If you’ve seen 13 Going on 30, you’ll know that the magic dust sprinkled over 13-year-old Jenna Rink’s dollhouse is what turns her into a 30-year-old woman overnight. So, of course, a replica dollhouse had to be included in Ariana Grande’s recreation of the famed romantic comedy for her “Thank U, Next” music video, which references a handful of iconic teenage films. But this isn’t your standard kid’s toy: The dollhouse, which includes miniature references to the films featured in the video, may be small in size, but it was no small feat to pull off. House Beautiful spoke to Kristen Adams, who was one of the art directors for the video, about how it all came together.
“The dollhouse scene from 13 Going on 30 was one of the movies that director Hannah Lux Davis and Ariana Grande wanted to recreate in the music video,” Adams tells House Beautiful. “The dollhouse was a huge feature in the movie that symbolized the character’s childhood and adulthood dreams and this was relevant to the song and music video. Since we were creating a childhood dollhouse, we were able to have fun with it, but we still had a creative challenge of using pop culture movies as a reference and creating our own unique music video.”
Before the dollhouse could be built, the team had to find the perfect backdrop for this part of the video: a colonial style house in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Woodland Hills. “The music video team scouted different options” to find a house similar to the one in the film, says Adams. Adams worked alongside production designer John Richoux and art director Theo Zaleski to sketch “out a ground plan and layout of the house with our other referenced movie set builds.”
For the exterior of the dollhouse, Adams and the design team “blended the color and scale of the house from the movie and our music video shooting location.” But that’s where the similarities to the 13 Going on 30 dollhouse ended: Inside, each room of the “Thank U, Next” dollhouse references rooms from the other films featured in the music video, including Elle Woods’ college dorm room in Legally Blonde, Regina George’s bedroom in Mean Girls, and the bedroom and bathroom from Bring It On.
Although the rooms certainly look high-design, Adams and her team stuck to fairly standard craft materials to make them. After all, she says, they “wanted to stay true to the creative crafty childhood build methods such as balsa wood, paper print-outs, miniature furniture, and textiles.”
Set decorator Leah Bychurch provided the team who created the dollhouse with “photos and measurements from all the actual set decoration builds,” so that they “could match the miniature furniture and dressings even down to the pom-pom set dressing.” Adams shares that she “custom created wall posters for the Bring it On bedroom set build using images of Ariana’s and her brother, Frankie Grande’s heads [and] bodies so it would feel like her personalized movie set bedroom and then replicated that in the dollhouse.”
The team also got a big assist from fashion designer Gunnar Deatherage (of Project Runway fame) who “did an incredible job matching his custom upholstery, bedding, drapes, and wall coverings used on the sets into miniature versions,” Adams says. “His detail was spot on down to the miniature bed pillows and fabric colors.”
“They say it takes a village and every member of Nomad Art & Design art department had a hand in the dollhouse,” Adams says. “It really is amazing how many little details are always a bigger part to the whole design and concept. This particular prop became not just about building a house but creating a home with many stories.”
Feeling Inspired? See how 11 top designers created dollhouses here.
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