Paddington in Prison: How does the design of the prison in Paddington 2 (2017) reflect character and story?

Barnwell, J. Paddington in Prison: How does the design of the prison in Paddington 2 (2017) reflect character and story? in: Harmes, M., Harmes, M. and Harmes, B. (ed.) The Palgrave Handbook of Incarceration in Popular Culture Australia Palgrave Macmillan.

Chapter titlePaddington in Prison: How does the design of the prison in Paddington 2 (2017) reflect character and story?
AuthorsBarnwell, J.
EditorsHarmes, M., Harmes, M. and Harmes, B.
Abstract

This paper explores the role of the prison in the representation of character and narrative in the film Paddington 2 (2017). The prison is a key setting in the film, which playfully stitches together popular notions of the real and imagined prison and turns into a community where friendship, food and flowers blossom. It effectively forms a transition space linking Paddington’s journey from home and back again. The Brown’s home is established as a warm and welcoming environment, which Paddington is forcibly removed from when he is wrongly sent to prison. On arrival the prison appears to be a classic harsh and hostile place of incarceration where Paddington is intimidated and alone. However, Paddington’s presence is slowly seen to transform the place into a warm and inviting world full of friendship and hope. The design is crucial in conveying key themes in the script that reflect Paddington’s character and the positive impact he has on people’s lives. The changes we see taking place in the prison are metaphors that convey the visual concept at the heart of the design.

Traditional ideas and images of the prison are turned on their head as the place of incarceration becomes a candy pink striped world of high teas and bunting. The environment reflects the camaraderie between Paddington and the inmates he becomes friends with. The form an escape plan and Paddington eventually closes the narrative circle by returning home. Order appears to have been restored as Phoenix Buchanan (Hugh Grant) is sent to prison in his place. However not only has the prison remained a cosy reflection of Paddington’s character it now incorporates the high camp theatricality of its new inmate. Complete with a closing musical number that sees Buchanan singing and performing to rapturous applause.
The design functions to reflect these changes physically while also visualising the underpinning concepts at work in the narrative.

My paper works through the way the design conveys these ideas using a model I’ve developed for the analysis of production design, called the Visual Concept methodology. The model works through the five key ways a script is visualized by a production designer: i) Space, ii) In and out, iii) Light, iv) Colour and v) Set decoration. Using this case study I will illustrate how every decision about the five elements is linked and returns to the logic of the central visual concept driving the design.

KeywordsPrisons, media representation, space, production design
Book titleThe Palgrave Handbook of Incarceration in Popular Culture
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Publication dates
Published30 Mar 2020
Place of publicationAustralia
ISBN9783030360580

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