www.whyville.net Nov 30, 2014 Weekly Issue

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A Meaningless Puzzle Piece

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Art direction creates the film. As a part of a visionary team, a group of individuals come together and create something magnificent. Art direction serves many important roles in a filmmaking. It creates a unique look for the film, creates authenticity, mood/tone, elevates the production value and reveals subtext. Bringing forth these elements reveals a unique message that is subconsciously picked up by the spectator. A great tool provided by great art direction allows the spectator to live in the moment and experience the film as if they were actually there. Art direction serves importance to create a space where a spectator can experience different worlds visually but at the same time subconsciously create resonance through the choices made in subtext.

Alice in Wonderland had two individuals that made the visuals possible, Robert Stromberg (production design) and Karen O'Hara (set decoration). They used their own skills to ultimately create the films overall mood/tone. In the still to above, Alice returns to, what used to be, Wonderland. The frame has many planes that reveal the different stages of Wonderland (which Alice will soon discover). In the foreground, where most of the color is present, represents the beautiful, peaceful Wonderland that was once run by the White Queen. Following this is a large iron fence that represents the reign of the Red Queen. Once past the fence, the more dilapidated and gloomy Wonderland is present. Although the common spectator would not develop this observation in the moment, Stromberg and O?Hara made is possible for the subconscious mind to connect and create the appropriate emotion without even realizing it.

Moving toward the authenticity and subtext, Stromberg and O?Hara are able to bring Alice?s own dilemmas into Wonderland. Alice has always shown an ambition to be different. Her mindset seems much more advanced then the individuals from her own home. There are a large variety of gardens in the film that play a large role for Alice?s character. She has a strong desire to achieve something greater in life. ? . . . the garden may simply represent the experience of desire, in that Alice focuses her energy and emotion on trying to attain it? (Sparknotes n.d.). Wonderland for Alice and the spectator represents life?s frustrating expectations. The still above is the scene where Alice is introduced to the Cheshire cat. It is not yet discovered what the Cheshire cat represents, but he does bring forth the voice of reason. This is proven when Alice asked which road to take; the Cheshire cat asks where Alice would like to go. Alice says that she doesn't know where to go, and then the Cheshire cat insures that it doesn't matter. It is almost as if life is represented as a ?meaningless puzzle piece that has no clear solutions which imitates the ways that life frustrates expectations? (Sparknotes n.d.). Stromberg and O?Hara set up this frame in such a way that makes it clear that the road ahead is not a very pleasant one. The use of lighting however brings some majestic beauty back into the story, as the cascading light beams through the gothic forest.

The responsibilities of an art director are to create a unique look for the film, create authenticity, create mood/tones, elevate the production value and reveal subtext. Robert Stromberg and Karen O?Hara were responsible for leading their team to accomplish these responsibilities. Without the eye of detail and full understanding of what is needed to develop and move the story forward, Alice in Wonderland would have not have been as successful. The spectator feeds on the visuals, whether or not they know what each thing represents, it takes a great art director to create resonance subconsciously.

Author's Note: Sources:
Mitchell, Angela. "Sets on Film: The Art Direction of 'Alice'." About Entertainment.
http://performingarts.about.com/od/Costumes/ig/The-Art-of--Alice-/ (accessed September 7th, 2014).
Sparknotes. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/alice/themes.html (accessed September 7th, 2014).
Universal Singapore. "Disney and More." Alain Littaye's Photobucket .


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