For over six months, Film Professor Patti McCarthy (Digital Media Consultant) and Whittier College alumni Emerson Little (Lead Design & One Sheet), Dorian Peña (Web Design), and Lauren Swintek (Web Design & Book Cover) worked together to create the web design, book cover, one sheet, and electronic press kit for the book and 30-minute film, The Rainbow Prince. The film tells the tale of a Brown princess who must rescue a rainbow prince who changes colors based on his emotions.
Professor McCarthy’s friend and recent Whittier College guest speaker, Hollywood producer Doug Claybourne and his wife, Laura Napier, decided to write a book and make a film after their daughter asked them an important question. Marea Claybourne-Napier was five years old when she asked her mother while reading a fairytale about the lack of princesses who looked like her. Because the media, films, and books influence children’s mindsets, perceptions, and emotions, it is important to promote diversity in films and books, which is what The Rainbow Prince accomplishes. Based on the tale of Sleeping Beauty, the story is co-written by mother and daughter, Laura Napier and Marea Claybourne-Napier, and transforms the narrative into one that interweaves an enchanting plot with positive representation. According to Professor McCarthy, it’s the intention of the filmmakers to screen The Rainbow Prince in schools in the United States, and beyond, and donate copies of the books to K-6 libraries to help spark discussion and celebrate differences.
Emerson Little, Dorian Peña, and Lauren Swintek had previously worked together on a digital marketing campaign in summer 2020 for the indie film McCarthy was a producer of, Carlos Through the Tall Grass. The film has an expected completion date of Summer 2022. The four were familiar with collaborating virtually with one another.
During late summer of 2021, they had their first meeting to initiate their work for The Rainbow Prince. They had the responsibility of generating a design that reflected the film’s essence to apply it to the website and electronic press kit (EPKit). As soon as Little, Peña, and Swintek had access to the film’s picture book and script, they commenced drafting their ideas and collaborating over weekly Zoom meetings while consulting with Professor McCarthy regularly.
They also worked closely with the film’s executive producer, Matt Sutton, to find the right look that blended visuals from both the picture book and the short film. They based their designs on kente cloth, which is a Ghanian textile generally used by royalty. Along with the kente cloth, they based their designs on photographs the production team had sent, and illustrations their daughter, Marea, had drawn for the initial story. Little borrowed some of the deep oranges from the kente cloth when working on the film’s poster, which complemented the vibrant photograph of Marea running towards a castle in a pink dress. Little believes this captivating photograph spoke to the message at the heart of the film’s story and ended up using it on the final version of the poster (or what’s referred to in the industry as a one-sheet).
Little commented, “I do want to emphasize that each part of this design process, whether it was the one sheet, website or EPKit, all went back to Laura’s vision. We wanted to make sure all of our marketing materials went back to the filmmaker’s story. There were a lot of revisions involved and a lot of back and forth conversations over Zoom, but we eventually got to a point where everyone agreed.”
In the early stages, the team came up with the idea of making the EPKit like a storybook to match the fairy tale aspect of the film. Little experimented with different kente cloth patterns around the borders of the pages and played around with texture and text hierarchies. He says the goal was to create a balance between production stills and text. It was up to them to figure out a way to present the information Doug Claybourne and Laura Napier had written in a visually-pleasing way. While the EPKit kept changing based on revisions to the one sheet, the EPKit and poster eventually came together in a way that resonated with Claybourne and Napier.
Little recalled the process they underwent to create an enjoyable and engaging experience for children navigating through the website, “Lauren had designed a book cover for Doug and Laura that incorporated both their daughter’s illustrations and a customized title that she had designed both by hand and in Photoshop. Once she had gotten the cover finalized and approved by the filmmakers, her design informed our decisions moving forward with the website. Eventually, Lauren had to move on to other projects, but her aesthetic was used across our marketing materials. Dorian and I stayed on the project to complete work on the website to get it ready for the filmmakers to launch.”
Professor McCarthy added, “we’ve also been creating virtual reality prototypes to try and figure out how best to create a safe VR space that will link with the website so children can virtually interact with characters and locations from the film! So fun! This project was a huge undertaking… but our Whittier students were up to the task and created a fantastic space online for children, from every walk of life, to feel welcome and represented.”
Little revealed his thoughts on this exciting experience, “overall, I think this was a rewarding experience because I was given a chance to step outside of my comfort zone. It wasn’t easy at times, but it was fun. I really enjoyed the opportunity of working with fellow designers from Whittier, while at the same time working with experienced filmmakers who have been around the block and really know the industry.”
Professor McCarthy shared, “The Rainbow Prince embodies values that Whittier College teaches and supports–diversity, equity, and inclusion. I can’t tell you how proud I am of the work of our students. Their professionalism, passion for the project, dedication, and ability to capture the vision of the filmmakers visually and digitally so well speaks to their amazing talent. Not only that, but to be part of such an important and inspirational project that educates children at an early age to love, learn from, and respect one another, regardless of race, culture, gender, or color, is a truly worthy endeavor. We are all proud to be part of the Rainbow Kingdom.”
Everyone can access the trailer, behind-the-scenes content, and preview the first few pages of the book along with additional information through the website, https://www.therainbowprince.com/.
Featured Photo Courtest of Lauren Swintek.