I recently saw the latest live-action Disney film, Cinderella. We all know the story, but I was particularly enchanted by the beautiful sets. I loved Cinderella’s house with its rustic beauty and homely feel. These locations help bring the story to life and complement the magical fairytale theme.
Italian born Dante Ferretti was the Production Designer for this film. His previous oscar-winning work includes Hugo, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Streetand The Aviator.
“I began doing a lot of research and ended up drawing the bulk of my inspiration from architecture in Northern Europe in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries,” Ferretti told The Hollywood Reporter. “Since this is a fairy tale, we didn’t have to remain faithful to one specific time period, but Ken Branagh wanted the look to be sort of 19th century, which gave us the opportunity to incorporate earlier styles of architecture into our designs.”
“The characters live amid locations that were built centuries before the setting in which the film takes place, and I was particularly drawn to the magical, opulent feel of the baroque period. I set out to create a world that is based in historical realism but mixed with fantasy, as I wanted the atmosphere to be both believable and fantastic at the same time,” said Ferretti.
The ballroom set was built on the 007 stage at Pinewood Studios. It was 30 feet high, with an additional 60-70-foot digital-set extension. “Then we added our own touches, like the frescoes, the sconces and all of the set decoration, which included 5,000 oil candles, which had to be lit by hand, and 17 enormous chandeliers,” said Ferretti. “For the chandeliers, which adorn the corridor leading into the ballroom and the ballroom itself, Francesca wanted to make sure they were over-the-top, so we had them custom-made in Venice, and they are works of art themselves.”
“We decided that the pumpkin carriage should be a beautiful jewel which enfolds Cinderella — who is, in fact, the real jewel in the story,” he said. “The carriage, which was made piece by piece by a sculptor, was fully functioning and sturdy enough to be pulled by four horses. We decided to have the actual transformation take place in the glass greenhouse in Cinderella’s backyard where she had grown the original pumpkin, so we incorporated architectural elements of the greenhouse into our design of the carriage.”
I find it incredibly interesting to learn about the artistic journey in film-making. Film is such a long-lasting medium, so you want to get it right because it will be remembered. Every detail is key and contributes to the story. The settings need to be convincing and they often work with the characters, allowing them to bring their surroundings to life. Furthermore, there is probably added pressure in a project like this one as it is such an iconic story, so you want to ensure the designs reflect that.
I do not own any of the photographs in this post.