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Shake, Rattle And Roll
Since Zathura: A Space Adventure takes place in one location, the house had to be as visually interesting and integral to the film as any of the characters. This was a major challenge for Riva who worked closely with the filmmakers to select just the right style and look for the house. After much discussion, they decided to go with a classic California Craftsman-style home. "We didn't want the audience to feel trapped in a house for the whole movie,” says Favreau. "So we decided to make it as interesting to look at as we could, something so spectacular than when it comes apart in the course of the film, you really feel like it's a tragedy that this beautifully restored Craftsman-style house is being destroyed.”

"The house also had to represent the character of the father,” adds Riva. "We actually made a point of adjusting the script to suggest that Dad really loved the style, so that as it gets blown up and beaten up, it's a great opportunity to make the audience cringe with every attack. You want the audience to say, ‘Ooh, this is Dad's house – he's going to be really pissed off.'”

The filmmakers also wanted the house to stand out against the coldness of deep space and the metallic materials used for the spaceship. The Craftsman style lent itself perfectly to that end and Riva was also able to fashion a welcoming interior. "The idea was to create a hospitable environment, using warm tones and colors with lots of wood,” explains Riva, "in direct counterpoint to the coldness of space — a womb-like environment that the characters could all survive in. As that got destroyed, like an island being swallowed up by the high tide, the world they inhabited became smaller and smaller, as if the life-giving sustenance of the house, which protects them from oblivion, was diminishing. We just loved the contrast in the colors to suggest that.”

Once the concept, style and color for the house were decided on, blueprints for the sets were drawn up. As with the robots and the Zorgons, the filmmakers wanted as much physical action to take place on the set as possible, so the house was constructed in three parts, two of them above mechanical devises that could move the entire set to simulate reactions to action in the film — shaking, jolting, tilting and being pummeled by meteors and harpoons.

Accomplishing this feat required close interaction between all the departments. "We had almost four and a half months of pre-production,” recalls Riva. "At first I remember thinking that for a movie with only one house and a spaceship, why would I need so much time? Our physical production executive Gary Martin looked at me and said, ‘Believe me, you're going to need it.' And boy, was he right.”

As he got more deeply involved with the project, Riva realized that building multiple houses and matching one set to another would require meticulous planning. "Apart from the challenge of making the set look interesting enough to sustain two hours of viewing, we also had to match it from shot to shot to shot to shot,” he says. "There are no breaks between scenes. They're continually going from the living room to the kitchen to the den and back to the living room. Each set had to look the same as things went through various stages of destruction. It was a big, big job.”

The movement of the sets dictated the use of a variety of materials, some to keep the house from falling apart and others to make it fall apart in a specific way when needed. "We had to build the rooms in different ways,” continues Riva. "First, we'd build it real, so it could shake on this giant shaker platform without falling apart. Then we went back and rebuilt it with certain breakaway pieces — mostly using balsa wood — so it would fall apart. Often, it needed to be photographed exploding without any big dust clouds that might obscure the visu

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