SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN
Dark Castles and 800-Year Old Oaks
Set Design and Locations
The world in which Snow White lives was designed
and created by The Bourne Supremacy's Dominic
Watkins, almost entirely on sets at Pinewood Studios
in Buckinghamshire in the U.K. It was important for
Sanders to have physical sets to shoot on, a rare treat for
cast and crew who work on many productions that rely on
huge green-screen stages to re-create their biggest sets.
As one might imagine, production was massive.
Commends Sanders of his production designer's work:
"Dom did an incredible job with the amount of sets we
had. We'd laugh at the amounts of work. Every weekend,
there would be another three or four sets he'd have to
build. Pinewood became like a maze from above. You'd
walk through Hammond's castle and go into Ravenna's
castle. You'd walk through that onto the troll bridge.
While the troll bridge was being remade into the icy waste,
there would be a village there. Everything was literally
stacked in. Dom had an incredible time trying to manage
that financially, creatively and practically. It was huge."
Of the 23 or so sets built at Pinewood, the most massive
was the impressive royal castle, once belonging to King
Magnus before Ravenna usurped his rule, killed him and
drained life from the kingdom. The foreboding castle
was built in an auto park by the entrance to Pinewood
Studios, dominating the skyline for the 24 weeks it took
to create and the four weeks it was used for filming.
"It was our biggest single spend and the first set
we had to crack on with, as it was a design bolted into
the concept of the castle interior and exterior," says
supervising art director DAVE WARREN. "Dominic
and Rupert had the concept in mind that the castle could
only be approached by a causeway from a beach, and
we found a beautiful beach with an island on a rocky
isthmus peninsulaâ€¦so the design of the castle grew."
The beach Warren references is Marloes Sands in
Pembrokeshire in Wales, where the main unit spent an
entire week filming Stewart as Snow White, Hemsworth
as the Huntsman and their rallied troops during an epic
battle. These beach scenes played out against a stunning
background. The rocks on the beach are unique in the
manner in which they tilt, so the art department "squeezed"
some of the rocks to form a mold. This technique allowed
them to re-create the look on the castle interior at Pinewood.
An explanation of the technique: To squeeze, the
area required was painted with layers of silicone and
a layer of material similar to netting; this was then
allowed to set. This mold was backed with plaster or
foam for support and transported to the workshop
at Pinewood Studios. The silicone mold was then
used to re-create the desired shape or texture. Other
squeezes include Tretower Village stone and slate,
wall texture at a local church in Iver and the columns
at St. Bartholomew's Church in London.
Ravenna will fight for the kingdom she stole from another.
More than 2,000 square feet of plaster stonework
(polystyrene) and 700 sheets of various textured rocks
were used to create both castles on the Pinewood
back lot: King Magnus' and the castle that belongs
to Duke Hammond.
The royal castle goes through various stages over
time. During Magnus' reign, colorful flags donned
the walls, courtiers are dressed in bright colors, trees
blossom and flowers bloom. After his untimely demise,
the castle was redecorated to Ravenna's dark standards.
Thoroughly black and as toxic as the heart that beats
inside of the wicked Queen, the grounds are covered
in dead vines and the walls are bedecked with torn and
ragged blood-red flags.
The vines used to decorate the sets we find during
Ravenna's reign are called liana vines. They were grown in
Malaysia especially for the production and were shipped
over to the U.K. for use during filming-ultimately
delivered to Pinewood in a 40-foot sea container.
Due to the unpredictable nature of every shooting
schedule, the art department had to change the look of
the castle several times. In order to complete Sanders'
required shots, they went from the Magnus-to-Ravenna
look to the Ravenna-to-Magnus look during production.
Each transformation took an incredibly short amount
of time (only two and a half days) for the department
to accomplish the complex transitions. Naturally, it
required a good deal of working around the clock for a
To give the reader an idea of the amount of prep
work that went into the set design and eventual build,
here are some staggering statistics. Approximately
15,000 artificial apple blossoms were used to cover an
apple tree in the castle courtyard. Almost 60,000 hog
rings were used to attach the blossoms to this tree. More
than 1,500 trees, ranging in height from three to ten
meters, were incorporated into the production. All of
these trees have been used as part of the Black Park
Forestry Program to restore the park to its prewar period.
Approximately 3,000 faux floor slabs were produced,
and the tree in the Enchanted Forest was constructed of
2,317 individual steel pieces.
Mercer was moved by Sanders' fascinating decisions.
The producer commends: "Rupert's approach to the film
design is that everything is just slightly enhanced or
slightly taken into that fairy-tale zone. Just so it doesn't
feel too common and too familiar, yet it still put you in
the right place and mood. For instance, scale was really
important to him. It's not like Snow White or the Huntsman
just go by any tree: they walk by a 200-foot tree.
It's not just that the branches are normal. The branches
are creepy and make Snow White's journey through the
forest edgy and creepy. It pushes our reactionary zone up
just a little bit further-making us more on edge."
In addition to constructing Duke Hammond's
castle on the back lot, production designer Watkins, art
director Warren and their teams set about building the
royal village, which was originally penciled to be shot
Snow White bravely stands alongside her people.
on location in Wales. Due to logistics, to set decorating
needs for various stages and to allow for more control
over the shoot, a village had to be constructed. As with
the castle, the village goes through two stages during
the two reigns. Magnus' village is a brightly colored,
prosperous community, whereas Ravenna's is a torched,
ruined and run-down dwelling with a feeling of the
On a lighter note, the straw that was used in
Snow White and the Huntsman is an ancient variety,
grown especially for thatching roofs in Somerset. It
was harvested in the traditional
fashion using 1920s
machinery. Humorously, the local pigeons discovered the
thatching on the village set and descended to Pinewood,
en masse, at about 5:10 p.m. to feast on the corn heads.
While the superior set designs of Watkins wowed
those who laid eyes upon them, his team's ability to turn
a scrap of land, a clearing in the marshes or a normal
part of the forest into something quite spectacular is
unparalleled. They morphed familiar shooting locations
into unrecognizable and beautiful set pieces. Who could
have guessed that two mounds of earth on the back lot at
Pinewood could become a troll bridge, or that a formerly
dull, green part of parkland could transmogrify into the
Several locations were used for
both the Enchanted Forest and the Dark
Forest including Bears Rails in Windsor
Great Park, the Queen's backyard. Roth
acknowledges that he was amazed by how
they were able to capture the scenes. He
notes: "We shot the Enchanted Forest on
the Queen's land. It's a be
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