“The way we are telling it is a complete conversation of American sitcom hitting against the Marvel Cinematic Universe.” – Elizabeth Olsen
Marvel’s first web series, WandaVision created buzz for all the right reasons. It was the first Marvel project fans experienced in almost two years, owing to delays due to the pandemic. For those who don’t identify with Loki’s Army, it was a fitting tribute to American sitcoms that shaped the American television industry as we know it today.
Set in the small town of WestView, outside of New Jersey, the episodes move through decades, from the 1950s to the 2000s. The attention to detail at the production unit’s end in terms of set design, costumes and make-up that resonate with the defining trends of each decade they represent is what really sets the show apart. At the same time, it was important to ensure that there remains some sort of semblance to impart a sense of familiarity and consistency to the viewers. Hence the basic layout remains the same throughout the series, with the front door opening into the entryway and living room followed by the dining room opening into the kitchen with a backdoor. Additional elements like nurseries or staircases were added to suit the storyline.
Production designer Mark Worthington said, “We wanted it to be the same layout recognizably, So that when you jump from eras, you go, ‘That’s the front door, that’s where the fireplace is, that’s where the path through the kitchen is. Yeah. OK. I’m in the same environment, but now within a new sitcom era context.”
Episode 1 – The 1950s : Setting the Stage
The first episode, set in the 1950s, draws from the shows ‘The Dick Van Dyke Show’ and ‘I Love Lucy’. With an eventual black and white render on screen, Worthington replicated Lucy Ricardo’s kitchen from ‘I Love Lucy’ with a backdoor and shutters opening into the living room. In this era of groundbreaking technology, the kitchen incorporates home appliances like refrigerators, double ovens and washers and dryers, making the kitchen a safe and happy space for the homemakers. From fruits and flowers, and stripes and checks to quirky prints like planets and boomerangs, patterns and prints on fabrics was the fad back then. All of these patterns could be found on drapery, upholstery, tablecloths, and wallpapers. Lamps topped with fibreglass parchment or printed fabric shades became an integral part of living room decor. Vinyl dining chairs and chrome legged tables and laminated plywood furniture took centre stage in the 1950s.
Episode 2 – The 1960s
The production design in the second episode is inspired by the sets of ‘Bewitched’, featuring a window on the wall by the door, the entrance and fireplace to the side, and a couch facing the audience. The long couch with low design, fashionable in the era, resembles the one seen on the sets of ‘I Dream of Jeannie’. Floral patterns were still the fad along with wood-panelled walls.
Worthington says, “.. We did put a lot of easter eggs into it for example in the in the second episode, the 60s episode, I found, looking at the research of some of those sitcoms, there were this kind of beautiful wallpaper of the period that was like an italian landscape in these pastel colors ,it’s really gorgeous. But what we did is, I had an illustrator friend of mine do a version of it using imagery from Sokovia, specific buildings and landscapes so that this idea of wanda creating this sitcom world to sort of stave off her bad memories.. She’s unable to completely suppress all of those memories and they’re coming out in aspects of the world that she’s created.”
Episode 3 and 4 – The 1970s : The Pop of Colour
The 70s are characterised by an ‘explosion of colours’ from walls to furniture and lamps. Bold patterns and prints, particularly floral prints, dominated this era. Timbered ceiling beams, stone and exposed brick walls along with terracotta tiles and hardwood flooring suited the theme of crafts revival. The colour palette was rich with earth tones like brick, rust, sand, avocado, harvest gold Metallic elements and interior plants adorned the sunken living room attached to a floating staircase. Even the kitchen follows the avocado kitchen trend along with wood panelling as seen in shows like ‘The Brady Bunch’, ‘Good Times’ and ‘The Mary Tyler Moore Show’.
The fact the happiest moments of the show are set in the most vibrant colour palette is the sheer ingenuity of the scriptwriters, carried out with dignity and elan by the production designer and director.
Episode 5- The 1980s and 1990s : The Art Deco Influence
The 80s saw the rising popularity of pastels, bringing down the vigour of the 70s by a notch. Influenced by the sets of ‘Family Ties’ and ‘Full House’, the bright green and orange furniture was replaced by neutral colours with floral wallpapers, laced fabrics, stained glass and substantial carpeting. Wooden cabinets, open shelving and chairs with a nonlinear frame and fabric in primary colours exert a strong art deco influence.
Episode 6- The 2000s : The Era of the Flat Screen
Brown was the most sought after colour for interiors during this time. Naturally, brown walls and wooden panels replaced the floral wallpaper and solid-coloured furniture gained popularity. Inspired by ‘Malcolm in the Middle’, the organisation of furniture in the living room relied on the placement of the latest technology- the flat-screen television.
Episode 7,8,9- The 2010s : Minimalism
The wood-panelled rooms were now obsolete. Modernism gave way to a neutral colour scheme, primarily involving white. The kitchen now included tiles instead of the wallpaper and light cabinets instead of dark wood. Inspired by ‘Modern Family’, island counters took centre stage in the modern kitchen. Pops of colour and extravagant pieces of furniture took a backseat in the era of minimalism.
Often, architecture and interior design are considered separate entities, unrelated and disconnected. It is actually the interiors that bring out the true nature of an existing piece of architecture. Interiors too conform to the styles that dominated architecture, be it the Art Deco Movement or Minimalism. The impeccable set designs of Wanda Vision acted as catalysts in the process of storytelling. The intricacies that went into production design were a stroke of absolute brilliance by the team behind the curtains. The changes on set are subtle yet noticeable enough for the viewer to come to terms with the setting without hindering the flow of the story or drawing attention away from the actors.
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