For "No Strings Attached" (aka Lunch Breaks) we wanted to create a different look and feel between the Earth and Cloud City. The film takes place in 1936 New York, so I decided to use Edward Hopper as a jumping-off point for color. Hopper's paintings both evoke images of the proper time period, but also present an image of isolation. I thought that appropriate, because for this story Gabe - the lead - must save a life, but is left without the aid of anyone more experienced. "Office at Night" was a major influence to the interior of the Department of Human Fate building.
The Office, as well as the rest of the Cloud City, Cumulopolis, were to have a brighter, crisper, bluer look, compared with the hazy, bustling New York City below.
In addition, the aesthetic between the Cloud City and Earth was Round and Soft versus Sharp and Hard, respectively. Here we see the development of the Office from initially squarer, to having the rounded look we wanted.
And here are some more explorations of different aspects to the Office. The controllers were designed to resemble a the cross used on Marionettes, which is how the Earth people are controlled. Originally, I thought the controllers were these ancient devices that have been used for centuries, so I explored a medieval/gothic approach. We decided against them, however, because they looked too much like Greek Orthodox Crosses, and we wanted to avoid blatant religious connotations.
I wanted to be as specific as possible for Noah Bench - the lead modeler - when he created the CG versions of these objects.
Even though it was only seen in one shot, we explored what we wanted the Cloud City to look like. We like the idea of New Classical - which brings to mind the Government buildings in Washington D.C., and I explored the idea of attached Art Deco skyscrapers to them. At one point we humored the idea that the Cloud People had been wearing Togas and whatnot, but about five years prior, had gone through a major upgrade to the modern era, adding new additions to classical temples and converting to 30's attire. That idea was dropped as we moved to a more succinct story.
I eventually adopted the idea that the Department of Human Fate building was build upon a "Cloud Acropolis," much like in Athens, in the old part of the Cloud City, while a more developed Urban Cloud City had sprouted up on the other side of the cloud. To help connect with Gabe, we wanted to show that he is just like a regular person, in that Cloud people have apartments, shops, and bills to pay, just like the Earth people.
Here are some more examples of ideas, colors, and imagery we played with in the early stages of pre-production.