Viewpoint: Diary of a spectacle designer
Tom Davies talks Disney and brief moments of stardom
Author: Tom Davies
This month my life has been dominated by the giant that is Disney. I say giant because the largest company in our industry is EssilorLuxottica – a tiddler compared to Disney.
The biggest eyewear producer and retailer in the world turned over $16bn in 2020, but Disney pulled in a whopping $65bn.
I once met a big cheese at Disney, (the former CEO) Bob Iger at a party with Carrie Fisher. I’d never seen Carrie intimidated by anyone or anything until that moment and I never really understood why – until now. Disney isn’t a company, it’s a universe.
My first interaction with Disney came when I was Carrie Fisher’s date at the Star Wars premier. I say date, Mrs Davies might not like that description, but I was invited to walk the red carpet with Carrie and I couldn’t say no. When I stepped out of the limo and was confronted by the bank of photographers, I lost my breath as we were papped. Imagine a bank of cameras the size of a double decker bus. Or maybe a swarm of bees crawling over a giant jar of honey, that’s what the photographers looked like. We moved on to the line of media waiting to talk to Carrie. I was holding her dog, Gary, and when she took him from me as a shield from what felt like locusts, I was left feeling a bit dazed, like a spare part, covered with slobber from the dog.
Someone from Disney suggested I go to the green room and wait for Carrie. I probably should have stuck it out but I knew I didn’t fit in there and didn’t fancy carrying on being a limp appendage. I made my way to the green room and after a lonely champagne (or three) I went to the men’s room. To my left, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) was having a pee and standing to my right was Simon Pegg. George Lucas was washing his hands behind me and Han Solo (Harrison Ford) was waiting for a urinal. I joked: ‘This is the most famous pee I’ll ever have,’ which elicited a small chuckle from Simon Pegg, but that’s about it. Back out in the green room, a brief chat with David Cameron about his glasses was the only other conversation I had, and I was left standing on my own again, surrounded by famous people.
My overriding memory of that evening was the scale of the event. I also felt sorry for the celebrities. There was a loneliness that is hard to describe, but I was living it for just that evening. This was another level. Another world.
Several years later, I’d just finished making glasses for the film Spider-Man: Far From Home, and my growing reputation led to a call asking me to pop over to Shepperton Studios to meet the costume director for a new Disney film. I didn’t know much about it before I went. I arrived, signed the usual wedge of legal non-disclosure agreement (NDA) documents before being issued a security pass and meeting the wonderful costume director, Oscar-winning Jenny Beavan.
Jenny wanted me to make some glasses for Cruella, the prequel to 101 Dalmatians. If you have a quick peak at my website (and enter my design competition) you will see Emma Thompson playing the Baroness wearing rather fabulous sunglasses. The script called for a hero shot of her sunglasses to fill the screen and Jenny wanted her sunglasses to be dazzling.
At the meeting, I pointed out that as the film was set in the 1970s, almost everyone would be wearing spectacles as there weren’t many viable options around. My wish was granted and before I knew it, almost every single character in the film was wearing glasses. Over eight months I designed over 120 frames for the film and as a result, the glasses became so iconic in the film Disney wanted me to be part of their promotion.
On my first Zoom call with Disney to discuss this, there were so many faces I couldn’t really see anyone. ‘Wow, that’s a lot of Disney,’ I joked and this time I got a resounding chuckle all around. ‘Why are all these people logged in to see me?’ I thought. I was braced to be the little fish who got gobbled up. But I have to say, they have been lovely. There is little reason for Disney to be so nice to me – my YouTube films barely scrape into the thousands and the benefit for the promotion is all mine really. Sure, they got some fantastic glasses in the film but they could have chosen to ask me to keep to my NDA and not had to worry about my little
My faith in human nature has been topped up. Mega media giant or not, Disney has been really great towards me. I can only say that you must all watch the film. From what I’ve seen, it’s amazing. The glasses I’ve created were designed and produced with love, passion and a genuine admiration for the team I was working with.
- Cruella premiers on Disney+ on May 28.