The Harry Potter films were a box office behemoth, raking in over $7 billion at the box office - second only to Marvel as the biggest franchise of all time. Whilst the debate will doubtless rage forever about the quality of the films vs. JK Rowling’s books (for the record: the books are superior by a substantial distance), the sheer scale and spectacle of the film series was nonetheless an astounding achievement.
In Magical Places from the Films, author Jody Revenson revisits a number of key sets from the movies, along with substantial input from production designer Stuart Craig. Virtually every major location from the series is covered in loving detail, including plentiful behind the scenes photos and some stunning concept art. As you’d expect, a sizeable portion of the book – around half – is devoted to the series’ primary location of Hogwarts. But the likes of King’s Cross, Diagon Alley and the Ministry of Magic all get their own chapters, in enough minute detail to please even the most ardent Potterhead.
Revenson also conjures up lots of trivia regarding the series. Whilst a lot of it may not be news to the series’ more obsessive fans, for the less devoted, there’s plenty to discover. Did you know that Platform 9 ¾ was actually located between King’s Cross’ platforms four and five? Or that Alan Rickman requested that any personal items be removed from Snape’s home? Or that the interior of the Hogwarts Express was inspired by A Hard Day’s Night?
The book also charts how the series progressed. For the early films, in particular Philosopher’s Stone, many scenes were shot on location, partly for budgetary reasons, partly because Warner’s were unsure whether the series would be a hit. Once the films became a phenomenon, however, the locations, including the entire street where Harry lives, were painstakingly recreated at Leavesden Studios, where much of it still stands today as part of the studio tour.
Being an official companion book to the series has its downside, of course. There’s very little in the way of gossip here. The payoff is, of course, lots of exclusive behind the scenes stuff you won’t find anywhere else. The concept art in particular is stunning and shows what a labour of love the series was for those who created it. Another minor gripe – in a series so quintessentially British, writing the book from an American perspective is occasionally grating. For example, the first film is constantly referred to by its U.S. title, The Sorcerer’s Stone, as well as numerous other concessions for an American audience.
As a behind the scenes book, Magical Places is hardly ground-breaking but is detailed enough to avoid feeling like the cheap cash-in often associated with books of this type. If you don’t know your Accio from your Engorgio, you’re not going to find much here to enjoy. But for Potter fans, get yourself a couple of chocolate frogs, crack open a Butterbeer, and indulge yourself.
INFO: HARRY POTTER: MAGICAL PLACES FROM THE FILMS / AUTHOR: JODY REVENSON / PUBLISHER: TITAN BOOKS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW