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(April 25, 2008) For the latest image in the portrait series of celebrities living out their Disney dreams, photographer Annie Leibovitz followed a simple recipe: Just add water.
Continuing the "Disney Dream Portrait Series" that has put stars in all kinds of Disney fantasies, Leibovitz trained her famous lens this time on the undersea world of Ariel, heroine of "The Little Mermaid." To get there, she dressed actress Julianne Moore and American swimming icon Michael Phelps in tails and scales.
"Yes, Julianne has a big mermaid tail; it's interesting," Leibovitz recalled from the shoot. "Michael, too. His movements were so graceful and beautiful you just felt like you were watching a real merman."
The latest Leibovitz photography is part of her acclaimed series as Disney Parks continue, through 2008, the "Year of a Million Dreams" celebration on both coasts.
In the finished image captioned "Where another world is just a wish away," shafts of light pierce the blue depths as Ariel (Moore) sits in her undersea world amid wavy coral and darting sea life. In the foreground of the frame, Phelps slips past, flipping his fins.
Actress Julianne Moore, as Ariel, and world champion swimmer Michael Phelps, as a merman
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Dressed as Ariel, actress Julianne Moore talks with photographer Annie Leibovitz during a photo shoot.
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Photographer Annie Leibovitz shoots a merman-clad Michael Phelps.
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World champion swimmer Michael Phelps poses with his merman fins during a photo shoot for the latest Annie Leibovitz "Dream Portrait" for Disney Parks.
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Inside The Shoot
Leibovitz worked her mastery on soundstages on both coasts. Fitted in his silvery fishtail, Phelps was lowered into a backlot tank in Los Angeles used for underwater movie scenes. Leibovitz was on the outside, snapping away, communicating her instructions to Phelps via members of her crew.
"One of the most complicated shots I have ever done," said Leibovitz. "I didn't know if it was going to work, what to expect. I have to tell you, he was beautiful. Michael put on that tail and ... he just became like a modern dancer. He just took to it and enjoyed himself and swam through this tank. I was blown away."
For the four time "World Swimmer of the Year" (as designated by Swimming World Magazine), donning flippers was worlds away from the swimming competitions he's used to.
"It was kind of weird to be able to put on a tail and swim around in a tank," Phelps admitted. "To work with Annie and try these crazy sorts of ideas is really an honor and something I won't forget."
A host of swimming stars, past and present, joined Phelps in the water and final image: Janet Evans, Rowdy Gaines, Brendan Hansen and Cullen Jones.
At a New York soundstage, Leibovitz perched the fishtailed Moore on a rock as the starry-eyed Ariel.
"There's a moment in the shoot where Julianne is sitting on a rock in her mermaid tail and her young daughter comes in, and there is not a dry eye in the house," Leibovitz recalled. "She sat in her mother's lap. Her jaw just dropped. She could not believe her mother was Ariel."
When Moore was asked to play Ariel, she recalls,
"I leapt at the chance."
"Ariel is my daughter's favorite princess, so I was just really so excited to do it," Moore said. "All the images I've seen that Annie's shot so far – Cinderella and Alice and the prince one – are absolutely exquisite. They are so beautiful and so kind of wonderfully emotional. So I was really thrilled to be asked to work with her and do this."
The latest image – planned for the June issue of Vanity Fair magazine – continues the renowned Leibovitz series of putting celebrities inside their Disney fantasies. Released in separate flights since January 2007, these have included:
- Scarlett Johansson as Cinderella, Beyonce as Alice in Wonderland and David Beckham as the gallant Prince Phillip from "Sleeping Beauty."
- Rachel Weisz as Snow White, Roger Federer as King Arthur from "The Sword in the Stone," Julie Andrews as the Blue Fairy from "Pinocchio" with Abigail Breslin as Fira from "Disney Fairies."
- Jennifer Lopez as Jasmine, Marc Anthony as Aladdin and Whoopi Goldberg playing the Genie; Giselle Bundchen as Wendy Darling, Mikhail Baryshnikov as Peter Pan and Tina Fey as Tinker Bell; and Jessica Biel as Pocahontas.
"It is about bringing great stories to life," Leibovitz says of the series. "Working with great actors – these are stories that they know. It's embedded in them. And when they start to have their own children it means even more to them.
"These are the stories that are passed on and on, from generation to generation. We just want to do the stories justice. To me it's a lot of play acting, it's a lot of dress-up, that's the joy of it."
Disney Parks guests with their own Ariel dreams can go "under the sea" and meet everyone's favorite mermaid. Ariel poses for photos with guests and signs autographs in her Fantasyland grotto in Disneyland Park and in Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom. In Disney's Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World Resort, the adventure continues during performances of "Voyage of The Little Mermaid."
Transcript of Julianne Moore interview
Rod: This has got to be pretty exciting for you. I understand that Ariel just happens to be your daughter’s favorite fairy tale?
Julianne: My daughter Liv is 5 years old and Ariel is her absolute favorite princess, so honestly when they asked me to do this I leapt at the chance. I mean I’m just really so, so excited to do it. I really was.
Rod: So, have you had a chance to take your daughter to either Disneyland or Disney World?
Julianne: We’ve been to Disneyland several times. We kind of go every time we’re in California. It’s pretty easy cause it’s an easy drive from L.A. and they love it. They really look forward to it, and everybody’s always so nice, everybody who works at Disneyland and the kids, it’s just a great thing to do. It really is, yeah.
Rod: Do you have a really particular favorite memory of taking your daughter to the park?
Julianne: Well my son, actually, my son, when he was, my goodness, I think he was 4 ½ or 5, we went to a place where you could make leather bracelets, you know? I think it was called pioneer town or something, and he made one with my name on it all by himself. And the woman who helped him was so incredible. They were just so kind to him. And I still wear the bracelet.
Rod: So the Disney parks are where we say, “That’s where dreams come true.” So this today is maybe some sort of a dream come true for you?
Julianne: Oh, I mean for Liv, I think absolutely. She’s the perfect age, you know? Any younger and she kind of wouldn’t know what’s going on, and any older she may not be into the princesses. But this was absolutely perfect. And so you know, when your work life and your home life can coincide like this, it’s a pretty wonderful thing.
Rod: Now, what was your first reaction when you got a call saying, “How would you like to portray Ariel” for an Annie Lebovitz photo shoot?
Julianne: Oh, I was I mean I was so delighted. All the images I’ve seen that Annie’s shot so far – the Alice in Wonderland one and the prince one, the Cinderella one, are absolutely exquisite. They’re so beautiful and so kind of wonderfully emotional. And Annie’s work always is. So I was really, really thrilled to be asked to work with her and to do this.
Rod: Have you had a chance to work with Annie before?
Julianne: Yes. I’ve been very fortunate. I’ve shot with her several times and she’s my neighbor, so I see her a lot.
Rod: This has been phenomenal. Thank you.
Julianne: Thank you, it was my pleasure. I’m so excited.
Transcript of Michael Phelps interview
Rod: Alright, Michael. On the Homepage of your Web site, you have a quote about not setting limits, artificial limits, but following your dreams, you never know what you’re going to achieve. And here you are in the middle of a dream setting. How did that happen?
Phelps: Uh, it was kind of weird today. Um, you know, being able to kind of put on I guess a tail and swim around in a tank. But it was fun, it seemed quick and easy.
Rod: Did you ever in your wildest dreams believe that you were going to be a merman?
Phelps: Not at all. Not at all, but I mean the shots from before looked pretty cool and I’m excited to get a look at these and see how they look underwater.
Rod: And here you are working with Annie Lebovitz, that’s got to be a thrill in itself.
Phelps: Yeah, one of the, you know the best photographer in the world, and having the chance to come up here and to be able to hardly spend really, I mean, she’s quick, in and out. She knows what she wants; once she has it she’s done. So I would say it was cool and definitely an honor.
Rod: I guess you had seen the photos in the series that were released earlier this year with David Beckham, Beyonce and others. So that must have been kind of a kick when you were asked to follow in that series.
Phelps: Oh no, for sure. And to be able to have the opportunity like this to work with Disney and Annie, you know, to really try these new, like crazy sort of ideas is really an honor and something that I’m definitely going to remember. And hopefully I’ll be able to get some of these shots.
Rod: Well you already have a little bit of a Disney history. You were involved in the “Swim with the Stars” tour a couple of years back. And the incredible wrap-up of that tour in Disneyland where you were swimming down Main Street, U.S.A. How was that?
Phelps: I know, it was definitely, it was a long month, it was a fun month, We were able to travel all over the country and yeah, to be able to swim down Main Street, never thought that would be possible. But they did a great job and you know it was pretty exciting, that’s for sure. It was kind of cool to have the fans sort of on the outside sort of cheering us on.
Rod: Now when you were growing up, did you go to Disneyland or Disney World?
Phelps: Actually that was the first time, in 2004, that I went to either one of them. So I did both of them in the same year, and I was 18 and 19 when I did it. So it was strange but it was cool.
-- Posted April 25, 2008