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Harry Potter animator on visualizing death in Deathly Hallows sequence

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Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 takes a noteworthy, visual break from the film, with its animation of The Tale of the Three Brothers. Narrated by Hermione as she reads from The Tales of Beedle the Bard, the fairy tale centers on the Peverell brothers who — long story short — are respectively given the Elder Wand, Resurrection Stone, and the Cloak of Invisibility by Death. Together, the items are known as the Deathly Hallows, and they’re believed to make one master of Death. (For more of a refresher, watch the full sequence here.)

Especially interesting here is the visualization of Death, a complex idea brought to the screen as its own character. “We certainly looked at a lot of references and [saw] what’s been done and what would be appropriate,” the sequence’s director Ben Hibon says in week 7 of EW’s Binge podcast, hosted by Marc Snetiker and C. Molly Smith. “There’s also so many characters linked to death, linked to the dark side in the Harry Potter mythology that we also had to be very wary that none of these characters would feel like it was one of their own, or feel like the same kind.”

He adds, “I think that this is where, potentially, we went for something that was more traditional in a way that we have a skeleton structure to the character, but I think it was very important that there was an overlooming, ethereal, otherworldly quality to that… less in its look maybe, but more in its motion, in its movement. The way it’s so slow, the way the cloth is floating behind him, just gives it a charisma… which defines the character itself very, very well.”

The sequence is unlike any seen in the Potter series, and part of the goal was to be different. “It’s this incredibly creative and bold and brave move from the filmmakers,” Hibon explains, especially with the visual departure coming late in the series. “You know for [director David Yates] and the producers to feel so comfortable and so able to trust the fans to say, ‘Hey, we’re going to do this scene, and just take it somewhere that it’s never been before.’” It’s not only unique in terms of its look, it’s crucial to the flow of the narrative (and of course to the narrative itself, but more on that in Marc and Molly’s podcast recap of the 10 most important locations).  

 

Hibon continues, “In a world that is so fantastical, that moment in the story needs to feel extra special, extra different and I think when you see the completed movie, there is an obvious need for that break in the storytelling format at that stage. By that I mean is when Harry, Ron, and Hermione almost need to find that refuge, and they’re kind of coming together, that scene — just like the audience — it makes them like kids again that would kind of gather around the fireplace before bedtime and listen to a grandma or an adult telling that kind of magical story.”

He goes on to credit Emma Watson for transporting audiences to that other world through her voiceover — and it truly is its own other world. “It’s not just something that is an illustration, that is flat or pages of a book,” Hibon says. “It’s very much something that has got it’s own universe and atmosphere, so it feels like we can dive into it for a little moment and then we just jump out of it.”  

 

For more from Hibon’s interview — including visual references, how it all came together, and creating a moment late in the game of such a beloved series  — subscribe and listen to the podcast. Send your questions and comments on Twitter to @marcsnetiker and @cmollysmith, or email binge@ew.com. EW’s Binge is produced by EW’s Cristina Everett and edited by Will Malnati of At Will Radio.

 

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