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Making The Valley Sparkle
Though based in the realm of reality (Southern California-style), an important part of A Cinderella Story is its subtle juxtaposition of the ordinary with the more magical aspects of life. Emmy Award-winning production designer Charles Breen, whose recent feature credits include creating a deceptively placid desert town to host 50-foot mutant arachnids in Eight Legged Freaks, came aboard with ideas about infusing a little magic into The Valley.

"We wanted to set Hilary's character apart throughout the movie by assigning her an exclusive color palette, in this case, blue,” he says, "since my research indicated blue is a prevalent and significant color in fairy tale lore.” To achieve this, not only was Duff dressed in shades of blue but also "every detail of her immediate environment would feature this signature color and that carried through to set dressing and props,” for continuity, including the cell phone she ultimately drops while fleeing the ball. "In addition, we took care to remove blue from any other environment or character, so that it remains specific to her. We then created a color palette specific to the rest of the world, which we called the Valley World, and which consisted of a range of earth tones, greens, yellows and rust, which is much more natural and earth-bound.”

In this balance of Ordinary versus Fantastic, the story's locations represent either one realm or the other. Sam spends her entire waking life at high school and at her step-mom's diner, aside from the tiny attic room in which she sleeps. All of this is part of the Valley World, as is the car wash owned by Austin Ames' father, where Brianna and Gabriella frequently hang out in hopes of catching Austin's attention – even if it means carefully applying grime to their matching Beetles beforehand.

In contrast, the hotel ballroom setting for the school's Halloween Homecoming Dance and the breathtakingly romantic grounds outside convey a dreamy, almost luminous quality reminiscent of old Hollywood, complete with a whitewashed gazebo. Here, stealing a moment away from the ball, Sam and Austin seem to cross momentarily into another world.

With the help of locations manager Patrick Mignano, the production secured a number of Southern California sites that lent themselves perfectly to Breen's thematic framework, starting with the suburban Spanish-style Monrovia High School, where filming coincided with the regular summer session and a number of students appeared as extras in the movie. "We dressed the various places where we'd be shooting and we did it in about 10 days,” says Breen. "It's ordinary, a kids' world, functional and realistic.”

The climactic finale on the high school's football field placed more than 200 extras in bleacher seats while the actual Los Angeles University Citrus College football team took the field, playing the parts of Austin's high school team The Fighting Frogs as well as their rivals, The Lancers.

For the pivotal Halloween Homecoming Dance, where Sam and Austin finally meet, the filmmakers chose the historic Los Angeles Theatre as their venue – a gothic and majestic former movie palace in downtown L.A. Its lobby, featuring ornate architecture and a sweeping staircase, made it the perfect spot for Sam's dramatic entrance. The lush Huntington Gardens in Pasadena provided the exteriors, where Sam and Austin escape the ball for a little private conversation and a dance under the stars. "When you arrive at the dance,” Breen continues, "it's the same kids but in costumes and in this stylish setting with the grand architecture and it becomes a different world.”

Remaining in the Pasadena area, the production subsequently shot scenes of Sam's family home, actually an Alta Dena residence with perfect storybook architecture.

Diner exteriors were captured on a busy Long Beach corner, but the inside was built on Stage 22 at the Warner Bros. Studios, as most existing d

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