Academy Award–winning production designer Stuart Craig, who has been behind the fanciful sets for the Harry Potter franchise from the start, sat down with Arch Digest to discuss the out-of-this-world sets from the final film. We've hidden his set design spoilers after the jump to spare Potter perfectionists—who would probably prefer to not know what the site of the final battle between Voldemort and Harry looks like, right? Don't say we didn't warn you.
Here are ten tasty tidbits from the Arch Digest interview:
1. Bill and Fleur Weasley’s beachfront cottage is constructed from shells, and Craig says "You can see how scallop shells can lend themselves to overlapping and shedding water. I was kind of pleased with the logic underlying the structure that we had found there."
2. Gringotts Wizarding Bank, where Harry and his sidekicks go searching for one of Voldemort's Horcruxes, has every exaggerates traditional bank features, to "convey this feeling of reassurance, of stabililty, of solidity." Using diminutive goblins as the bank tellers draws further attention to the grand proportions.
3. In the bank's vault, the script called for piles of treasure that would multiply when touched, so "the special effects supervisor made a floor that was capable of rising on different levels" and the rest was enhanced with visual effects.
4. All that "stability and solidity" fly out the window, or rather, the roof, when Harry and his cohort make their escape astride a dragon that crashes through the bank's marble lobby. The computer-generated dragon was quite a step up from ten years ago, when production designers "would have done most things physically—even some of the creatures were sculpted full size and operated as animatronic creatures."
5. Some of the sets are more quaint than grand, like Honeydukes Sweet Shop, which once housed a secret passage into Hogwarts that is, ominously, "now sealed off."
6. Like any good British prep school, Hogwarts has a spectacular boat house. In the books, it is described "as an underground harbor," but for the films it was rendered as a well-lit Gothic building. Voldemort and Severus Snape meet here in the course of the film.
7. Dumbledore's office, like the rest of Hogwarts, offered set designers the chance to draw from a wide range of Gothic influences, unrestricted by period or style. Craig says “there were so many periods, styles, and changes that we could use. The whole movie was a great show in the history of Gothic architecture."
8. Some of the sets were modified from previous appearances in the franchise to suit the new script. Harry and Voldemort face off in the Hogwarts entrance hall, during which "the statues jump down and take part in the battle," and the design of the hall was changed to allow for this.
9. Voldemort and Harry also meet in combat high in the Hogwarts rafters, where a "long central catwalk gave [Craig and his team] the opportunity to stage the confrontation between Voldemort and Harry very theatrically."
10. Asked what the most challenging part of designing for the Harry Potter flicks was, Craig describes dealing with the damage to the sets during the final battle. The "scenery is plywood, so if you try to destroy a section—the roof and part of the walls of the Great Hall, for example—you’ve got nothing left. You’ve just got the raw edges of plywood. So the ruins of Hogwarts had to be considered as a new build, not just a taking apart of the old. And rubble has its own kind of reality, so we designed and constructed pieces of rubble with fragments of architectural detail."
· Inside Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 [Arch Digest]