In the 2023 Barbie movie, the opening scene strikingly resembles the iconic beginning of Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. What is the significance or intention behind this similarity?

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    Note that in 2001, the monolith is a tall, mysterious artifact that greatly changes the course of development of the proto-humans that discover it; The Barbie movie is suggesting that Barbie dolls had/have a similarly profound effect on the development of the little girls who discover them. Dec 19, 2023 at 3:05
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    When in fact it's the reverse.
    – user103041
    Dec 19, 2023 at 6:08
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    How about "had a similarly profound effect on the realm of commercial doll toys" Dec 19, 2023 at 18:11
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    plus, as well as just suggesting a profound transition, this frames the state of affairs before the transition as pre-historically primitive, which is a commentary on the world of dolls before Barbie. The transformation was not just like that from early humans to something incrementally better, but comparable to the very moment when animals made a discontinuous transformation, to became human. Dec 19, 2023 at 18:16
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    @user103041 “profound” does not mean “positive” Dec 19, 2023 at 19:04

1 Answer 1


Three main Kubrick references are deliberately woven into the fabric of Barbie’s visual identity, drawn from the Kubrick classics: 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Shining and Dr. Strangelove.

According to Gerwig, each instance serves more than just a humorous nod to the legendary director – they play a vital part in the film’s narrative, aesthetic and overall ethos, contributing to her uniquely quirky cinematic style.

Far from being mere parodic imitations, Gerwig insisted on the meticulous execution of these references. “I thought, ‘I want to do it only if we can do it’. I want to do it with front-screen projection; I want to do it with the original plates; I want to build the sets as they built it – like, let’s make it count,” she said during the podcast, referring to the conversations she had with her production team about accurately recreating some of the most iconic and innovative visionary aspects of 2001.

The high standards set by Gerwig for these references directly echo the perfectionism Kubrick was famous for, imbuing the project with a unique charm and unexpected depth. “The only way it can be funny to me is if it’s executed with the utmost integrity and excellence. Then it becomes both a funny idea and something more,” she stated.

“It just felt like, what a fun thing to transpose – with respect – to this doll.”


So rather than just a lazy homage, or parody, she felt that she was honoring it by going to a greater effort than normally required to achieve the effect she wanted. The take-out, if you will, is that Gerwig thought Kubrick represented the masculine in film-making, and she wanted to replace that with her type of film-making, replacing the masculinity with dolls, for her, that is turning it on its head, rather than just a cheap knock-off.

“I remember her saying, ‘What would Kubrick do if he were alive today?” production VFX supervisor Glenn Pratt of Framestore told IndieWire. “And she very much was of the opinion — I think quite rightly — that he would’ve embraced that LED Volume as a tool to give you that small, nuanced, interactive lighting, which gives more complex results.”

enter image description here

Shooting set.

I ended up talking it through with my therapist, and she thought it was hilarious.” Greta Gerwig reveals why she decided to open “Barbie” with that glorious Stanley Kubrick reference


Most interviews have the same set of quotes:

[Kubrick]’s entire filmography is just staggering, but he’s also the paragon of a certain type of masculine filmmaking, and it just felt like what a fun thing to do to sort of transpose with respect to this doll. I did have a moment of like, ‘am I really going to start this movie with a 2001 parody?’ But I ended up talking it through with my therapist and she thought it was hilarious.

Additional images of Barbie shot in the Volume, in V stage, Leavesden Studios (Warner Bros. Studios):

enter image description here

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  • Does the therapist get any credits in the movie?
    – user103041
    Dec 19, 2023 at 6:10
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    either a 'thanks' or a NDA via the legal dept. :P Dec 19, 2023 at 8:54
  • "I want to do it with front-screen projection" - I wonder if they did wind up using the exact same method that Kubrick did. It was fairly complicated, using a special 3M reflective screen which would have required that the powerful light source be located in the camera lens, which of course was impossible, they got around that by pointing the camera into a nearby mirror positioned at a specific angle. "I want to do it with the original plates" - I assume she means the glass plates containing the still images made in Africa. I wonder if they were able to borrow them for the production? Dec 19, 2023 at 19:27
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    Yes, that is true, he would uave been able to achieve a lot more in terms of shots and visuals. Many shots on 2001 would have been dictated by technical limitations of the day Dec 22, 2023 at 20:02
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    He probably would have loved how much and how accessible the editing process is today Dec 22, 2023 at 20:03

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