Why ‘Foodtastic’s’ Production Design Drew on Inspiration From ‘Lord of the Rings’ and Disney IP

“Star Wars” may be set in a galaxy far, far away, but re-creating a slice of it for Endemol Shine North America and Disney Plus’ new food art competition series “Foodtastic” took place on a soundstage in Santa Clarita.

Each episode of “Foodtastic” begins with host Keke Palmer stepping into the world of a specific movie to set the tone and announce the episode’s challenge. Three teams then work to create unique sculptures entirely out of edible materials that help tell a new story within the world of that intellectual property. Production designer James “J.P.” Connelly and his team were responsible for planning and building the main set, on which the competition takes place, as well as each individual space Palmer steps into for her scripted segments. Both spaces combine practical elements with digital wallpaper and VFX to “bring Disney magic into the set,” Connelly explains.

When it came to the “Star Wars” episode, Connelly and his team brought in Lucasfilm magic as well. The script he received for the episode put Palmer in a Yavin 4 X-wing Starfighter hangar, which he calls “unbelievable territory for us.” Lucasfilm provided guidance and a “small toolkit” when it came to set-pieces and style details, including sending Connelly’s team a 3D model of an X-wing. Even “placing cables on the floor of the hangar was exciting” for Connelly, a longtime “Star Wars” fan.

Connelly recalls having about a month to work with 12 3D artists and a couple of other designers to create the digital set for Palmer’s scripted portion of the episode, which was shot after the competition took place. The competition set, on the other hand, was designed to be a consistent from episode to episode, but altered slightly to fit the specific episode’s IP. For “Star Wars,” for example, red beam lights were incorporated, evoking lightsabers.

The competition set was inspired by images of enchanted forests, as well as a direction from Endemol Shine’s chief content officer, Sharon Levy. “She said, ‘I kind of feel like it’s “Lord of the Rings,”’” Connelly recalls.

In three months, the designer developed and built a set that resembles an elven village. It includes practical mountains and rocks built out of foam that are hollow in the back to hide additional shelves, ingredients and even crew members as needed and a pantry built inside a tree.

“It’s very fantasy, and ‘fantasy’ is a word that is synonymous with Disney,” Connelly says. “It was important to me that this felt very tropical, humid and sculptural, and so everything in the space was carved and hand done. That’s very Disney too.”

“Foodtastic” is streaming now on Disney Plus.

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