a doll. “Dreamhouses assume that you never have anything you wish was private — there is no place to hide,” Gerwig says to Architectural Digest. In place of walk-in closets are vitrines inspired by toy boxes containing fabulous outfits and every kind of accessory imaginable.
The real challenge was figuring out how to make the house stand without any walls. They used a pink-stoned chimney that runs up the center of the structure to hold it all up. In an interview with Filmmaker Magazine, Spencer notes their success in making the house feel like a toy by playing with absence.
“It’s the space,” she says, “it’s what you don’t have…. Your wallpaper is not just behind you. It’s all three-dimensional things that are behind that, which are the trees, the mountains of houses, other actors, so that was quite tricky.”
Their architecture was inspired by past dreamhouses, like the 1970s bohemian model, which was itself designed with luxury trimmings. For example, its lamps were inspired by trompe l’oeil Tiffany, and according to AD, her clamshell headboard was upholstered in velvet and had a sequined coverlet.
The fantasy fuchsia home is complete with a coiling slide that leads down to a kidney-shaped pool bordered by yellow umbrellas and Philippe Starck chaise lounge chairs.
THE COLOR PINK
Of course, not just any shade of pink would do in the Barbie movie! Not all pinks are created equal as Greenwood mentions that there are “nasty pinks out there as well.” Their shade of pink, known as Baker-Miller pink (#FF91AF), was also used in the 1950s to treat depression. Barbie fans may better know it as Pantone 219. In fact, outside Mattel’s executive conference room in the movie sits a giant chip of Pantone 219. Overall, they tested about 100 kinds of pink, and out of those selected 12 key shades.
“It’s also the quantity of color and light,” explains Greenwood to Filmmaker Magazine. “If the colors had been off-putting — and I think that’s a good word to use — it would’ve been horrendous. But the colors and that pink were so pure. And Rodrigo Prieto’s lighting was so pure: like, a thousand sky pans in the roof and big soft suns. The wattage was fantastic.
“Normally when you go on a film set, it’s all focused into this little dark corner and everything else is black,” the production designer continues. “It was the opposite with us. Everything was colorful from wall to wall. It was just brilliance and light and color. You walk onto those stages out of the gray Watford [UK] winter, and it was just like being bathed in something. Better than going on holiday. It was an amazing color therapy.”
|DID YOU KNOW? When they began construction of Barbie Land, it led to an international crisis on Rosco’s pink paint. Gerwig wanted very bright pinks, “almost too much,” the way she remembered it back in her childhood.
BARBIE MOVIE PRODUCTION:
There’s no time, logic, or physics in Barbie Land, says Greenwood. Just as the imaginary world of Barbie Land lacks fire, water, and electricity, most of the movie’s production turns to in-camera and practical effects over CGI. Gerwig had many philosophical conversations with the filmmakers about the nature of dolls and properly conveying the laws of their reality.
Greenwood and her team also made use of miniatures for their set extensions in Barbie Land. Once they photographed them they added them in post-production. “You get miniatures within miniatures,” says Greenwood. “We like this layering, of not quite knowing where it is and what you are looking at.”
“Everything in camera [is] tangible, due to the fact that we made all the set extensions. When you drive past the cinema and you’ve got all the shops and you’ve got the beachfront, and all the little houses when she’s standing on the roof and looking beyond… We made all of them as 1:18 scale miniatures. They’re all made in the same way we make all the sets, and then they’re put in post…. It’s all in camera. And it also means that when the actors walk in, they are in the world, it’s a completely immersive experience. In this instance, it really helped.” —Greenwood, Filmmaker Magazine
In an instantly iconic moment, the Barbies get jiggy with it at a spectacular dance party. It has all the flash and pomp you would expect in a Barbie movie, full of sparkly lights, your favorite music, and never-ending fun!
“It’s disco, it’s a bit of Studio 54, a little ‘Sweet Charity,’ it’s got sparkles. It’s Greta’s love of Barbie. She had lots of Barbies, but her favorite era was the ’80s.” —Katie Spencer, IndieWire
WEIRD BARBIE HOUSE
The ostracized ‘Weird Barbie’ (Kate McKinnon) lived in a structure with a twisted design inspired by the houses of Norman Bates in Psycho and Boo Radley in To Kill a Mockingbird. And just like the Bates house in Psycho, Weird Barbie’s lair constructed of blocks and triangles sits atop a hill.
While the Barbie Dreamhouse cul-de-sac was an actual set, Weird Barbie’s house was actually a miniature.
“With the purity of the color, the shape, texture, lighting and everything, there was nowhere to hide, so it all had to be real. There is one sequence that was put in in post—and I don’t think it’s the best sequence. It is when she’s walking up to Weird Barbie’s house. It’s too far, too cartoon, and kind of wrong. It should have been done differently — I wasn’t around when it was done.” —Sarah Greenwood, Filmmaker Magazine
Venice Beach served essentially as a foil to the beach in Barbieland. A particular crossover element that extended into both worlds was the lifeguard station. In Barbieland, it was smaller and ombre in blues and pinks, which is contrasted by the real-world whites and browns.
“I’ve always loved the palm trees on Venice Beach that have the graffiti on,” says Greenwood. “I just think they land on Venice Beach and they are alien. This place is alien to them, but they are alien within it and this is where Jacqueline’s costumes were sublime. When you’re landing in the real world it is heightened.”
Gerwig wanted Mattel to feel like a “halfway house” between the two worlds. The execs of Mattel had an awareness of Barbieland and how to travel there.
“Everything about their world was slightly combined and very monochromatic until you went upstairs into the boardroom,” explains Greenwood. “You go into that boardroom and what we did, rather than doing a blue screen, we did a painted cloth outside. And we slightly played with the architecture of Los Angeles.”
What the filmmakers did was bring in the snowy mountains, added Warner Bros. Discovery in center frame, and aspects of downtown Los Angeles.
“We wanted it to look like the Emerald City, but in gold.” —Sarah Greenwood, TheWrap
THE MAGICAL KITCHEN
The filmmakers dubbed the kitchen at Mattel headquarters “The Magical Kitchen,” haunted by the creator of Barbie, Ruth Handler. The 1950s-style kitchen feels purposefully out of place from the rest of the corporate office building. It’s like entering another dimension made for the late Barbie creator.
“Just in the corner, she’s got her own little doll’s house, which is like the Barbie house, with flamingos and things like that,” describes Spencer. “And she used to type up scripts for movies, so there’s lots of movies there. She’s making gold clothes on her sewing machine.”
BARBIE LAND AND THE KEN TAKEOVER
According to Greenwood, the rules of Barbie Land included no black or white colors. “Nothing from the real world,” she says.
Meanwhile, upon Ken’s return, he paints it black as he turns Barbie Land into the patriarchy. Ken is quick to lay claim on Barbie’s dream house, remodeling it into his Mojo Dojo Casa House replete with leather sofas and rootbeer fountains. Gerwig told Greenwood and Spencer to go for it when they asked if they could make it ugly.
So, they filled the place with mini-fridges and Hummers giving it the feel of an Ivy League frat house.
“What I love as well is all the television screens that he places in peculiar places like the chimneys and in the gardens because there’s no walls, of course,” explains Spencer. “It’s all playing the same footage of horses cantering slowly towards camera and then stopping. And there is a sort of melancholia about that as well, so it’s the comedy and the pathos.”
By the time we reach the end of the film, there’s a balance between Barbie and Ken. And not just that but the misfit Barbies, as well, with Weird Barbie’s stairs and her vulture mailbox.
💋 BARBIE CINEMATOGRAPHY 💋
The impressive cinematography of the Barbie movie was the result of three-time Oscar-nominated director of photography, Rodrigo Prieto, ASC, AMC. Who better to take on nearly every cinematographer’s nightmare of balancing numerous shades of pink in perhaps the pinkest movie ever?
When conversations began with Gerwig and her team, Prieto was planning Killers of the Flower Moon in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. Pretty much in every way, Barbie is the polar opposite of the upcoming Scorsese film — which Prieto acknowledges was a huge challenge.
Echoing the production design, it was Prieto’s plan to cinematically convey a world of make-believe with the audience feeling like they’re in a box. Accomplishing such a feat includes painted backdrops (as mentioned above) and embracing the feeling of being on a stage.
Pre-production began via Zoom conversations with Gerwig and production designer Sarah Greenwood. Gerwig was inspired by movies of the 1950s and musicals like Singin’ in the Rain and The Wizard of Oz. These weren’t the only inspirations for the filmmakers as The Umbrellas of Cherbourg influenced Prieto’s lighting and color decisions.
CAMERA AND LENSES
To capture Barbie and friends with frontal camera movements, Prieto chose the big sensor camera Alexa 65 for its shallow depth of field. As for glass, they went with the Panavision System 65 Lenses.
However, for the real world, they used a regular sensor over the big sensor so the depth of field felt more “like a regular movie.”
Prieto devised the Lookup Tables (LUTs) for the Barbie film with one primarily for Barbie Land and another for the real world, in addition to a few select others. The main LUT for Barbie Land was based on the three-strip Technicolor utilized in movies of the 1930s – 1950s. This would give Gerwig the saturated colors of her favorite musicals. Greta coined their new LUT, ‘TechniBarbie’.
The LUT they used for the real world was inspired by a film negative to give the impression of celluloid even though they shot on digital. By contrast, the palette very much feels flatter and grittier than its fantastical dollhouse foil.
One of the biggest challenges for the Barbie movie cinematography was bridging the gap between fantasy and reality. This is where the production design and cinematography truly come to a head. The beach in Barbie Land contains a few otherworldly variables. For one, the beach simply goes on forever, and the water is, well, not water. It’s actually solid! Prieto and his team shot plates for the walls so visual effects could extend the painted backdrop of the sky.
When it came to reality, Prieto allowed his team to work a “little more sloppy” in terms of camera movement to accentuate the imperfections of the real world.
Photo (L) | Credit: Hollywood Pipeline and Photo (R) | Credit: MEGA
“It’s what’s beautiful about life,” explains Prieto, “the messiness and the unpredictability of things. We used longer lenses sometimes, which in Barbie Land was a no-no because everything needed to feel sort of close and wide. I think it’s relatively subtle, but I mean, certainly simply being in Venice, California, versus being in a studio in London automatically created a big difference.”
The production contains big musical numbers with epic choreography that is reminiscent of some of the most iconic musicals. Prieto had lensed choreography sequences in the past on music videos but the Barbie movie was about capturing the timeless quality of musicals. One of Prieto’s favorite movies is All That Jazz, specifically with how Bob Fosse finessed the choreography with the camera work.
“I worked closely with the choreographers and it was all really thought out of what the camera was going to do, where it was going to be. It was amazing. I really enjoyed it and also coming up with the lighting for all that and designing it with my gaffer and my dimmer operator.” —Prieto, TheWrap
The sky was literally the limit when it came to light motivation for Barbie Land, where every day was sunny. If you noticed, in every shot, the characters were backlit by the gorgeous sun. On different corners of the stages, the filmmakers rigged big fixtures known as soft suns, along with another on a lift. Even though it’s artificial, Prieto was keen on making the lighting feel like a true exterior.
When communicating with his team about lighting, Prieto would say, “‘OK, now we’re doing this angle, turn that one on, turn this one on,’ or sometimes when the camera pans around, we’d literally dim the soft sun down, so that when you pan the camera around now it’s backlit again, so we took away one sun and brought up another.”
One of the challenges was dealing with the pink and magenta bounce on the actors from all the pink props. What made it even more difficult was that there was no black in Barbie Land, so their hands were tied when it came to negative fill. So, instead, they turned to neutral fill and draped everything in gray that wasn’t on camera.
Returning back to The Umbrellas of Cherbourg as a reference, Prieto felt the frontal lighting made Catherine Deneuve look innocent. Since they wanted lateral and frontal camera moves on tracks instead of oblique camera angles, they had to use high-key lighting. So, then, they had to contend with creating the illusion of depth with their lighting.
“I had to figure out how to get the sensation of dimensionality and depth with color,” Prieto tells TheWrap. “So that’s the sort of world we were navigating, trying to make it feel like a miniature but not exactly, try to make it feel like a daytime exterior but not exactly. So that was always that balance of artificial but feeling somehow authentic to that world.”
💋 BARBIE COSTUME DESIGN 💋
Starting from the opening of the film when Barbie stands like the monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey, wearing her first-ever outfit, a legendary black and white swimsuit from circa 1959, her character journey transitions from a reflection of what others behold in her to her own liberation of becoming human. It was essential that the wardrobe help illustrate Barbie’s trajectory.
It’s no surprise that one of the first people Gerwig sought out for her Barbie film was Costume designer Jacqueline Durran. The two had previously collaborated on Little Women which earned Durran an Academy Award. The Oscar-winning costume designer masterfully replicated Barbie’s most iconic wardrobe that dazzled Barbiecore adorning audiences.
The germ for Barbie’s coveted closet began right at the source. Durran wanted to pay homage to Barbie’s most fabulous looks and connect with the memories of the Barbie fanbase. This achievement was conducted with the help of Kim Culmone, the head of design for fashion dolls at Mattel. Culmone and her team were tasked with digging into the Barbie archives to support Durran’s team.
Durran also worked closely with production designer Sarah Greenwood to ensure their colors and designs matched. This wasn’t their first collaboration as they had all worked together before and had already developed a “shorthand” form of communication. With pink as their primary color, they chose gold as a contrasting color inspired by Mattel’s back catalogs. In the wardrobe, this pink/gold contrast is most notably exhibited in Barbie’s gold sequined disco jumpsuit.
WHAT INSPIRED THE BARBIE WARDROBE?
Durran had perhaps the greatest of all challenges — meeting the aesthetical expectations of fans who each have their own personal connection to the ubiquitous doll. So, how did she pull it off? There was their relationship with Mattel that granted authenticity to their approach to both fabric and design.
For example, the rollerblading outfit was an updated version of ‘Hot Skating Barbie’. “I looked up all of the rollerblading and roller-skating costumes that Barbie’s ever had and then I thought, well, let’s do “Hot Skating Barbie.” Durran and her team used the same fabric as the original but modified its design.
“Instead of her wardrobe being a reflection of her character, it’s a reflection of the wider idea of Barbie.” —Jacqueline Durran, Harper’s BAZAAR
However, there were occasions where they decided to replicate the design to exaction. The discontinued Barbie costumes had to appear exactly the same or audiences wouldn’t identify with them. The designers encountered a mountain of work scaling each costume to fit the civilization of Barbies and Kens.
The costume designers crafted every article of clothing by hand and down to custom silk screening. Committed to its fanbase, the Mattel team wanted to adhere to Barbie’s “toyetic” nature in the real world. From the iconic 1950s swimsuit to the cowboy attire, such wardrobe decisions were key to defining Barbie and Ken from regular people. It’s even better if it doesn’t make sense. Like when Ken strolls around in flat boxing shoes meant for smooth surfaces, in the fake grass and gravel of Barbie Land.
BARBIE CHANEL COLLABORATION
The Barbie production’s collaboration with Chanel was a result of Durran’s long-standing relationship with the luxury fashion house and the pink-suited Chanel Barbie of the 2000s. Margot Robbie’s Stereotypical Barbie sports the Chanel suit when meeting President Barbie (Issa Rae) at the White House. This, of course, was under the direction of Chanel’s creative director Karl Lagerfeld, who also designed a Barbie collection inspired by his personal image in the 1990s.
Chanel also helped bridge the gap for some costumes that were never featured in the Barbie collection. Even though Chanel doesn’t make menswear, they helped the production by crafting Ken’s ski suit. So, ultimately, Chanel was the cornerstone of the Barbie movie’s legendary wardrobe.
“There’s the kind of piece de resistance which is the full Chanel look when Barbie has to really look her best,” explains Durran to THR. “And I thought, let’s just do the complete thing head-to-toe Chanel and it’s great. I think it’s kind of a high point.”
In addition to their collaboration with Chanel, the Barbie production also featured dressware and accessories from Zara, Stuart Weitzman, and Gap.
WESTERN-THEMED BARBIE OUTFIT
The western-themed outfits Barbie and Ken wear once they enter Venice Beach are much more than a wardrobe of convenience. After the cat-calling construction workers, Barbie and Ken switch threads to blend into the real world. Not only were the cowboy costumes inspired by Midnight Cowboy. Their Wild West theme also conveyed the idea that the toys were very much out of place in a uniquely American patriarchal realm.
In creating the Western look, the biggest challenge was finding pink denim. Durran tells Entertainment Weekly how they had to print a denim texture on pink stretch fabric. “There were lots of different versions of it, with a waistband, without a waistband. It took a long time just to work, to get the exact details of it.”
KEN’S ‘KENTRIARCHY’ OUTFITS
Throughout the first part of the movie, Ken is dressed to function as another one of Barbie’s accessories. So, when he returns to Barbie Land, he can’t help but overcompensate.
His wardrobe is a cross between a 1980s action hero and a horse-obsessed frat boy. What ties every Kentriarchy outfit together is his lightning-flaring headband, which was taken from the pattern on his tracksuit with a horse galloping amidst lightning flashes. In fact, Ken’s fascination with horses is one of his few interests that doesn’t involve Barbie’s approval of him. And this is reflected in his wardrobe as he takes control of Barbie Land.
The action hero-inspired part of the wardrobe was influenced by Sylvester Stallone. “Those images were kind of around in the early prep when we were first talking about what Ken would look like,” says Durran. While describing it as over-the-top would even feel like an understatement, Ryan Gosling embraced the look — particularly the fur coat! And, yes! The fur coat also has a pattern of horses on its inner lining. “That’s one of my favorite things,” says Durran.
Durran and her team shopped for many of Ken’s retro sportswear outfits with the help of shoppers based in the U.S. They then imported the clothing back to London for Duran and her team, who were in much need of it.
BARBIE’S CLIMACTIC OUTFIT
The yellow outfit Barbie wears at the climax near the end of the movie is an opportune moment for Durran, because the costume designer explains that it denotes Barbie “as she’s becoming human.”
The costume stands out from Barbie’s other wardrobe with its bias-cut dress that drapes. One of Barbie’s most popular costumes over the past decade is a yellow dress that Durran considered copying.
“But it wouldn’t really be recognizable enough,” Durran tells Variety. “We wanted a soft yellow and wanted it to have less pop. So, we printed that yellow onto white silk, and because of the cut, it clings to the body. That’s not really a Barbie characteristic — the Barbie characteristic is to be cut straight and to create a shape that falls away from the body.”
💋 PRACTICAL FX 💋
A team of craftspeople in the art department was essential to pulling off the look of Barbie. While it was important to create everything first by hand, such as the miniatures, the visual effects department would then scan them into CG models. This allowed the filmmakers to retain an authentic color and texture.
BARBIE EMBRACES PRACTICAL EFFECTS OVER CGI
While production designer Sarah Greenwood feels there’s a time and place for CGI, she notes that Gerwig decided early on that she wanted to embrace practical effects. Returning to the opening sequence inspired by 2001, the legs were very much real — as were all of the rocks. Only the sky was created with CGI in post-production.
“You’re making a toy,” says Greenwood, “and if you don’t, if it’s not real and it’s not there, it’s kind of irrelevant.”
The crew actually constructed the pair of legs so the little girls actually interacted with them.
The goal for Gerwig and her team of filmmakers was to create the look and feel of a diorama box rather than an overly polished CGI finish. So, even the stars and flowers were hung on wires and strings.
LEAVING BARBIE LAND
A fan-favorite part of the Barbie movie was the montage sequences of Barbie leaving and returning to Barbie Land. It was reminiscent of Buddy the Elf leaving the North Pole.
According to cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto, ASC, AMC, he found the practical effects of the transitionary scenes challenging but fun. The fantastical journey involved a car, boat, rocket ship, and snowmobile, among other modes of transportation. The primary motor for their “journey” was a conveyor belt that’s typically used in stage productions.
“The script just said, ‘and now they’re on a boat, and now they’re on the spaceship,’ but didn’t specify anything,” the cinematographer tells TheWrap. “But we, as a team, came up with this idea of it being very theatrical. Sarah Greenwood, the production designer, is brilliant. She made this very theatrical thing where you’d have the foreground, the foreground ground moving on a belt, and the vehicle was a cut-out that had a little bit of dimension on a fake road that little lines were moving, and then the next layer was maybe the desert on a flat painting which was moving at different speed, and then another layer was mountains that were moving in another speed.”
Everything from the dolphins to the seagull was operated by puppeteers. This suits comedy especially well because the actors can interact and improvise with handmade props and objects. “They were actually seeing dolphins,” explains Prieto, “they were seeing the cut-out mountains. So it was great fun. Pretty challenging, but fun.”
💋 WATCH BARBIE 💋
Watch Greta Gerwig’s authentically artificial world full of a civilization of Barbies and Kens! And book your tickets at your local movie theater to see the Barbie movie in all of its synthetic splendor!
After Barbie leaves theaters, it will be available on your friendly neighborhood streaming service.
- Architectural Digest
- Filmmaker Magazine
- The Hollywood Reporter
- Entertainment Weekly
- Harper’s BAZAAR