EW's Special Coverage

Style & Design

Best of 2012 (Behind the Scenes): 'Parks and Recreation' prop master Gay Perello's five favorite pieces of the year

(Page 4 of 5)

4. Super-sized Sweetum’s soda cups

The second episode of this season was named “Soda Tax.” The A story was about Leslie wanting to put a higher tax on the newly released super sizes of soda cups.

The cups start with a mere 64 oz., then go up to 128 oz., and then a whopping 512 oz. cup, referred to as Child Size (because it’s roughly the size of a 2-year-old).

Mike Schur, the co-creator of Parks and Rec, really wanted the cups to look as real as possible and to copy the shape of the Big Gulps. Luckily, I could use the actual Big Gulp by painting and wrapping our Sweetum’s logo around it, but that left the issue of how to manufacture cups that look and hold fluid like the 64 oz.

We were married to that two-tier shape and had to figure out how to, and of what to, make them. I had gone to the grocery store and bought at least 20 different kinds of tubs that could stack on each other, it was not coming together.

During my show and tell meeting, I was hoping to have the writers and creators think outside the box with the design, like with a garden sprayer or those giant handheld keg coolers, but those ideas didn’t change their mind.

Once again, time was not on my side. I was quickly losing the option of having a carving and a mold made, but I was preparing to commit to that expense when I got a call from my production designer, Ian Phillips, to hurry and come down to set because he had a solution. Ian was holding two white plastic paint tubs in his hands that he found on an unfinished set the painters left behind. A one gallon bucket and the other a two quart. He stacked the larger one on top of the smaller one and just like magic, there was our shape!

Huge sigh of relief. I quickly gathered all the different sizes I needed to complete the set up to 512 oz., and brought them to the prop manufacturing house SAT and they transformed those buckets into beautiful cups. Finish it off with graphics, little wheels, and giant Pixy Stix as straws, and you got yourself a Child Sized 512 oz. soda cup.

My amazing prop assistants on set tinted a round disk, shoved in the cup, and topped it off with fake crushed ice so it wouldn’t be too heavy with real fluid.

I am very lucky to have the support and vision of the Art Dept. and a crew that problem solves on set.

NEXT: Leslie’s Unity Quilt

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