How ‘Squid Game’ Sets Were Inspired by Korean Tomes

·3-min read

Netflix’s “Squid Game” featured sets such as the M.C. Escher- like staircase and a tug-of-war area, as characters on a remote island compete in deadly versions of childhood games.

Production designer Chae Kyoung-sun built killer sets on a large scale for the 456 contestants as they battle it out to be the last man standing, all for a cash prize.

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Its most iconic set is right at the beginning, as the contestants play Red Light, Green Light.

“I wanted to fill the set for the first game with fantasy and fairy- tale-like images,” Chae says. “The robot doll was designed after [1970s Korean textbook characters] Chul-soo and Young-hee, and an ominous tree was put in

as an object. This juxtaposition evokes both the memories of childhood and the sense of fear at the same time. The walls are decorated with fields of reeds and the clear sky.”

However, by the end of the game, it’s revealed that the sky is not real and when the game ends, the ceiling closes over the confused faces of the survivors, as well as the participants who died in that first round.

With the staircase design, Chae was inspired by two pieces of art that caught her eye.

“One of them was an illustration of a child who is sitting next to a tall wall. Next to the child, there is a ladder leaning against the wall, and the child is making a fire with some wood taken from the ladder while looking up at the wall. The staircase that looks like the sides of the stairs also stems from the image of a ladder. The structural composition of a ladder and stairs is used heavily in the show.”

To create the set for the contenstants’ dorm room, Chae was inspired by the idea of “people who are abandoned on the road.”

“The raised platform in the middle is designed to look like a tunnel entrance and the walls are covered with white tiles, which are commonly used in a tunnel,” she says. “The beds are stacked up against one another like goods in a ware- house, and they are taken out as the participants get eliminated.”

As chaos ensues, those beds col- lapse and are destroyed.

“Those are designed to look like broken ladders or stairs, which signify the hopeless reality of not being able to move upward.”

For the tug-of-war sequence, the road-shaped game ring was set on top of a 30-meter steel structure. She says it was “to imply the hopelessness the participants feel as they lost their ways and were thrown onto the road, and to maximize the dramatic impact of their being thrown down to the asphalt floor.”

The physical set was built out to accommodate all aspects of film- ing, with VFX coming in to add set extensions at the end.

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