Cloudy with a chance of retail
It’s hard not to be in awe of how real Superstore’s fictional department store Cloud 9 feels. And that’s definitely the case when you step onto the show’s set on the Universal Studios lot. The show’s production team has gone to great lengths — even employing illusionist-like tricks — to make Cloud 9 appear as authentic as possible, from mirrors to scavenging similar stores that have gone out of business.
As the excellent comedy enters its fourth season (premiereing Oct. 4 at 8 p.m. ET on NBC), EW takes a look inside the Target-esque workplace.
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A typical Target is about 130,000 square feet, whereas the interior Cloud 9 set measures 20,000 to 22,000 square feet. But you wouldn’t know that because there are mirrors above and around the set to help give it more depth. “It’s the best cheat,” says assistant art director Elliot LaPlante. “If you’re not realizing it and paying attention, you just think the store continues.” The mirrors are production designer Micahel G. Gallenberg’s favorite feature of the set.
Many pieces of the set came from real stores that went out of business. For example, the checkouts were from a shuttered Ralph’s, and the production team just painted them Cloud 9’s colors. Each checkout station has working scanners as well. “We can scan something and it comes up, and it just gives us a level of realism,” says Gallenberg. “It’s not like a real store where every barcode is programed with a price, but it appears to be. When we’re doing busy work, it looks like a real store.”
A technological upgrade
This season, Cloud 9 also has hand scanners that can read the bar code of any item and will come into a play in an upcoming wedding registry episode.
Furthermore, the use of real products like LaCroix and Pepsi “is a unqiue thing,” says LaPlante. Superstore has more than 3,000 clearance agreements with different companies. Every product is “cleared and all set in a specific way,” says Gallenberg.
The Array Rule
Because Superstore features so many real products, the production team came up with something called the Array Rule. “You go to a Target and they’ve got a whole row of Keurig machines and every model that they have,” says Gallenberg. We might have two, then we’ll have two Mr. Coffees, and then two [of another brand]. It’s so that in any shot, like this, you don’t see all one manufacturer’s product. You have an array of products.”
The refrigerator and freezer doors in the adjacent image were acquired from a Fresh & Easy that closed.
On the move
“All of our gondolas are on wheels,” says Gallenberg, who explains that they acquired the shelving units from a liquidator and welded wheels onto them. “Everything’s movable so that we can adjust [for camera]. If it’s in the way, we wheel it out and put it on the other side of the stage.”
In the adjacent photo, you can also see Cloud 9’s SuperCloud brand, which serves a purpose too. If an epsiode calls for “someone gets hurt with [a product], or if it’s not to be used the way the manufacturer intended, then we make a SuperCloud or Cloud 9 [version]” says set decorator Casey Hallenbeck. This is to ensure that they don’t disparage potential advertisters. “Our SuperCloud brand really sucks.”