Have you ever wondered about the Stranger Things set design? Ever since the series by Duffer brothers have hit the Netflix, it has garnered a loyal fan base. The set dressing is one of the significant things that catch our eye.
When you speak of web series, you certainly can’t miss out on Stranger Things. This engaging sci-fi drama has garnered fans all around the world for its excellent casting and, more importantly, its perfect manifestation of the 1980s, the period in which the story unveils.
The Stranger Things set design has played a crucial role in the success of the franchise. In this article, we will contemplate the meticulous and detailed filming of the Stranger Things show.
Let us start from the beginning!
The Stranger Things Set Design
1. Dungeons and Dragons
The show kicks off with four middle-school buddies, Michael, Lucas, Dustin, and Will playing a fantasy role-playing game called the Dungeons and Dragons. This game was first published in 1974, and it is known that they were suitably playing the 1983 Expert Edition of the game in Mike’s basement.
The Strangers Things set design team has carved out such minute details that have immensely contributed to the show’s authentic portrayal of the early 80s”.
2. Retro Bikes
As they leave Mike’s home, they challenge themselves to a race. Here we could observe that the kids ride classic retro 80’s’s bike. As noted, Mike owns a perfect Schwinn Sting-Ray bike, and the company produced these bikes till 1982.
This doesn’t come as a surprise as the show started in 1983. Lucas rides a Schwinn Predator BMX, which was launched in 1982. Maxine’s bike is a retro Mongoose BMX, while Dustin’s bike seemed like a modified modern-day BMX, given minor touches to make it feel more retro.
In 2018, the manufacturers, along with the Stranger Things set design team, released 500 limited edition models of these bikes, and predictably they sold out in no time.
3. Halloween Night
In the ”Trick or Treat, Freak” episode in the 2nd season, the kids were to come up with some costumes for Halloween Night and the came up with the funky Ghostbusters idea. As expected, the Ghostbusters released its first film in 1984, and this matches the show’s timeline as well. Yet again, the Stranger Things set design team proved to be flawless in their execution. Maxine, too, came up with the costume of Michael Myers, a fictional character from 1978 film Halloween.
4. The Never-Ending Story
Towards the climax of season 3 came one of the hilarious clips of the show. Dustin Henderson and his girlfriend Suzie sang the title song of the film The Never-Ending Story, which released in the year 1984. The Stranger Things set design team made sure that the film had every aspect of making it feel retro.
5. Hair Care
When Steve and Dustin get together in their pursuit of Dart, they come up with an exciting conversation. As Dustin envies Steve’s dope hairstyle, Steve offers him his hairstyling regimen: “Fabergé Organics.
Use the shampoo and the conditioner, and when your hair is damp — it’s not wet, okay? — when it’s damp, do four puffs of the Farrah Fawcett spray”. The Stranger Things set design team planned it out entirely as Fabergé Organics indeed existed and put out Farrah Fawcett’s line of beauty products, which includes shampoo, conditioner, and the great hairspray.
The show has several references to the 1982 Supernatural Horror film, Poltergeist. Will Byers being captured by Demogorgon and being taken to another dimension was inspired from the movie where a young girl is kidnapped by demons and taken captive in a different aspect.
Will’s mom communicating with Will through Christmas lights and radios are similar to the young girl talking through walls and televisions. The Stranger Things set design team included another reference in the first episode of the show where Will’s mom surprises Will with tickets to the film, Poltergeist.
7. Star Wars Aura
The Star Wars was an epic phenomenon in the 80s, for it was the first sci-fi series to be shot on such a large scale. The Stranger Things set design team acknowledged its popularity by adding several references from it.
In the beginning, Mike compares Eleven’s abilities to legendary Jedi Master Yoda’s psychic powers. Throughout the series, you can find several Star Wars collectibles, posters, and toys with the kids. In season 2, Joyce Byers uses the Star Wars toys that Will received as a gift to bring back his memory.
8. Comics from the 80s
In the first episode, Will challenges Dustin to give up his X-Men #134 comic if he loses a bike race. This comic was published in the year 1980. Later in season 3, Max is seen reading the Wonder Woman and Green Lantern comic books to Eleven in her house.
9. The Upside Down
The Strangers Things set design team pulled off every stop when it came to assembling the alternate dimension. The Upside Down was supposedly discovered by accident when experiments in Hawkin’s Lab with Eleven went wrong. The topography of the Upside Down had the exact similar locales and landmarks to that of the original dimension.
But there is no sign of human life in that dimension due to an extremely vicious ambiance. The Upside Down is wholly engulfed in a glutinous mesh and ash-like substance floating throughout, making it an, unlike human habitat.
10. The Palace Arcade
The gaming arcade in 2nd season of Stranger Things was the icing on the cake. Gaming arcades were the de facto recreation center for the kids from the 80s. The Stranger Things set design team impressed us with gaming arcades that pleased the fans from the Golden Age of Video Games. The games from the arcade involve four classic ones: Pac-Man, Galaxian, Dig Dug, and Galaga.
The introduction of another pivotal character, Maxine, starts its traces from the Palace Arcade. The boys become baffled after they find their highest score in the game Dig Dug beaten by a player with the name Mad Max. Again, Dig Dug is a maze arcade game published in 1982 which matches the show’s timeline.
11. Back to the Future
One of the most apparent 80s references from the Stranger Things set design team was the screening of the 1985 movie Back to the Future. In the 7th episode of the 3rd season, you can find Steve, Dustin, Robin, and Erica running into a movie hall in the Starcourt Mall. You can see scenes from the movie playing on the screen and also the movie posters in the theatre premises.
12. TV Shows
Production Designer Chris Trujillo brought in several references of Television Shows from the 80s. Throughout the series, we can find the cast watching famous TV shows on screen.
- In the very first episode of Stranger Things, we can find spot Ted Wheeler watching Knight Rider, a well-known TV series from the 80s.
- In the 3rd episode from Season 1, the popular He-Man and the Masters of the Universe appear momentarily as Eleven surfs through channels in Wheeler’s house.
- In the 4th episode from Season 2, we can see Eleven watching Cheers, an American sitcom that aired from 1982.
13. The Character Names
Mark Duffer and Ross Duffer broke down several aspects of the series in an Interview and revealed the influence of several movies in their screenplay and scriptwriting.
- In the 1988 Japanese Sci-Fi film, Akira, the children in the movie, are distinguished by assigning unique numbers as their names. This is considered as the inspiration for the names of Eleven (011) and her sister Kali (008)
- Another notable character, Nancy Wheeler from the series, is assumed to have inbred the name Elm Street’s Nancy Thompson.
14. Vintage Props
Of course, this hit series needed an equally incredible set. Throughout the series, we can relate the several props that were used on-screen to vintage pieces of stuff that we all loved. Every single accouterment used on the set sent down deep blows of nostalgia. If you weren’t old enough, the set decorator made sure that we got a fair inkling of the 80s lifestyle.
The prop that left behind a firm impression was the walkie-talkies used by the kids throughout the show. The walkie-talkies are enticing props and were the mobile phones for kids from the 80s. These alluring devices used in the set were the Realistic TRC-214 and Realistic TRC-206 models from Radio Shack.
In the 3rd season of the show, Dustin invents an Amateur Radio that he calls as Cerebro in a Science Camp he attended. He uses this device to get in touch with his girlfriend Suzie but eventually ends up tapping a Russian voice over the radio that led to their hunt. This was a classic, 80s way to jump-start the storyline.
The only other wireless communication in the show were telephones. There was a wide range of telephone models used by every household on the show. The stranger things set design team made sure that the models used were vintage ones dating back to the 70s and 80s. We could find that most of them were standard wall models with a rotary dial.
The Hawkins Police Department used rotary dials as well as push-button desk models. The Trimline models were also the most common types throughout the series. Surprisingly, we could spot a wireless phone in the 2nd season of the show. It is believed to be a Cobra Cordless Phone that did exist during the 80s.
Jonathan Byers, another prominent character in the film, is portrayed as a teenager obsessed with photography. He is spotted using a Pentax MX Camera, as confirmed by prop designer Lynda Reiss and it was produced between 1976 and 1985. The photos he captured of Barbara’s final moments with the camera were the first sights of the Demogorgon and set the tone for the story.
Another trendy prop from the 80s was the stereos seen in the Byers house. We can spot a Panasonic Boombox along with Memorex MRX 1 cassettes in Will Byers” room. This model was viral during the late 70s. The Stranger Things set design team also embedded a 1981 Fisher MC-4550 Audio System in Jonathan Byers” stuff.
15. The Hawkins Tunnels
One of the toughest tasks in hand for the stranger things set design team was the drawing of Wills’s mapped intuition of the Demogorgan’s dwelling. They had to draw out the map just like Will would have done and make sure that they all were connected to form the Map.
Property Master Lynda Reiss revealed that they had to come up with almost 3000 pages of scribbled art that were precise enough to be linked. It took them nearly four months to arrange them all and make sure that no piece disrupted the map. To make it more realistic, they made the papers look like they were ripped out of a phonebook, and that’s what they did. She disclosed that they tore apart the pages from catalogs and phonebooks and made double-sided copies of them.
The stranger things set design team took on the challenge of filming a period series that requires every prop on the set to have existed during that time.
The production needed authentic-looking sets and atmosphere of the 1980s. The production team then discovered a neighborhood that was unchanged since the 80s. So, the team took over the area for some inspiration and created these fantastic sets.
Set designer Jess Royal revealed the hectic work of listing and tracking down items from the 80s. He has a stack of old newspapers, packaging, and even paper cups and cans. He hs thus collected references from every era.
This was just a peek into the tremendous effort behind the successful portrayal of the 80s backdrop. The results are ripe, and Stranger Things has turned out to be one of the most popular and favorite franchises around the world. The whole show was a superb cinematic experience for the kids, teenagers, and also adults.
With the fourth season gearing up for a release in 2021, the diverse fans of the franchise are eagerly anticipating the launch! We hope you found this article to be informative, and don’t hesitate to comment on your references and scenes from the show.
Sources used in ‘Stranger Things Set Design: 15 Cool Things You Need to Know!’