Carlos Zaragoza Interview: Designing Gnome Gardens In 'Gnomeo & Juliet'

Carlos Zaragoza has worked as a Set Designer and Art Director on animated and live action films such as The Tale of Despereaux and Guillermo del Toro's Pan's Labrynth. Originally from Spain, Carlos was awarded by the Art Director’s Guild with the Excellence in Production Design Award for his work in Pan’s Labyrinth.

Carlos walks CineMovie through the process of working as a set desiger on an animated film and how he came up with the colorful world of the garden gnomes in GNOMEO & JULIET.

Q: As the set designer in GNOMEO & JULIET, what were you responsible for in the film.
Carlos: Under the production Designer who is the head of the Art Department, I designed the two neighbor's gardens and the various spaces within those gardens.  I also did the house interiors for Mrs. Montague.  And all the minor details within the space of the gardens.

Gnomeo & Juliet movie

Q. How does the process start?  Do you design something on paper before designing it on the computer?

Carlos: That job belongs to the storyboard department. The storyboard artists divide up the script and make a graphic script. It's a simplified sketch of what the scenes will look like from the camera's point of view -- the framing, the locations of the characters, and the action.  

When we start a film, it's based on the treatment or script but once you have the storyboards and a clear vision of the action sequences, we base it all on the storyboards. We begin by creating visuals for the scenery or spaces. When the work is approved by the director, producer or the production designer, we continue working on it giving it more detail -- size, texture, and volume.  

Q:  How much of real-life gardens did you use to create this world?
Carlos: Part of it is imagination and thinking beyond what exists in reality. Apart from that, I based it on real British gardens.  We visited real locations to get an idea of what they really look like in detail, texture and design of things. The producer also hired a location manager to create a very detailed dossier with real gardens with exaggerated decorations. That was very inspiring to start designing the scenery.

Carlos Zaragoza set design for Gnomeo & Juliet movie

Q:  What are your tips when it comes to set designing for film?
Carlos: The tips are the same for any kind of production.

1.  What kind of project will you be working on?

2.  Do you have all the possible information -- script, storyboards, the director and producer's vision for the film.

3.  Imagine what the camera will be seeing and how it will be moving in the space.

4.  Your imagination shouldn't have any limitations.

5.  Be conscious of the budget, the time frame, and what are your resources to complete the project.

Q:  Typically, how long do you work on a project?
Carlos: Animation is a much longer process. I can be anywhere from two to four years on a project but most of the time three years. Live action is usually less than a year.

Q: You're currently working on Dreamworks Animation's Madagascar 3?
Carlos: Yes, I've been working on it for a year and a half so far. It comes out next summer.

Carlos' work can be currently seen in GNOMEO & JULIET now available on DVD and Blu-ray.

To see more of Carlos' film designs and personal work, check out his site for some cool graphics at



Watch Interviews

Latest Trailers

Meanwhile On Instagram