When Harry first sees this vessel of victory in Goblet of Fire, it radiates a ghostly blue light. Like much in the films, that wasn’t just a special effect. ”We put an actual light in it in order to make it glow,” says property master Barry Wilkinson. ”Then that was enhanced later on.”
Get a closer look! Click to put a magnifying glass on these Harry Potter props
This gilded clue from the Triwizard Tournament looks far more complex than it actually was. Says Wilkinson, ”It was all put together in-house.”
The Half-Blood Prince's Potions Book
Open nearly any book in the background of a scene and you’ll probably find its insides are just the London phone directory. Some volumes, however, required specially designed pages, including this mysterious textbook filled with the Half-Blood Prince’s annotations and marginalia. ”[Props concept artist] Miraphora Mina was the one who went through and did all of that scribbling,” says Wilkinson.
The Half-Blood Prince's Potions Book (open)
Rita Skeeter's Quill
The peskily intrepid reporter from the Daily Prophet was fortunate enough to possess a tool any journalist would give his or her right arm for: an auto-transcribing quill. As comically outsized as its owner’s personality, the quill was specially chosen. ”We got literally hundreds and hundreds of quills from this one company throughout the course of the films,” says prop master Barry Wilkinson. ”For Rita Skeeter’s we just picked out some of the longest and finest ones.”
One of the less overtly noticeable transitions from the first two films to the game-changing Prisoner of Azkaban was Dumbledore’s hat. Following the death of actor Richard Harris, Michael Gambon was brought in to replace him in the role of Hogwarts’ headmaster, and along with the changing of the guard came a changing of the headgear, going from this recognizable wizard’s cap to a gray-blue tasseled toque.
”I really love this piece,” says production designer Stuart Craig of the magical device that allows Hermione to set back the clocks in Prisoner of Azkaban. The hourglass pendant is set into a gyroscope that allows it free movement. ”It took a lot of work to make it spin correctly,” he admits. ”It actually probably would have helped to have one of them to use while we were making it.
The enchanted old boot that magically transports Harry and his friends to the Quidditch World Cup was custom-designed by an outside vendor to match the exact shape the prop team had decided on. But then they had to start breaking in the footwear. ”We worked long and hard to make that new boot look like it’d been laying in a field for a long time,” says Wilkinson.
Monster Book of Monsters
This feral tome from Prisoner of Azkaban was particularly fun for the prop team to design, with its furry cover, arachnoid eyes, and tongue bookmark. ”This was one of my favorites,” admits production designer Stuart Craig. ”It’s so ugly that it’s cute. I remember that Alfonso (Cuarón) took a big interest in helping to design this specific prop.”
Salazar Slytherin's Locket
One of the seven Horcruxes in which Voldemort secretes away parts of his soul, this accessory belonged to one of the four founders of Hogwarts and the namesake of House Slytherin. ”The locket is twisty and complex, not unlike Slytherin himself,” says Craig.
Death Eater's Mask
Each mask worn by Voldemort’s followers was a unique design created by conceptual artist Rob Bliss, though their overall look (see the following two) was inspired by Maori facial tattoos as well as some notoriously frightening icons. ”There’s certainly a bit of Jason’s hockey mask to them,” says production designer Stuart Craig. ”And also Hannibal Lecter’s mask from The Silence of the Lambs.”
Death Eater's Mask
Death Eater's Mask
Four mischievous students who would eventually grow up to be Harry’s father, godfather, teacher, and betrayer created this enchanted blueprint of Hogwarts that showed the comings and goings of everyone in the castle. ”It took a long time to design,” says Craig, ”but our graphics department did such a great job on it. They even had to invent their own specific font for it.”
Sword of Gryffindor
Godric Gryffindor’s sword was designed from bits and pieces of actual weaponry, forged not by goblin hands but by those in the prop department. ”We went to one of our rental companies and brought in different swords,” says Wilkinson. ”We laid them all out, and we picked the parts we liked — a blade from one, a handle from another. And then we made our own.”
The giant basilisk that threatened the lives of Harry and Ginny in Chamber of Secrets was primarily constructed using CGI, but its fangs were real. This serpentine incisor was made of resin poured into a mold and then painted. ”We made quite a few of them,” says propman Kevin Herbert, ”because we had to stab it through the diary. We also had diaries with a hole in them and ones without.”
Tom Riddle's Diary
Lots of care was lavished on filling in the handwritten pages of this journal, which contained the musings — and ghostly essence — of Voldemort’s younger self. Then the next step was making sure that the diary looked as old as it was supposed to. ”With the leather cover, it’s just a question of softening it and bending it, and going at the corners with a file,” says Wilkinson. ”But for the pages we used coffee. Just soaked them to make them as yellow as we needed.”
Tom Riddle's Diary (open)
Harry Potter's Tie
Harry’s school uniform evolved over the years, from the somewhat goofy-looking cloaks of the early films to the more restrained design. His tie, however, has always retained the red-and-gold colors of Gryffindor.
Dark Arts Defense Book
Some books, like this Defense Against the Dark Arts textbook, were specifically designed and constructed, but many of the volumes in the background were not. ”We made literally thousands of those,” says Wilkinson. ”And they were done out of old London telephone directories and polystyrene.”
Dark Arts Defense Book (open)
The books we do get glimpses of were designed by the films’ graphics department, which spent a lot of time producing pages and pages of material, including some that never even got a close-up. ”People spent a long time lovingly writing this,” says Craig. ”They would design pages that we didn’t even get to show in the film.”
Many of the magical effects in the film aren’t effects at all, but rather motorized props — including the self-cleaning dishware and self-packing luggage. But the Hogwarts Sorting Hat was mainly a creation of CG crews. ”We gave the animator first crack at designing it,” says Craig. ”It’s really quite ingenious, the way that the eyes and mouth are just parts of its folds.”
In the films, a Golden Snitch can easily sprout wings and fly away from Quidditch players, but the real-life version is much less mobile. Which is why Craig and his team were a little alarmed when one of the Quidditch game pieces went missing from right under their noses. ”It turned up in the strangest place,” says Craig. ”One of our people was on vacation in San Diego. We got a call from her and she said, ‘Guess what I’m looking at!’ It was the Golden Snitch in the window of an antiques shop. What a wonderful coincidence.”
Harry Potter's Wand
Wizards’ wands are like extra appendages, extensions of their bodies that are ? singular to them. So designing them was particularly demanding. ”We wanted them to portray the wand bearer’s personality in a way,” says Craig. ”So we made Harry’s ? relatively simple — not too fancy, but sturdy and powerful-looking.” But the prop department didn’t come up with that look on its first try — and needed a bit of an assist from an informed expert. ”They were originally designed more like a magician’s wand,” says Craig. ”You know, with the white tip at the end. But J.K. Rowling set us straight almost immediately.”
It’s only appropriate that Harry’s nemesis possess a wand as evil as the Dark Lord ? himself. ”Voldemort’s looks very sinister with that hook,” says Craig. ”We wanted it to look as if it had been carved out of bone.” These two wands weren’t the only ones that had to be unique: Every single character’s has its own specific look. ”Over the years, it was becoming more and more difficult to think up different designs and shapes for each of them,” says Wilkinson. ”Some had to have notches on them, and twists, and carvings.” The team also had to make wands that worked for close-ups as well as more durable ones for action scenes. So, after eight films, how many wands did they end up making? ”I’d say it was well over 500 or 600,” says Wilkinson. ”Maybe even more than that!”
Harry Potter's Glasses
While youngsters may recognize these round-rimmed, Waldo-esque glasses as iconic to Harry, older British patrons may recognize them from somewhere else. ”They’re actually very similar to the type of glasses the [National Health Service] used to give out to children back in the day,” says Craig.
The Sorcerer's Stone
Despite there being only one Philosopher’s Stone (excuse me, Sorcerer’s Stone) in the first film, the prop team had to design quite a few, which they built out of molded resin.