Watch a Step-by-Step Breakdown of La La Land’s Incredibly Complex, Off Ramp Opening Number

La La Land, writer and direc­tor Damien Chazelle’s award-win­ning Valen­tine to Hol­ly­wood musi­cals, attract­ed legions of fans upon its release last Decem­ber.

Their ardor is book­end­ed by the enmi­ty of Broad­way diehards under­whelmed by the stars’ singing and danc­ing chops and those who detest musi­cals on prin­ci­ple.

The above video may not lead the detrac­tors to swal­low Chazelle’s Kool-Aid col­ored vision, but lis­ten­ing to chore­o­g­ra­ph­er Mandy Moore’s behind-the-scenes blow-by-blow of the com­pli­cat­ed open­ing num­ber, “Anoth­er Day of Sun,” should inspire respect for the mas­sive feat of cin­e­mat­ic coor­di­na­tion below.

This may be the first time in his­to­ry that a chore­o­g­ra­ph­er has sin­gled out the Trans­port Depart­ment for pub­lic praise.

Remem­ber how your folks used to freak out about you dent­ing the hood when you capered atop the fam­i­ly Coun­try Squire? Turns out they were right.

One of the Trans­po’ crew’s cru­cial assign­ments was plac­ing vehi­cles with spe­cial­ly rein­forced hoods and roofs in the spots where dancers had been chore­o­graphed to bound on top of them. Get­ting it wrong ear­ly on would have wast­ed valu­able time on a two day shoot that shut down an exit ramp con­nect­ing the 110 and 105 free­ways.

The real La La Land con­jures fan­tasies of Ange­lyne clad in head-to-toe pink behind the wheel of her match­ing pink Corvette, but for this num­ber, the Cos­tume Depart­ment col­lab­o­rat­ed with the Trans­port Depart­ment to diver­si­fy the palette.

In oth­er words, the red-gowned fla­men­co dancer could emerge from a yel­low car, and the yel­low-shirt­ed krumper could emerge from a red car, but not vice ver­sa.

Mer­ci­ful­ly, the art depart­ment refrained from a total col­or-coor­di­na­tion black­out. That moment when a gust of wind catch­es the skirts of the blonde conductor’s yel­low dress plays like an inten­tion­al trib­ute to Mar­i­lyn Mon­roe, when in fact it was a lucky acci­dent made all the more glo­ri­ous by the sun­ny draw­ers she was sport­ing under­neath.

Oth­er day-of acci­dents required on-the-fly inge­nu­ity, such as enlist­ing three burly crew mem­bers to pro­vide off screen help to a per­former strug­gling with a mal­func­tion­ing door to the truck con­ceal­ing a Latin band with­in. (With tem­per­a­tures soar­ing to 104°, they were hot in more ways than one.)

Moore was also off-cam­era, hid­ing under a chas­sis to cue the skate­board­er, who was unfa­mil­iar with the 8‑count the 30 main dancers were trained to respond to.

Oth­er “spe­cial skills” per­form­ers include a BMX bik­er, a Park­our traceur, the director’s hula hoop­ing sis­ter, and a stunt woman whose abil­i­ty to back­flip into the nar­row chan­nel between two parked cars  land­ed her the part… and kept her injury-free for over 40 takes.

Half of the fin­ished film’s grid­locked cel­e­brants are CGI gen­er­at­ed, but the live per­form­ers had to remain in synch with the pre-record­ed song by Justin Hur­witz, Benj Pasek, and Justin Paul, a par­tic­u­lar chal­lenge giv­en the size of the out­door film­ing area. Exec­u­tive music pro­duc­er Mar­ius de Vries and engi­neer Nicholai Bax­ter solved that one by loop­ing the track into each car’s radio, plus a num­ber of hid­den speak­ers and two more on a mov­ing rig.

Moore was deter­mined to keep her care­ful­ly plot­ted moves from feel­ing too dance‑y—the only time the dancers per­form in uni­son is at the very end, right before they hop back down, reen­ter their vehi­cles, and slam their doors shut as one.

For a more nat­u­ral­is­tic vision, watch direc­tor Chazelle’s iPhone footage of the main dancers rehears­ing in a park­ing lot, pri­or to the shoot.

Fun­ny how, left to their own devices, these Ange­lenos seem to wear almost as much black and grey as their coun­ter­parts on the east coast….

The exu­ber­ance of the orig­i­nal has giv­en rise to numer­ous com­mu­ni­ty-based trib­utes and par­o­dies, with stand-outs com­ing from the Xia­men For­eign Lan­guage School in Chi­na, North Carolina’s Camp Mer­rie-Woode, Notre Dame High School in Chazelle’s home state of New Jer­sey, and a 17-year-old Ari­zona boy mak­ing a prompos­al to lead­ing lady Emma Stone.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Rita Hay­worth, 1940s Hol­ly­wood Icon, Dances Dis­co to the Tune of The Bee Gees Stayin’ Alive: A Mashup

1944 Instruc­tion­al Video Teach­es You the Lindy Hop, the Dance That Orig­i­nat­ed in 1920’s Harlem Ball­rooms

The Addams Fam­i­ly Dance to The Ramones’ “Blitzkrieg Bop”

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine. She is cur­rent­ly direct­ing The­ater of the Apes Sub-Adult Divi­sion in George Orwell’s Ani­mal Farm, open­ing next week in New York City.  Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

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  • Trever R. Williams says:

    hi I,m cur­rent­ly a senior cit­i­zen tap­dancer, choir mem­ber and retired accapel­la singer and have been in vaude­ville part time since I was 6 I,m also a car buff of sorts and have assist­ed with chore­og­ra­phy from tiome to time with var­i­ous groups, so this movie attraced me like bees to honey.i am so thank­ful, no one got seri­ous­ly hurt in that open­ing scene. this was the great­est thing I ever saw. now since I,m also a car buff, I would like to know if the cars they used were some­thing out of a junkyard,for one last gasp or were they rent­ed out­to be returned.if the lat­ter is true, the body shops in L.A.must,ve had a field day before beingreturned.i would love some­time to spend an hour over a pot of cof­fee with these dancers to talk about they,re expe­ri­ences from this. [THANKS] TREVER]

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