Production Design Porn: The Wonderful Worlds of Wes Anderson Films

The highly stylized worlds of Wes Anderson production design speak to many. Wes Anderson’s production designers must speak his unique visual language in order to bring his colourful films to life.

Wes Anderson is one of the most influential filmmakers of his generation. With storybook-like imagery, and highly stylized production design, costume design, and cinematography he is the definition of an auteur and certainly one of my favourite filmmakers working today. Wes Anderson films are told with dialogue and plot as fun and exciting as his visual flair. It isn’t hard to see why Wes Anderson production design has become the stuff of legend.

While I feel I have a natural predisposition for visually bold filmmaking, I’ve also fallen in love with Anderson’s aesthetic due to his wide variety of influences which uniformly affect his work.

Peanuts, Orson Welles, Louis Malle, Jean-Luc Godard, Francois Truffaut, Martin ScorseseRichard LesterMike NicholsHal Ashby, and of course, J.D. Salinger, as discussed in this excellent essay from The Museum of the Moving Image, penetrate the breadth and depth of his work. As a cinephile and pop culture junkie, it is that kind of attention to detail in all of Wes Anderson’s films that make him stand out in the crowd.

What fascinates me most I suppose is what Matt Zoller Seitz refers to asmaterial synecdoche—showcasing objects, locations, or articles of clothing that define whole personalities, relationships, or conflicts.” This alone cuts to the core of what production design is and why Anderson’s films are so well-designed despite being logistically ambitious and overtly in your face.

We have been taught to believe that for production design to be successful, it must be invisible. I think Wes Anderson production design proves that visible, bold production design can also be successful in moving a story and character forward.

Some may not like Wes Anderson’s singular vision of quirky worlds none of us will ever know, but thankfully that has never stopped him. In a cinematic landscape often overloaded with over-rated cookie-cutter films made to sedate a seemingly unaware public, Wes Anderson’s films are a welcome breath of fresh air in my books.


Director Wes Anderson sits in chair on beach

Director, Wes Anderson


The Wes Anderson Production Design Aesthetic


BOTTLE ROCKET (1996)

Logline: Bottle Rocket focuses on a trio of friends and their elaborate plan to pull off a simple robbery and go on the run.

Production Designer: David Wasco | Art Director: Jerry Fleming

Set Decorator: Sandy Reynolds-Wasco


RUSHMORE (1998)

Logline: The king of Rushmore prep school is put on academic probation.

Production Designer: David Wasco | Art Director: Andrew Laws

Set Decorator: Sandy Reynolds-Wasco


THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS (2001)

The Royal Tenenbaums

Royal Tenenbaums

Royal Tenenbaums

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THE_ROYAL_TENENBAUMS_DISC_1-93

THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS / Wes Anderson Production Design

Royal Tenenbaums

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Logline: An estranged family of former child prodigies reunites when one of their members announces he has a terminal illness.

Production Designer: David Wasco | Art Director: Carl Sprague

Set Decorator: Sandy Reynolds-Wasco


THE LIFE AQUATIC WITH STEVE ZISSOU (2004)

Logline: With a plan to exact revenge on a mythical shark that killed his partner, oceanographer Steve Zissou rallies a crew that includes his estranged wife, a journalist, and a man who may or may not be his son.

Production Designer: Mark Friedberg | Art Director: Stefano Maria Ortolani

Set Decorator: Gretchen Rau


THE DARJEELING LIMITED (2007)

Logline: One year after their father’s funeral, three brothers travel across India by train in an attempt to bond with one another.

Production Designer: Mark Friedberg | Art Director: Adam Stockhausen

Set Decorator: Suzanne Caplan Merwanji


FANTASTIC MR. FOX (2009)

Logline: An urbane fox cannot resist returning to his farm raiding ways and then must help his community survive the farmers’ retaliation.

Production Designer: Nelson Lowry | Art Director: Francesca Berlingieri Maxwell


MOONRISE KINGDOM (2012)

Logline: A pair of young lovers flee their New England town, which causes a local search party to fan out and find them.

Production Designer: Adam Stockhausen | Art Director: Gerald Sullivan

Set Decorator: Kris Moran


GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL (2014)

Logline: The adventures of Gustave H, a legendary concierge at a famous hotel from the fictional Republic of Zubrowka between the first and second World Wars, and Zero Moustafa, the lobby boy who becomes his most trusted friend.

Production Designer: Adam Stockhausen | Art Director: Gerald Sullivan 

Set Decorator: Anna Pinnock


Which of Wes Anderson’s films is your favourite?


Sources: The Museum of the Moving Image, Film Grab
Edited to include Grand Budapest Hotel in 2014

Posted by Rose Lagacé

Rose Lagacé is a production designer for film & television by day and an emerging filmmaker by night. Rose is also the creator and editor of Art Departmental where she celebrates the art and craft of production design.

  1. Martha Camarillo February 4, 2013 at 12:04 AM

    Congratulations Rose! You are very pro and accurate. Great work! Regards from Mexico City. (I also love and enjoy all what he does, but let’s say The Royal Tenenbaums, The Darjeeling Limited and Moonrise Kingdom are my faves.

    Reply

  2. […] PRODUCTION DESIGN PORN: Wes Anderson […]

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  3. I have a reason for every one of his films to be included in my top movies of all time list. I love the colour story and production design for all his films (Moorise Kingdom and Life Aquatic being my fav for that). I guess it’s safe to say that Wes Anderson is one of my favourite directors. I am really excited for the Grand Budapest Hotel. Great post!

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  4. Reblogged this on Aural Visual Reviews and commented:
    Wes Anderson is one of my favourite directors and I came across this lovely article from the Art DepartMENTAL blog. If you are a fan of great production design and Wes Anderson movies, check this out!

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  5. I love Wes Anderson films so much-it was a production designer’s dream come true

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  6. […] any set from any of wes anderson’s movies […]

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  7. […] Lagace, R. (2013). PRODUCTION DESIGN PORN: Wes Anderson. Art DepartMENTAL. Retrieved 2 May 2015, from https://artdepartmental.com/2013/01/31/production-design-porn-wes-anderson/ […]

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