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PLANET 51

Creating A New World
In designing Planet 51 and the town of Glipforg, the filmmakers sought to present an alien-yet-familiar world: a world that was consistently not our own, but also credible and instantly recognizable.

The filmmakers settled on a vision of 1950s America, with Glipforg as an alternate Southern California. "We had to imagine an entire world,” says co-director Marcos Martínez, "the clothing, the doorways, the cars, the streets, the city, the mountains, the animals. Planet 51 is a world of happiness, and a world of innocence, where people don't even consider what might be out there beyond the heavens, because in their world everyone is as happy as they'll ever be.”

Glipforg was anchored in what Martínez calls "a very classical vision of 50's America, perhaps one that never really existed – it's the collective image we have of those years. We can see that image of America in a great many things and that's what we wanted to put in to the film.”

To achieve that, the designers relied on three basic shapes: circles, spheres, and saucers. Two of these patterns were drawn from classic icons of sci-fi pop culture and mythology – flying saucers and crop circles. Spheres, which give Glipforg a retro-futuristic look, were chosen as a reference to Googie Architecture, a futurist design style born of the post-WWII car-culture and highly influenced by the Space and Atomic Ages, which thrived in the 1950s and 1960s. 

For the filmmakers, adapting everyday objects of our world to Glipforg's rounded and circular aesthetics resulted in a quick, shorthand code: "Let's Planetize that telephone!”

Planetization was the responsibility of Sets & Props Supervisor Fernando Huelamo. "The greatest challenge that we faced was creating circular objects in computer animation – it's very, very difficult,” he says. 

"It was a lot of fun to redesign all these things.” says co-director Marcos Martínez. "If I was an alien and everything in my world was round, how would I design a chair, a telephone, or a gun? When we think of aliens, they have ray-guns, they have flying saucers – let's filter it through our world's design. This is a very rich world where nothing is spared that design.”

Planetizing the world also meant planetizing signage. Art Supervisor Fernando Juarez says that the designers often added an extraneous circular area in the corners of letters. Art Supervisor Fernando Juarez says, "It provides a small but pointed difference to Earth signs. If the letters were perfectly round, then they would look like ours.”

Even Planet 51's guns are planetized. In a nod to the classic films of the genre, the aliens' guns look like ray guns – but fire bullets, just like earth guns. 

The film's retro sci-fi vibe was reinforced in the filmmakers' vision for the landscape of the town. With an idea to make it seem like flying saucers were hovering over the city, the designers gave the buildings' roofs the shape of UFOs. When looking from above, the viewer gets the impression that the city is facing an alien invasion.

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