Wednesday, 17 July 2013

“Red Caps are the most complicated animations we’ve created so far” – Interview with a member of the Pottermore creative team

We announced last week that the concluding instalment of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban will be released in a few weeks’ time, and we thought you might enjoy hearing from a core member of the Pottermore creative team about her experience of working on this final instalment.

Please be aware that some information in this article might contain spoilers if you haven't yet finished reading Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

Quick Facts

Q: How old were you when you first read Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone?
A: I read the first book when I was eleven, then waited adamantly for the second one to come out, then followed the series through from there. 

Q: Who is your favourite character in the series?
A: Lockhart: I really think he is one of the funniest characters in the books.

Q: Of all the new content that J.K. Rowling has released so far on, which is your favourite?
A: McGonagall’s backstory because you learn a lot about her past, which is not alluded to in the books.

The Interview

Q: Describe your role in Moment production at Pottermore
A: I work within the creative team and together we come up with ideas for Moments, then discuss and develop them with our artists. Once our artists have sketched them we provide feedback on what should be changed in order to make sure that the Moments look beautiful and that they’re completely fictionally accurate before we take them to colour. We also work on trying to fit as much interactivity, animation and life into the Moments as possible.

Q: In order to work on Book 3 Moments, did you re-read Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
A: Yes! I read the whole book again before we started planning the Moments, but I have read and re-read the books so many times since they first came out anyway that it didn’t feel like extra research.

Q: When you were re-reading it and thinking about these future Moments, what were you really excited about creating?
A: The Moment I was most excited to create was ‘Exam Time’ because in the story it always seemed such a fun scene. It’s really rich in description and so different to the sort of thing you normally associate with taking an exam! It’s also one of the Moments that wasn’t visualised in the films, so we really wanted to include it on The books are packed with detail and it’s always so nice to be able to show something that hasn’t already been covered. 

Another Moment that I was excited to create was the full moon scene with Sirius and Lupin fighting, as it is a really iconic scene from the third book. As soon as we started talking about it we knew we could make it look very striking and beautiful.

Q: You’re now applying the finishing touches to the final Moments of Book 3. Which of the upcoming Moments are your favourite?
A: Personally, I think the Moment that looks most beautiful in this instalment is ‘The Committee’. It depicts the Committee for the Disposal of Dangerous Creatures approaching Hagrid’s hut at dusk, and a whole host of other things. I think it’s such a lovely Moment; it was really well executed by the illustrators. As a reader you return to this particular scene more than once in the third book and, likewise on, our users will be seeing this Moment more than once, so I’m glad it’s turned out so well. 

Q: Is there anything that was particularly challenging, but that you were passionate about getting right?
A: Red Caps, in the ‘Exam Time’ Moment, are the most complicated animations we’ve created so far. Red Caps are little dwarf-goblin-type creatures who are quite malicious. In the book Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, we learn that they live in potholes and clobber people to death with clubs and that they like to hang around on battlefields or wherever human blood has been spilled. In mythology it’s said that their hats are dyed in human blood… they are not pleasant!

Q: What was it about the Red Caps that was so complicated?
A: One of the most difficult aspects was getting the animation of their gestures right. In the books, Red Caps are Dark creatures so we wanted to create this gruff, threatening persona. At the same time we wanted people to have fun with the Moment so we didn’t want it to look like a horror film. We had to work hard to get that balance right, and not make them look comic in any way either! 

For this Moment we did two separate pieces of work: we worked with the artists to create the background artwork; then created concept art for each of the creatures separately, so that when we placed the creatures in the Moment we were 100% happy with how they looked, 

We were also really pleased with how the Hinkypunks turned out. The Hinkypunks are lovely: they are made of smoke and they carry a little lantern, but they are not what they seem as they lure travellers into bogs!

Concept art used to illustrate Red Caps

Q: You mentioned Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Do you often use the companion books as part of your research for the Moments?
A: All the time! We always look at the descriptions within the Harry Potter stories (all seven books) first, but the three companion books by J.K. Rowling are incredibly informative too. For example, when we’re creating Quidditch-related Moments, we’ll fact-check within Quidditch Through the Ages and cross-reference this with the main stories. 

We have a wealth of other sources that we can use as well, such as past interviews with J.K. Rowling and the extra information that she has written for, to make sure we have the fullest and most accurate picture possible. 

Q: Speaking of the new writing from J.K. Rowling, the final instalment will contain even more exclusive information from the author. Which piece do you think the Pottermore community will be particularly excited about?
A: I think fans will be most interested to read the new writing on Remus Lupin, which describes how Lupin and Tonks fell in love amongst other things, and which includes a description of Lupin’s childhood and how he became a werewolf. 

Q: If you could only collect one of the collectibles in the next instalment, which one would it be?
A: There is one collectible that I hope everyone will love, which is hidden in Lupin’s office. I don’t want to reveal what it is because I want it to be a surprise, but I hope the community find it as funny as we did when we thought of it.

Q: Did you ever think when you were a child reading the books that one day you would be able to work so closely with the stories as part of your job?
A: I never could have believed that something so amazing could come my way! I’m really lucky to work on something I love so much, and to share it with so many other people who love it too.

Q: And our final question: Which Hogwarts house did the Sorting Hat place you in on And do you agree with where you were placed?  
A: I’m in Ravenclaw, and it never occurred to me that I would be in any other house! I’ve always been a bookworm and I have been called eccentric at times. I’m very proud to show my blue and bronze colours! 

We hope you enjoyed this interview and that you are looking forward to the upcoming Moments. You can join the conversation about this interview on our Facebook page if you have an account, or on Twitter using the hashtag #PrisonerOfAzkaban

Keep checking the Pottermore Insider for all the latest news about the concluding instalment of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, as well as the new features that will come with it on