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The Toy Story Of Your Wildest Dreams
Even with such a stellar human cast, one of the most amazing and alive characters in "Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium” is the Emporium itself – a fantastical realm filled from floor to ceiling with dazzling delights, spanning from the familiar to the fantastical to the mind-blowing. From the minute he imagined it inside his mischievous mind, writer-director Zach Helm knew that creating the store would be both one of the production's biggest challenges and its greatest triumphs.

Ultimately, Helm and his creative crew would create a 7,100 square foot set unlike any they had ever experienced. Helm himself speaks of that set as an entity with a life of its own. "Mr. Magorium has a line in the script explaining how he imbued the store with the same emotions as the kids that come to play there,” explains Helm, "and that's what we also tried to do. Honestly, if our set walls could talk about what we all went through to literally bring it to life, you would get an earful. At times it was extremely difficult to get the store to do what we wanted it to do but ultimately, our set proved that it was just as determined to deliver the magic as the rest of the cast.”

To create the kind of set that could come to life, Helm worked in close collaboration with production designer Thérèse DePrez, whose recent credits include "The Door in The Floor” and the stylish horror film "Dark Water,” in which an apartment haunts its tenants, and with set decorator Clive Thomasson ("Dark Water,” "Man of the Year”). Their team of craftsmen were responsible for designing, constructing and decorating the fantasy-filled bones of the store, then filling it with wall-to-wall super-toys. 

"I had a pretty great sense of what I wanted to achieve right from the start, but Thérèse gave me ten times more than I ever imagined it could be,” comments Helms. "She brought in voluminous amounts of images and ideas to draw from and we talked back and forth about what toys reminded us of our childhoods. It was truly one of the most productive and enjoyable collaborations I've ever experienced.”

Yet, the collaboration almost never happened. "I had heard about the film, but was not available because I was getting married and taking some time off,” explains DePrez. "I was very disappointed because I had heard the script was amazing. Luckily, they pushed the schedule, I was available, I read the script and was totally enamored by it. It was without a doubt the best script I had read in a decade.”

Once she began exchanging creative ideas with Helm, she found they were in perfect synch. "We both agreed that the store should have a combination of realism, surrealism and nostalgia built into it. The Emporium represents the magic that happens in everyday life,” she summarizes. "One thing Zach said to me very early on was that he wanted any child who saw this movie to believe that this store existed somewhere. So it needed to be grounded in a kind of history and mythology.”

DePrez notes that a wide array of artistic and cultural inspirations shaped her design of the store, ranging from the Art Noveau architecture she saw in Brussels and Amsterdam on her honeymoon to the Victorian architecture of the ‘Painted Ladies' row houses in San Francisco to the eye-popping carnival atmosphere of the original Barnum & Bailey circus. "A lot of the colors hark back to the ‘Greatest Show on Earth®,” notes DePrez, who also hung 20'x20' vintage circus posters on one wall of the Emporium. "It's a rich color palette that also gives the store a real sense of place in history.”

Some of the major design elements behind the visual splendor of the store include a huge, unfinished paint-by-numbers version of Belgian surrealist Renê Magritte's classic painting "The Son of Man” (both DePrez and Helm are big fans of the surrealist's work); the Good Work Geisel Grandleformer, the prototype machine that turns good hom


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