“Stranger Things” first aired in the summer of 2016 and has remained a fan-favorite show ever since. And one thing that makes the show so great, besides the loveable characters and suspenseful plot, is that it truly feels like the 1980s — this is something that isn’t always easily achieved, but the prop designer for the show took her role very seriously and made the show seem realistic. So let’s delve into how the props and setting of “Stranger Things” made the show feel so real.
Lynda Reiss was the prop designer for the show. And having worked on numerous project before, she knew that when a show is set in a certain time period, it’s important to really get that point across.
Reiss explained, “I don’t want to do a nostalgia-tinged product,” Reiss says. “I want it to be the ’80s. I don’t want it to be what everyone just thinks is the ’80s. Our baseline was the reality of the midwest in 1983.”
The clothes, the hair, and even the houses the characters live in are definitely giving 80s vibes. But what were some of the props that Reiss chose to really drive that time period home?
The Dungeons and Dragon Game
Dungeons and Dragon was undoubtedly a huge part of the show. And the books and pieces the boys played with were replicas, the books being scanned from the art director’s old copies. Reiss said she wanted real figurines because the real ones, which are made of lead, make different noises compared to plastic fake movie props. So even down to the noise the figures made on the board, everything was as realistic as possible.
Another major prop in the show is the walkie-talkies the characters use to talk to each other throughout the series. And the large, bulky ones used in the show are much different from today’s small and sleek design. The realistic 80’s walkie-talkies were actually ones used at events or construction sites — but Reiss thought the walkies as fake movie props would be perfect to allow the boys to communicate long-distance.
Between 1970 and 2000 alone, prop houses produced around 270 types of prop money. But while certain fake movie props can certainly be mass produced, Reiss scoured prop rentals, flea markets, and even estate sales to find the perfect props for “Stranger Things”. And judging from the success of the show, fans are definitely appreciative of all the hard work that was put into making the show seem as realistic as possible.