When you think of fairy tales and all they encompass — elves, dwarves, centaurs — your mind immediately jumps to the mystical, the faraway lands. But the fairy world of Artemis Fowl is a lot closer to our urban sprawl, in more ways than one.
The fairies of Kenneth Branagh‘s upcoming Disney adaptation of the beloved Eoin Colfer fantasy novels live deep underground, far from the prying eyes of the human world. But they’re not living in phosphorescent caves or gleaming crystal castles. The fairy world is a sleek high-tech utopia with technologies that far exceed those of humanity.
In an innocuous oak tree on Ireland’s Hill of Tara, known as one of the most mystical places on Earth, there’s a deep, deep hole. The camera takes us down that hole, which seems to extend for miles and miles, before the space suddenly opens up to a bustling, highly advanced city. This is Haven City, the metropolitan hub of the fairies who live underneath the surface of the Earth.
“[Ken’s idea for] this one was that it should be a kind of wacky Shangri-La,” production designer Jim Clay describes of the design for Haven City to a group of journalists during a visit to the set of Artemis Fowl. “It should be organic in its base and equally a high-tech highly developed technological society.”
“It’s not Tinkerbell,” producer Judy Hoffland says of the residents of this fairy world. “It’s very, very high tech, tough fairies dealing with brutal goblins, sometimes nice dwarves.” The term “fairy” encompasses all the mystical creatures, from elves, dwarves, centaurs, and yes, even goblins.
The Haven City of Eoin Colfer’s novel is described as more of a generic, highly-advanced city, albeit with some quirks — ancient lava shoots are used to transport ships to the surface, while the more mundane aspects of reality like washed-out waiting rooms and long lines at the DMV are hilariously prevalent. Clay and Branagh took this “ancient and new” aspect even further, creating an advanced cityscape that borrowed from organic life and ancient architecture. Clay described:
“Imagine deep ocean without the water. We looked at ancient architecture and combined the two. People move around, little fairies comply, they transport themselves in public transport and machines, some which you see here which are a bit based on insects. They travel around by magnetic force. From here you’re going to go and see what we built physically on stage one of Haven City, which is the exterior and interior of the Lower Elements Police Recon Unit. It’s the fairy police headquarters.”
With the Lower Elements Police Recon Unit, or (in classic Colfer tongue-in-cheek fashion) LEPRecon, props designer Barry Gibbs also wanted to incorporate a more organic feeling to avoid from “being Men in Black.” The guns and the equipment of these fairy police take inspiration from insects and organic matter as well, to produce “something very unique” and “unusual,” Gibbs said.
Not just insects, but organic matter like mushrooms and other earthy elements worked their way into the design of the LEP headquarters.
“We’ve taken fungal shapes and organic shapes and that houses the LEP, which obviously involves a great overlap with the visual effects world as well. As I say, it’s rooted in the organic world. Ken wanted it to have a sort of connectivity to an Arthur Rackham type root and rock world,” Clay said.
Artemis Fowl premieres on Disney+ on June 12, 2020.
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