The Marvel Studios Visual Development team has reinvented the role concept art plays in the creation of blockbuster movies. They are not freelancers providing a few paintings and then hoping for the best when they see the movie a few years later. They collaborate with directors, producers, executives, costume designers, and even actors to excite moviegoers with comic-book-faithful costumes that look amazing and function perfectly on screen.
Marvel Studios Director of Visual Development Andy Park walked Marvel Studios News through the process of designing Evangeline Lilly’s costume for Ant-Man and the Wasp. A promise was made in the first film’s “It’s about damn time” mid-credits scene and it was Park’s job to help make good on it. It took a lot of work, and thousands of frequent flyer miles, but the final design delivered.
The first step in transitioning from what audiences saw in Ant-Man to what Lilly would eventually wear in Ant-Man and the Wasp was actually under the guidance of Captain America: Civil War directors Joe and Anthony Russo. “[The Wasp] was actually gonna be in Civil War,” Park says, “so there were some tweaks in her design, per the Russo Brothers, I think mainly the red accents.”
Wasp ultimately did not make it onto Team Cap or Team Iron Man, so Park was once again working with Ant-Man franchise director Peyton Reed on Hope van Dyne’s superhero debut. Obviously, Reed was already a fan of the design from the first film, so as Park explains, “It was really more about manufacturing on this film. I got to work very closely with Louise Frogley, the costume designer, and Ivo Coveney. He’s the head of specialty costumes. He’s the one responsible for actually manufacturing the helmet, all the hard bits.”
Collaboration also meant a lot of travel for Park, who is based out of the Marvel Studios offices on the Disney lot in Burbank. “I was flying back and forth to Atlanta all last year,” he says. “We were just extensively going over the suit on a mannequin, doing fittings with Evangeline, trying to get the spirit of the concept design that I did to show itself through onto the actual costume, which is always a challenge.
“We’re helping to try and make it a real thing working with the costume designer and it’s a big challenge because it’s not only trying to make it look like the design that was approved, but it has to be functional. It has to be able to move.” Movement is key, not just to make things look right on camera, but also for the sanity of the actors who are often stuck in notoriously uncomfortable super suits for several months’ worth of 12-hour days.
During a Q&A for the in-home release of Ant-Man and the Wasp, Park recalls Lilly’s delightful surprise as to how freely she could move in her costume. “We had that final fitting with Evangeline and she was so excited! And then she had [Peyton] come to see it along with [producer] Stephen [Broussard]. And then she wanted to take a picture with everyone. She was actually saying she was very comfortable.”
Striking the proper balance between aesthetic and function is among the biggest challenges for Park and the costume design team. Materials have to selected along with patterns and colors. Sometimes, one color isn’t enough, so it has to be combined with something else. “There’s a lot of back and forth,” Park explains. “They didn’t want [the suit] to be too gold. They wanted some silver in there, so they kind of bridged the gap and coined the term ‘gilver.’”
There is a lot of time, thought, and care that goes into each character design in a Marvel Studios movie. This highly-detailed, collaborative process has been a critical element in the studio’s remarkably consistent success with critics and audiences all over the world. The results show not only at the box office, but in the smiling faces of moviegoers who see the costumes, and the actors who wear them.
Ant-Man and the Wasp is now available digitally and on Movies Anywhere. The film will also be available on 4K UHD Blu-ray October 16.