Disney’s latest original film, “Prom Pact” was recently released on Disney+, and recently, I got to speak with the film’s costume designer, Bonnie Hayashida Sutherland.
“Prom Pact” is set during the height of prom season, and high school senior Mandy Yang and her best friend and fellow outsider Ben are surrounded by over-the-top ’80s-themed Promposals. However, Mandy keeps her eyes focused on a different goal: her lifelong dream of attending Harvard. When she finds out that she has been put on the waitlist, she is determined to do whatever she can do to get herself accepted, even if that means asking for help from the one person she abhors –popular all-star jock Graham Lansing (Blake Draper), whose father is a powerful senator and Harvard alum. Once Mandy becomes Graham’s tutor, she begins to realize there’s more to him than she thought and perhaps something more to life than Harvard.
She brought her unique style and vision to the Disney+ film. With the inclusion of 80s-inspired prom dresses and self-expressive high school fashion, Bonnie’s costume designs truly elevated the film.
Bonnie has an incredible track record, having previously worked on a number of successful productions, including the Eli Roth horror, Be Mine, and JoJo Siwa’s, The J Team. Her skill and creativity in the realm of costume design have earned her a reputation in the field, and her creative eye has set her apart from others in her craft.
What was your role on “Prom Pact”?
It was a pretty big show, actually. High school teen drama, but it had a whole bunch of different things. It had all the eighties promposals, it had the pep rally, it had all the eighties themes, it had the prom, it had a fundraiser in it. It was a massive movie.
In the film, Peyton has some incredible dresses. Which one was your favourite one to create?
I’m going to say the prom dress, because that took a lot of work. It was actually going from inspiration of all the eighties, because of course, if you saw the movie, you realize that they’re the only ones who dress up in eighties, even though the theme of it is eighties. So I took inspiration, because I love the eighties from a lot of different characters, mostly Cindy Lauper for her dress from one of her videos. And then Anya, the director, helped me out with that, with the color scheme. And then it went from this mass of ideas down to that one singular. And actually, I got the fabric from the US, because I had to find the perfect fabric that was from the eighties, the taffeta that everyone used to wear in the eighties.
But everything wore taffeta back then, and it made a lot of noise. But it was the epitome of the eighties for me, finding that fabric. And then, even for Ben, his whole outfit was built by an Italian tailor that was in Vancouver and same thing, ordered the fabric from a couple of different places to get the perfect fabric, the perfect brocade. And that’s actually a throwback to Pretty in Pink, the Ducky character.
Where did your inspiration come from?
From the high school I looked at real American high schools and the typical Letterman jackets and everything. And so we built a whole bunch of Letterman jackets, and we even had swag with the school name on it and everything. And tried to place it all around to make it look real, because that’s the whole thing of doing a teen movie, and a Disney movie is making the reality in that not having anything stand out that doesn’t look real. So then it takes you away from the storyline, I think.
How did creating the fundraising dress compare to the main prom dress?
That one, Peyton actually helps out with that a bit as well, because what I like to do is when I do the boards and when I do the ideas for the visuals, I was in collaboration with the producers and with the director who was super supportive of me and also Peyton. And then she had some ideas of what she wanted to wear for the fundraiser, to take her out of the character that she was with the logoed t-shirts and everything. And then changing her to be a wow moment of when we first see her. And she looks totally stunning in that. And so I wanted her to stand out a little bit at the fundraiser and she did, she looked amazing in that dress. I couldn’t have asked for more.
What was your biggest highlight working on “Prom Pact”?
The highlight was, I guess, I’m a huge fan of the eighties, so working with Anya and making her vision a reality. And doing all those promposals, all the eighties movies that we all know and love and doing the throwbacks to those and having those in the background of everything. In every scene that there was in the movie, there was a million things that went into play to make the whole movie work together. So I guess my thing of the movie was that I got to do an eighties movie and I love that. So basically, mixing eighties movies with the whole prom with everything, I’m just grateful that I got to work on it.
How did “Prom Pact” compare to some of the previous films you’ve worked on, including “X-Men 2” and “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”?
Well, because on Rocky Horror I was a CD assistant, costume designer and then I did set for a really long time, 12 years working on set and I got to work on X-Men 2 and 3. And oh my God, that was one of the best experiences ever. And then I gradually worked into costume designing, because my background is in fashion design. And this was just… I mean I’ve done a lot of things in the past, but this one was one of my favorites, because I got to live out the dream of working on a Disney show. That’s a big dream of mine, because everybody’s a Disney fan, but I’ve been a fan since I was a kid and so I’m very grateful for that.
And finally, what has been your favourite Disney show or movie so far?
What’s been my favorite Disney movie? I mean, I love all Disney movies. My favorite one of recent has got to be a Cruella, love that movie. And I love the fact that the costume designer did a throwback to the whole punk rock thing. For me, I loved that part of it, just the whole thing was just incredible.
“Prom Pact” is available to stream on Disney+ now.
Roger has been a Disney fan since he was a kid and this interest has grown over the years. He has visited Disney Parks around the globe and has a vast collection of Disney movies and collectibles. He is the owner of What's On Disney Plus & DisKingdom.