Aug 18, 2023
“It Wasn’t Beautiful”: Original Barbies & Kens Design Was Uncomfortably Close To The Real Toys
The original Barbie and Ken designs for the Barbie movie were uncomfortably close to the real toys and had to be completely and utterly changed. The original designs for the Barbie movie had to be
The original Barbie and Ken designs for the Barbie movie were uncomfortably close to the real toys and had to be completely and utterly changed.
The original designs for the Barbie movie had to be scrapped for being too much like the original toys. Based on the toy franchise, Barbie tells the story of Barbie (Margot Robbie) and Ken (Ryan Gosling) as they discover the real world and the struggle of life outside Barbieland. With Barbie slated to cross $1 billion at the box office over the weekend, the movie has been dominating theaters since it first premiered alongside Oppenheimer.
While Barbie embraces its status as a movie about toys, it did need to branch out slightly to avoid an uncanny valley effect. Hair and Makeup Artist Ivana Primorac for Barbie told E! News that the original designs featured a more plastic-style look. After reviewing the designs, they had to scrap the look and divert to the current designs, which they felt fit the story of Barbie much more closely. Check out her quote below:
We thought, "Should they have plastic seams? Should they have plastic skin, plastic hair?" We didn't like all of those things in the end because Barbies are beautiful in every child's mind. So, once we created that fake image it wasn't beautiful.
It can be difficult to scrap fully fleshed-out designs, but avoiding the original look was the right move for Barbie. Seeing characters made entirely of plastic can work in animation or stop-motion movies, but a live-action Barbie would have looked completely absurd had every character been less life-like. It would distract from the overall message and leave Barbie and Ken as jarring figures once they entered the real world.
Even if leaning into the plastic nature of Barbie is necessary, the movie can do so without sacrificing its aesthetic. After all, Barbie's viral arched feet moment revolved around Robbie displaying that her feet could appear to be made entirely of plastic just by virtue of their movements alone. There are no plastic seams or skin, yet the character still seems to be entirely made of plastic through those movements, rather than makeup.
Given the goal of adaptations of toys is to adapt imagination rather than reality, the Barbie movie scrapping its original character designs shows that it never sacrificed its creativity in favor of realism. It also marks an important lesson for Mattel as they seek to adapt a reported 45 different brands to life on screen, including a Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots movie with Vin Diesel producing and A24-style take on Barney from Daniel Kaluuya.
Source: E! NewsBarbie Barbie