For the latest image in the portrait series of celebrities living out their Disney dreams, photographer Annie Leibovitz followed a simple recipe: Just add water.
Continuing the "Disney Dream Portrait Series" that has put stars in all kinds of Disney fantasies, Leibovitz trained her famous lens this time on the undersea world of Ariel, heroine of THE LITTLE MERMAID. To get there, she dressed actress Julianne Moore and American swimming icon Michael Phelps in tails and scales.
"Yes, Julianne has a big mermaid tail; it's interesting," Leibovitz recalled from the shoot. "Michael, too. His movements were so graceful and beautiful you just felt like you were watching a real merman."
The latest Leibovitz photography is part of her acclaimed series as Disney Parks continue, through 2008, the "Year of a Million Dreams" celebration on both coasts.
In the finished image captioned "Where another world is just a wish away," shafts of light pierce the blue depths as Ariel (Moore) sits in her undersea world amid wavy coral and darting sea life. In the foreground of the frame, Phelps slips past, flipping his fins.
Leibovitz worked her mastery on soundstages on both coasts. Fitted in his silvery fishtail, Phelps was lowered into a backlot tank in Los Angeles used for underwater movie scenes. Leibovitz was on the outside, snapping away, communicating her instructions to Phelps via members of her crew.
"One of the most complicated shots I have ever done," said Leibovitz. "I didn't know if it was going to work, what to expect. I have to tell you, he was beautiful. Michael put on that tail and ... he just became like a modern dancer. He just took to it and enjoyed himself and swam through this tank. I was blown away."
For the four time "World Swimmer of the Year" (as designated by SWIMMING WORLD Magazine), donning flippers was worlds away from the swimming competitions he's used to.
"It was kind of weird to be able to put on a tail and swim around in a tank," Phelps admitted. "To work with Annie and try these crazy sorts of ideas is really an honor and something I won't forget."
A host of swimming stars, past and present, joined Phelps in the water and final image: Janet Evans, Rowdy Gaines, Brendan Hansen and Cullen Jones.
At a New York soundstage, Leibovitz perched the fishtailed Moore on a rock as the starry-eyed Ariel.
"There's a moment in the shoot where Julianne is sitting on a rock in her mermaid tail and her young daughter comes in, and there is not a dry eye in the house," Leibovitz recalled. "She sat in her mother's lap. Her jaw just dropped. She could not believe her mother was Ariel."
When Moore was asked to play Ariel, she recalls, "I leapt at the chance." "Ariel is my daughter's favorite princess, so I was just really so excited to do it," Moore said. "All the images I've seen that Annie's shot so far -- Cinderella and Alice and the prince one -- are absolutely exquisite. They are so beautiful and so kind of wonderfully emotional. So I was really thrilled to be asked to work with her and do this."
The latest image -- planned for the June issue of VANITY FAIR magazine -- continues the renowned Leibovitz series of putting celebrities inside their Disney fantasies. Released in separate flights since January 2007, these have included:
--Scarlett Johansson as Cinderella, Beyonce as Alice in Wonderland and David Beckham as the gallant Prince Phillip from "Sleeping Beauty."
--Rachel Weisz as Snow White, Roger Federer as King Arthur from "The Sword in the Stone," Julie Andrews as the Blue Fairy from "Pinocchio" with Abigail Breslin as Fira from "Disney Fairies."
--Jennifer Lopez as Jasmine, Marc Anthony as Aladdin and Whoopi Goldberg playing the Genie; Giselle Bundchen as Wendy Darling, Mikhail Baryshnikov as Peter Pan and Tina Fey as Tinker Bell; and Jessica Biel as Pocahontas.
"It is about bringing great stories to life," Leibovitz says of the series. "Working with great actors -- these are stories that they know. It's embedded in them. And when they start to have their own children it means even more to them.
"These are the stories that are passed on and on, from generation to generation. We just want to do the stories justice. To me it's a lot of play acting, it's a lot of dress-up, that's the joy of it."
Disney Park guests with their own Ariel dreams can go "under the sea" and meet everyone's favorite mermaid. Ariel poses for photos with guests and signs autographs in her Fantasyland grotto in Disneyland Park and in Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom. In Disney's Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World Resort, the adventure continues during performances of "Voyage of The Little Mermaid."