Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Leibovitz photos

Annie Leibovitz made headlines last Friday with her awesome series of photographs of famous Disney films with live actors and actresses.

Leibovitz has been in the "too awesome for words" photography business since she got her degree in painting from the San Francisco Art Institute in 1969, and had already done a series of photographs in 2007 as part of the extended celebration of Disneyland's 50th anniversary called "Year of a Million Dreams"*. So, the photos are basically really expensive advertisements that we've already seen before

This begs the question, why is this news?

Apart from the obvious facts that journalist will jump on anything, Leibovitz has recently done a new series of photos. Unlike the "Year of a Million Dreams" photos, which were released progressively over the course of 2007 and 2008**, this series of photos, called "Let the Memories Begin", was released all at once.

The campaign was launched due to a rise in profits from the parks.
"What? Isn't it basic economics that you advertise when you need money, not when you already have it?"
Not quite. Disney parks offers rather expensive services: hotels, cruises, and tickets lasting several days. For the past couple of years, sales have been in a slump due to the general global crisis, and not even with every discount imaginable were they able to bring people back. The recent rise in the profits is a sign that the crisis is ending, giving people once again enough money to spend on such "expensive services". Thus, they launch the campaign when it has the highest chance of succeeding: when people have money, but don't know what to do with it.

One could similarly ask, why did Leibovitz do it again? Well, she was sued last year, and it isn't hard to imagine that the lawyers she hired weren't cheap.

The photos

Four photos from "Year of a million Dreams": David Beckham swordfights flames on horseback; Rachel Weisz lies in Snow White's dress surrounded by woodland animals; Michael Phelps and Julianne Moore are shown as mermaids in a coral reef; and Penelope Cruz and Marc Antony, clad in traditional arab clothing, float over a desert aboard a billowing carpet. Two photos from "Let the Memories Begin": Penelope Cruz and Jeff Bridges recreate the final dance from "Beauty and the Beast"; and Queen Latifah is shown as Urusla the cecaelia, commanding the waves.
Four photos from "Year of a Million Dreams", and two photos from "Let the Memories Begin", for comparison purposes

The style and technique of the photos in both series is similar. Leibovitz showcases both her photographic skills and her photoshop skills. A variety of techniques are used to re-create the films. For instance, to make the magic carpet ride, the carpet was mounted on a wireframe on stilts, on which Cruz and Anthony then climbed upon. For the Snow White scene, an actual forest set was built, and the animals were brought on the set, but each was photographed separately.

By far, the most work went into the costumes. Queen Latifah actually had eight tentacles atatched to her to pose as Urusla. Most –if not all– backgrounds were composed from photographs and paintings, since most photos were shot in front of a blue screen. Yes, they even put the blue screen underwater.

Image: Leibovitz photographs Phleps, swimming his merman suit, through an aquarium window.

* If you want to get picky, it was actually a new promotional campaign that just happened to share the same theme and look as the two that preceeded it.

** If you want to get picky, the 2008 photos were part of a separate, uncomissioned series called "Dream Portraits", which Disney just happened to use for their "Year of a Million Dreams" campaign anywway.

1 comment:

  1. If I had money, I'd know what to do with it. Maybe I could do some Wombie-themed Disney pictures and sell them the big guys.