Creating the retro-futuristic world of ‘Hello Tomorrow!’

Holograms, hovering cars, ubiquitous robots, video calls — they’re all an integral part of “Hello Tomorrow!” — but with a slight twist.

The Apple TV+ series, starring Billy Crudup as a slick huckster selling timeshares on the moon, is set in 1950s America — yet it’s an alternate-reality version of the decade that still feels familiar.

“That was what we were going for,” series production designer Maya Sigel told The Post. “It’s anchored in the 1950s … where technology has advanced at a much faster pace than it did in our history.”

In a wide-ranging interview, Sigel described how she and her team created some of the futuristic gadgets seen in “Hello Tomorrow” — and how these machines doff an authentic tip of the cap to the space-age Eisenhower Era.

What was your inspiration?

The minute I read the script I started doing a ton of research, and then my team came on and everybody started spitballing ideas. With the research on the gadgets … I looked back from the 1920s to the late 1960s. The Art Deco era was wonderful with those industrial and product designs — everything looked streamlined and [as if it] could possibly fly. That was very inspirational for our gadgets; they needed to have some weight to them but needed to have all curved lines and look like they could be aerodynamic. I had a ton of catalogues from that era and books on advertisements in the ’50s and also old Sears catalogues and old decorating books and old car books people brought in. I also looked at old World’s Fair catalogues and Popular Mechanics magazines, which had all this weird gadgetry. Some car companies and appliance companies were spending money making “concept” cars or “concept” kitchens and those were really fun to look at.

Shirley (Haneefah Wood) gets an able assist from an office robot in “Hello Tomorrow!”
Apple TV+

From the beginning, [series creators] Ahmet [Bhalla] and Lucas [Jansen] had this idea with punch cards and wanted them in this world. On the backs of our main robots there’s a slot for the punch card that programs them, and you see that in other gadgets as well. When I was designing the [hologram] table, the big thing was to put a punch card in and the hologram would start playing. I wanted it to look like a nice piece of furniture … and I thought of this sort of doughnut-shaped table that looks like it’s made out of walnut and there’s a very small control panel with a slot for the punch card. That was made by our carpenters and we put lights around the center of it and worked with the the special-effects supervisor to imagine what a hologram would look like coming up through the center [of the table].

Salesman Herb Porter (Dewshane Williams) makes a call on the Viddicon in "Hello Tomorrow! He's seated in front of a TV set and there's a microphone in front of him. He's wearing a headset that you would see on telephone operators in the 1950s.
Salesman Herb Porter (Dewshane Williams) makes a call on the Viddicon in “Hello Tomorrow!”
Apple TV+

Jack Billings (Tommy Crudup) sits in a hover car on "Hello Tomorrow!" He's got his hands on his knees and he's sitting facing the outside of the car. There's a briefcase next to him on the lawn.
Jack Billings (Tommy Crudup) sits in a hover car on “Hello Tomorrow!”
Apple TV+

How did you design those funky video phones?

They’re called Viddicons in our world, a sort of retro-futuristic FaceTime. We made a few of them and knew we would need to use them everywhere; I wanted to have a few booths in the [Vista Motor Lodge] lobby and one in every motel room and in people’s homes. This had to be curvy and a little futuristic-looking but also a bit clunky and had to feel like an old TV screen. We made the base with the control panels and there’s the microphone … I thought it was nice for the actors to have a headset on their heads or holding the microphone. It was all painted in a teal color — there’s one model and this is what everybody [in the series] has. The TV monitor was cast and we built bases and had a plexiglass screen … with the (black-and-white) images put in later in post-production.

How were the hover-cars created?

We used cars from the 1950s and … worked with somebody who refurbishes vintage cars. There were chrome caps that went over the wheels for each car; our scenic team sculpted those out of Styrofoam and painted them chrome. The [wheel] bottoms that were still there were erased in post-production.

"Hello Tomorrow!" production designer Maya Sigel.
“Hello Tomorrow!” production designer Maya Sigel.
Courtesy of Apple TV+

Was there one gadget that was more difficult to pull off?

Our main robots … took the most engineering. The body moves, the head moves, the lights turn on and off. Puppeteers were moving the arms around and the robot was put on a rig by the props department. There was somebody who controlled them in every scene. I would say those were the trickiest; it took a little while for everybody to get the hang of them. There was some trial and error.

Some have compared the gadgets in “Hello Tomorrow!” to “The Jetsons” animated series from the early ’60s.

That’s a great show but wasn’t something that played heavily into [our designs] and wasn’t referenced often. When we were talking about the robots, we said, “Let’s make sure it’s friendly like [‘The Jetsons’ robot] Rosie.” But, overall, it wasn’t much of an influence.