The Art Of Craft: How ‘Stranger Things’ Production Designer Chris Trujillo Created Season 3’s Starcourt Mall

'Stranger Things' production designer Chris Trujillo

“A lot of [Season 3] was about figuring out how to scale up the world and the action, and go more kind of summer blockbuster, without losing any of the heart of the show. We really wanted to push the pool, and push the mall, to really make you feel summer, in a way that obviously wasn’t present in the first two seasons.” Chris Trujillo

Architectural plans for 'Stranger Things' Harcourt Mall

 The Starcourt food court featured a quintessential selection of ’80s eateries, including Burger King, Great Panda, Orange Julius, Hot Sam and New York Pizza. It was just one key element of the massive mall production designer Chris Trujillo took on for Season 3. 

 Built in Duluth, GA in the ’80s, the Gwinnett Place Mall was selected as a base for Trujillo’s work over a dozen other Georgia malls, given its period charm. Inside, the art department recreated period branding for stores, including J.C. Penney and The Gap.

 When Trujillo first discovered the space, it was in a state of general dereliction—a confusing architectural mishmash, having been partially remodeled in the ’90s and 2000s.

 Fully dressed to allow for filming in 360 degrees, The Gap was the largest store recreated for the series, at approximately 3000 square feet. The art department filled this set with more than 2,500 accessories and pieces of apparel. 

 The ice cream store where Steve and Robin work, Scoops Ahoy! was one of several script-specific stores and eateries designed for Stranger Things, which needed to be seamlessly juxtaposed with real period establishments.

Architectural plans for 'Stranger Things' Harcourt Mall
Courtesy of Chris Trujillo/Netflix

 Before stores like Waldenbooks and RadioShack could be brought to life, the team would have to totally revamp the multi-level mall, which encompassed 1.3 million feet.

 In total, 40 businesses were created for Starcourt, including a retro Time Out Arcade and Star Cinemas, where Stranger Things’ teenagers take in a screening of Day of the Dead. 

 A small army of 50+ carpenters and painters worked for more than 10 weeks to prep the Starcourt Mall. In the end, this set served to broaden the world of Stranger Things, while pushing it into the space of a summer blockbuster, just as The Duffer Brothers intended.  

Production Design statistics from 'Stranger Things 3'

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