Thursday, 24 January 2013

Behind the scenes of the Magical Menagerie....

Many of you have expressed curiosity about how a Pottermore Moment is produced, so we’re going to take you behind the scenes for an insight into how a Moment is created, starting with the Magical Menagerie Moment from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

Before we get into rat tonic and transforming rabbits, let’s start at the beginning – how the Moments for each book are selected. In order to provide a faithful companion to the reading experience without replicating each and every passage from the books, we select key or interesting scenes from the stories to depict on Pottermore.com.

Each potential scene is weighed against various criteria, from its relative importance in the narrative to how it might look when visualised and whether it lends itself to the inclusion of interactive features and content. We also like to highlight scenes that were omitted from the films, or those where the film depiction differs from the books.

With its cage-lined walls and the ‘squeaking, squawking, jabbering or hissing’ of their inhabitants, the Magical Menagerie Moment was selected because it is described so vividly in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. It provided an opportunity to introduce a new location and a narrative moment that was not shown in the film. It is also our first introduction to Crookshanks.

Like all Pottermore.com Moments, the Magical Menagerie Moment began its life as a black and white sketch that was drawn from a detailed brief based on thorough research into the location and moment being depicted.


Initial sketch:



Although the initial sketch was very strong, a location like the Magical Menagerie Moment has a lot of fine detail to include, from the poisonous orange snails to the pair of enormous purple toads. We wanted to thoroughly capture the noisy, lively inhabitants of the shop, so the above image was analysed for fictional accuracy and a number of changes were made:

• The Magical Menagerie looked too big (the book states that ‘there wasn’t much room inside’) so the back wall needed to be brought forward to maintain this feeling.
• The ‘gigantic tortoise with a jewel-encrusted shell’ and the snails would have to be juggled around to enable the inclusion of the toads in the tanks for more interaction.
• Crookshanks needed to be decidedly bigger (he is described as ‘huge and orange’) and the rabbit also needed fattening up.
• The skipping rats were missing and had to be added in.
• The witch’s hands needed to be re-positioned to accommodate Scabbers leaping from her grasp.


Revised sketch:



Once these changes had been implemented, the interior felt truer to the atmosphere of the crowded shop, but further fine-tuning was required:

• The shop still looked a little too spacious and the walls needed to be brought in further.
• The Puffskeins needed to be much bigger as they were getting lost in the background.
• The cage of skipping rats was far too small (it is described as ‘vast’) and had to be made larger for accuracy and to better showcase the movement.


Second revision:

With the walls narrower, Puffskeins enlarged, and rabbit plumped, the Moment went to colour for the first time.



First colour image:



The first colour pass enables the art team to lay down a foundation of lighting and shade. This then allows them to apply finer detail accuracy and at this stage several further amendments were made:

• The rat tonic had to be a small red bottle, rather than a clear bottle with red liquid in it, to be accurate to the book.
• The Puffskeins were not quite as yellow as custard and needed another coating of colour.
• A wider variety of colour was added, particularly on the tortoise’s shell, to make the scene brighter and more lively.
• Hermione has recently come back from holiday at this point in the story, so she needed to be a bit more tanned.


Revised colour image:

The final image is complete and the design of the Moment appears as you can now find it on Pottermore.com. Well – almost.

The final steps involve our animation and development teams who add all the individual animations and effects to the layers of the scene like the transformation of the fat rabbit into a silk top hat, the puffskeins and the skipping rats. Once the animations are complete it’s off to the sound studios to record the effects that will put the finishing touches to the Moment – cat, rat, toad, Puffskein and all…





We hope you enjoyed this behind-the-scenes look at how the Magical Menagerie Moment came into being. Instalment two of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is currently in development and we are following the same process to ensure that the Moments are both fictionally accurate and fun to explore and re-visit.