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From 'Stranger Things 2': (Left to right) Noah Schnapp as Will, Finn Wolfhard as Mike, Gaten Matarazzo as Dustin, Caleb McLaughlin as Lucas. Image courtesy of Netflix.

PRODUCTION DESIGN WEB TELEVISION

Colonization of the Upside Down In 'Stranger Things 2'

Story by Mun Kang | June 22, 2018

The Duffer Brothers' 1980s nostalgic, highly anticipated second installment of 'Stranger Things' returns with Mike Wheeler (Finn Wolfhard) in the company of Will Byers (Noah Schnapp), Dustin Henderson (Gaten Matarazzo), and Lucas Sinclair (Caleb McLaughlin), featuring the supernatural powers of Millie Bobby Brown as Eleven, with Chief of Police, Jim Hopper (David Harbour) and Winona Ryder as Will's mother, Joyce Byers. After Will Byers is rescued from the Upside Down, he experiences shocking side effects and a paranormal connection of oneness with the rise of the Shadow Monster; while Hopper keeps Eleven hidden and safe in an old cabin. Season 2 explores new locations outside of Hawkins, Indiana with the expanse of the Shadow Monster attempting to colonize the characters' world. Production Designer, Chris Trujillo ('Nerve') wanted to stay faithful to Season 1, but also expand outside Hawkins to make the show feel bigger and more all-encompassing.

Image courtesy of Netflix.

The expanse of the Upside Down included tunnels that would spread underneath the town of Hawkins, much like nerve endings. The Production Designer detailed, "We explored different approaches to building tunnels, corridors, how to create duplicated architectural elements for long runs, make them feel organic, but also be able to fabricate them at a certain scale and speed. As the season progressed, we got into needing these giant rooms/hub areas where multiple tunnels met; that turned into creating big dome structures where our tunnels lead off. We built the elements so we could break away one end of a tunnel, turn it around, attach it to another end of the tunnel, and that would give us a new tunnel that turns in a different direction. Essentially, we made it break apart, reassemble, interlock, and more malleable. The tunnels were meant to feel almost like the Upside Down was trying to colonize Hawkins, colonizing our world, our dimension."

Winona Ryder as Will"s mother Joyce Byers, and Sean Astin as Bob Newby.

Other important design elements included a sleeker Hawkin's Lab, a separate city, the home of a conspiracy theorist, Hopper's cabin, and the growth of what is known as the Gate. "The lab gets a real face lift this season. It was about making it feel much more advanced, cutting edge, modified to create a cleaner, more modern 1984 science lab atmosphere, which previously looked like a cold war testing facility. The outside city was about exploring the more quintessential urban 80s vibe with a little bit of suburbia and more grittiness. We wanted to add graffiti, Mohawks, and city grime with a punk rock gang in their lair of an old factory, in a big city. Murray Bauman's (Brett Gelman) place shows he's a veteran of the underground world of conspiracy of the late 60s, so we tried to fit in all the funky reflections of his personality: being nuts, with a proto hipster loft lifestyle, and as a weirdo pioneer conspiracist. The cabin was Hopper's grandfather's summer cabin, which is why it feels like an old raggedy hunting cabin when they first go there. When Hopper realizes he needs to protect Eleven and keep her hidden, it becomes obvious that it's the perfect place to keep her off the grid. Then we tried to make the place feel like a warm home for Eleven - that's when it transforms from the dusty storage bin full of old junk, to a cozy, comfortable place for Eleven to hide out. In season 1, the art department and special effects teams physically fabricated the Gate, the actual membrane that the characters pass into and out of. This year, the enormous overgrown Gate was more elaborate, as the art department built a big cage and half of a giant room that rifted with all the tunnels leading off of it," Trujillo explained.

'Stranger Things 2' explores the vast expanse of the Upside Down as the Shadow Monster attempts to colonize Hawkins through the formation of underground tunnels. This season also levels up in scale, as the revamped Hawkins Lab transports the fans to a new, gritty city, featuring critical modifications to the Gate, which connects our world to the Upside Down, while all staying faithful to the Stranger Things universe.

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