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Exclusive: The Great Harry Potter Fansite Interview with Illustrator Jim Kay
Posted by Megs

In honor of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone: The Illustrated Edition being released today, Bloomsbury and Scholastic gave fan sites the chance to ask illustrator Jim Kay some questions about his work on the book.  All of his answers may be read below along with some of the illustrations from the new edition, available today.  Thanks to Jim for taking the time to answer all our questions!

If you can’t make it out to a store today, order your copy on Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk!

Jim Kay Interview Harry Potter Illustrated Edition

Were you influenced by previous Harry Potter illustrators/the films or did you veer away from both? (Alwaysjkrowling.com)
I’m a huge fan of both the books and the films. I thought the screen adaptations were a wonderful showcase of the best set design, product design, costume, casting, directing and acting their disciplines had to offer. I knew from the start that I’m competing to some degree with the hundreds of people involved in the visuals of the film. I remember watching the extras that come with the movie DVDs a few years back, and wondering how on earth you’d get to be lucky enough to work on the visuals for such a great project. To be offered the opportunity to design the whole world again from scratch was fantastic, but very daunting. I’d like to think that over the years lots of illustrators will have a crack at Potter, in the same way that Alice in Wonderland has seen generations of artists offer their own take on Lewis Carroll’s novel. I had to make it my version though, and so from the start I needed to set it apart from the films. I’ll be honest I’ve only seen a few illustrations from other Potter books, so that’s not been so much of a problem. I love Jonny Duddle’s covers, and everyone should see Andrew Davidson’s engravings – they are incredible!

What was the most important detail for you to get right with your illustrations? (Magical Menagerie)
To try and stay faithful to the book. It’s very easy when you are scribbling away to start wandering off in different directions, so you must remind yourself to keep reading Jo’s text. Technically speaking though, I think composition is important – the way the movement and characters arrange themselves on the page – this dictates the feel of the book.

What medium do you use to create your illustrations? (Snitchseeker)
I use anything that makes a mark – I am not fussy. So I don’t rely on expensive watercolour or paints, although I do occasionally use them – I like to mix them up with cheap house paint, or wax crayons. Sometimes in a local DIY store I’ll see those small tester pots of wall paint going cheap in a clear-out sale, and I’ll buy stacks of them, and experiment with painting in layers and sanding the paint back to get nice textures. The line is almost always pencil, 4B or darker, but the colour can be a mixture of any old paint, watercolour, acrylic, and oil. Diagon Alley was unusual in that I digitally coloured the whole illustration in order to preserve the pencil line drawing. I’d recommend experimenting; there is no right or wrong way to make an illustration, just do what works for you!

Click to view full size image

Because each book is so rich in detail, what is your personal process when choosing specific images? (The Daily Snitcher)
I read the book, then read it again and again, making notes. You start off with lots of little ideas, and draw a tiny thumbnail illustration, about the size of a postage stamp, to remind you of the idea for an illustration you had while reading the book. I then start to draw them a little bigger, about postcard size, and show them to Bloomsbury. We then think about how many illustrations will appear in each chapter, and try to get the balance of the book right by moving pictures around, dropping or adding these rough drawings as we go. With Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone Bloomsbury were great in that they let me try all sorts of things out, different styles, concepts. Some I didn’t think would get into the final book, but everyone was very open to new ideas. There was no definite plan with regards to how the book would look; we just experimented and let it evolve.

Given the distinct split of younger vs. more mature readers of the series, how do you construct your illustrations so that they can appeal to both audiences at once? (Mugglenet)
The simple answer is I don’t try. I think only about the author and myself. You can’t please everyone, particularly when you know how many people have read the book. I don’t think good books are made by trying to appeal to a wide audience. You just try to do the best work you can in the time given, and respect the author’s work. Most illustrators are never happy with their own work. You always feel you want to try more combinations or alternative compositions. You are forever in search of that golden illustration that just ‘works’, but of course it’s impossible to achieve – there will always be another way of representing the text. Effectively you chase rainbows until you run out of time! You get a gut feeling if an image is working. I remember what I liked as a child (Richard Scarry books!). Detail and humour grabbed me as a nipper, and it’s the same now I’m in my forties.

Did you base any characters or items in the book on real people or things? (Leaky Cauldron)
Lots of the book is based on real places, people and experiences. It helps to make the book personal to me, and therefore important. The main characters of the books are based on real people, partly for practical reasons, because I need to see how the pupils age over seven years. In Diagon Alley in particular, some of the shop names are personal to me. As a child we had a toad in the garden called Bufo (from the latin Bufo bufo), Noltie’s Botanical Novelties is named after a very clever friend of mine who works at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh. The shop called ‘Tut’s Nuts’ is a little joke from my days working at Kew Gardens; they had in their collections some seeds from the tomb of Tutankhamun, which were affectionately known as ‘Tut’s Nuts’. The imprisoned boy reaching for an apple in Brigg’s Brooms is from a drawing my friend did when we were about 9 years old – that’s thirty two years ago!

Click to view full size image

Which character was the most difficult to draw? (Harry Potter’s Page)
Harry, without a doubt. Children are difficult to draw because you can’t use too many lines around the eyes and face, otherwise they look old. One misplaced pencil line can age a child by years, so you have to get it just right. Also Harry’s glasses are supposed to look repaired and bent out of shape, which I’ve found tricky to get right.

What is your favourite scene you have illustrated? (Alwaysjkrowling.com)
That’s a difficult one. I’m fond of the ghosts. I paint them in reverse (almost like a photographic negative) and layer several paintings to make them translucent. I enjoyed Nearly Headless Nick. I really enjoyed illustrating the trolls too. Your favourite illustrations tend to be the ones that gave you the least amount of difficulties and I think Diagon Alley was nice for this reason. It was more like a brainstorming exercise, slowly working from left to right. My favourite character to illustrate is Hagrid – I love big things!

Are there any hidden messages/items in your drawings for the Harry Potter series? (Magical Menagerie)
There are, but they are little things that relate to my life, so I’m not sure how much sense they’d make to other people. I like to include my dog in illustrations if I can (he’s in Diagon Alley). I also put a hare in my work, for good luck. There’s a hare in A Monster Calls, and in Harry Potter. My friends appear as models for the characters in book one, and some of their names too can be seen carved on a door, and on Diagon Alley. There are little references to later books too, such as on the wrought-iron sign of the Leaky Cauldron. I do it to keep things interesting for me while I’m drawing.

Click to view full size image

How did you approach illustrating the Hogwarts Castle and grounds? (Harry Potter Fan Zone)
I really enjoyed doing this. You have to go through all seven books looking for mentions of the individual rooms, turrets, doors and walls of the castle, and make lots of notes. Then you check for mentions of its position, for example if you can see the sun set from a certain window, to find out which way the castle is facing. I then built a small model out of scrap card and Plasticine and tried lighting it from different directions. It was important to see how it would look in full light, or as a silhouette. Then it was a long process of designing the Great Hall, and individual towers. I have a huge number of drawings just experimenting with different doorways, roofs. Some early compositions were quite radical, then I hit upon the idea of trees growing under, through and over the whole castle, as if the castle had grown out of the landscape. This also gives me the opportunity to show trees growing through the inside of some rooms in future illustrations.

What illustrations in the book are you most proud of? (Leaky Cauldron)
Usually it’s the ones that took the least amount of effort! It takes me so many attempts to get an illustration to work, that if one works on the second or third attempt, it’s a big relief. There is one illustration in the book that worked first time (a chapter opener of Hogwarts architecture, with birds nesting on the chimney pots). It kind of felt wrong that the illustration was done without agonising over it for days, it didn’t feel real somehow, so I’m proud of that one because it’s so rare that I get an image to work first time! The only other illustration that was relatively straightforward was the Sorting Hat. Illustrations that come a little easier tend to have a freshness about them, and I think those two feel a little bit looser than others in the book.

Which book do you think will be the most challenging one to illustrate? (Harry Potter’s Page)
At the minute it’s book two! I think book one I was full of adrenaline, driven by sheer terror! Book two I want to have a different feel, and that makes it challenging to start again and rethink the process.

Click to view full size image

Is there a particular scene in the future Harry Potter books you’re excited to illustrate? (Harry Potter Fan Zone)
I’m really looking forward to painting Aragog in book two. I’m really fond of spiders – there are lots in my studio – so it’s great having reference close to hand! I’m hoping that by the Deathly Hallows we will be fully into a darker and more adult style of illustration, to reflect the perils facing Potter!

How many illustrations did you initially do for the book, and how many of those appeared in the final edition? (Snitchseeker)
There are stacks of concept drawings that no one will ever see, such as the Hogwarts sketches, which I needed to do in order to get my head around the book. Then there are rough drawings, then rough drawings that are worked up a little more, and then it might take five or six attempts for each illustration to get it right.

What house do you think you may have been placed in, aged 11, and would it be the same now? (Mugglenet)
I’d like to think it was Ravenclaw as a child. I was much more confident back then, and creative, plus they have an interesting house ghost in the form of the Grey Lady. These days I work hard and am loyal, so probably Hufflepuff.

Illustrating aside, what is one thing that you love doing to express your creativity? (The Daily Snitcher)
It’s difficult to say because for the past 5 years I have worked on illustration seven days a week, every hour of the day. A few years back I started to write, and I really enjoyed that, it’s far more intimate than illustrating, and I love going over the same line and trying to hone it down to the core of what you are trying to express. My partner makes hats, and I’m very envious. It looks like wonderful fun. We have lots of designs for hats in sketchbooks. I really want to get some time to make some. I’ve always been slightly torn that I didn’t go into fashion, but my sewing is terrible. I used to play guitar a lot and write little bits of music, but that’s difficult now because my hand gets very stiff from drawing all day! The funny thing is, if I did ever get a day off, I’d just want to draw!

Filed Under: Books, Exclusive, Jim Kay
John Williams 80th Birthday Celebration Concert at Tanglewood
Posted by Megs

Today we have some exciting news to share about one of our favorite composers, John Williams. As we briefly mentioned earlier in the week, John is now 80 years old.  He celebrated this occasion on August 18th John Williams with some of his closest celebrity friends with a memorable concert at Tanglewood, an estate and music venue in Massachusetts. According to the press release we’ve been sent:

Tanglewood had the honor of presenting the only official celebration of John Williams’s 80th birthday attended by the composer himself, with a gala tribute concert on Saturday, August 18 at 8:30 p.m., featuring performances by stars of the music world, along with surprise stage appearances and video messages from luminaries of the world of arts and culture. Steven Spielberg and James Taylor made surprise stage appearances and President Barack Obama, The Honorable William Jefferson Clinton, George Lucas, Brian Williams, Seiji Ozawa, and Gustavo Dudamel were featured in video birthday greetings to Mr. Williams throughout the evening.

In what was a spectacular evening of some of Mr. Williams’s most popular works for film and the concert stage, the program featured the Boston Pops Orchestra, cellist Yo-Yo Ma; soprano Jessye Norman; violinist Gil Shaham; clarinetist Anthony McGill; pianist Gabriela Montero; and the U.S. Army Herald Trumpets, as well as conductors Keith Lockhart, Leonard Slatkin, and Shi-Yeon Sung. James Taylor, accompanied by BSO cellist Owen Young, performed “You’ve Got a Friend.” Maestro Williams (brief bio below), who holds the titles of Boston Pops Laureate Conductor and Tanglewood Artist in Residence, and the audience heard beloved themes from his film scores to E.T., Harry Potter, and Star Wars, Schindler’s List, Memoirs of a Geisha, as well as his Air and Simple Gifts, a work composed by John Williams for the inauguration ceremony for President Barack Obama.

Thanks to Tanglewood we have some photos and a video from the event that you can see below.

Filed Under: Exclusive, John Williams
EXCLUSIVE: Report; Photos from Children’s BAFTA Awards
Posted by Megs

Magical-Menagerie was in attendance at tonight’s Children’s BAFTA Awards where Harry Potter took home TWO awards; Best Feature Film and the Kid’s Vote for Best Film.  Our correspondent, Patrick, has written a report and also sent over some photos which you can view in the gallery!

Tonight the stars of British Film and Television aligned at the London Hilton, for the 2011 Children’s BAFTA’s. The guest list was full of names of actors both young and old whose work over the past year was being acknowledged, but there was one particular name that brought me to the gleaming marbled halls of the Hilton, that name ‘Harry Potter’.

Nominated in the best Feature Category, this year marked the last chance for the film series to be selected for a Children’s BAFTA and with both Parts One and Two of the Deathly Hallows being nominated the odds were definitely in Harry’s favour. Flying the flag solo for Team Potter was Warwick Davis; the current star of the sitcom ‘Life’s Too Short’, a joint production between himself and the comedic team of Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, but the man whom all know as both Professor Flitwick, and the treacherous Gringotts Goblin Griphook.

Once on the red carpet the flashbulbs were ablaze as Warwick and his wife, Samantha posed for the camera’s and waved for the fans. After a few words with some television newsreaders, Warwick headed over to the Harry Potter section of the press gathering, and Magical Menagerie was his first port of call.

Patrick: Currently in ‘Life’s Too Short’, your character is quite nostalgic, do you think that in couple of years you will nostalgic about the Harry Potter Days?
Warwick: Oh absolutely, I think I already am in a way, because we filmed the first one ten years ago. I am looking back with great affection, and fondness, and pride. Certainly when you have nominations and awards such as this, it’s nice but I already have a sense of pride and fondness because, I say I was one a chosen few but they really were many hundreds of actors in the films, it was still a rather unique sort of project.

Patrick: Also in ‘Life’s Too Short’, you had another run in with Miss Helena Bonham Carter, how was that? Different situation to the last time you met?
Warwick: Absolutely! It was lovely to work with Helena again! We worked extensively on Deathly Hallows Part Two, when she played Hermione-Bellatrix and me as Griphook, so we spent a lot of time getting to know one another, and it was really great to have in for ‘Life’s Too Short’ and she will be playing a very unique version of herself because she is nothing like that in reality, she is really a very charming and pleasant person.

With action of the red carpet wrapped up, it was into the Press Room to watch the show, waiting anxiously to find out whether ‘The Deathly Hallows’ was going to take out the gong for best feature. Very early on it proved to be Harry’s night as the film took out the ‘BAFTA’s Kid Vote Award’ being an award decided on by the voting public, for best film. Then it was time for the winner of the Best Feature, and once again Warwick was called back to the stage to accept the award on behalf of director David Yates and producers David Heyman, David Barron, and Author J.K. Rowling.

Back in the press room, Warwick explained how this awards as well as the countless others the film franchise has received are really all testaments to the fans, and that he couldn’t wait till the whole world would get the chance to head to Leavensden and experience the set “Just as we left them” as a part of the Warners Brother’s Harry Potter Studio Tour.

So with the night all wrapped up, Harry Potter had once again taken home awards that were physical reminders of the fact that the films will leave just as much as a lasting impression on the British and International film industries, as much as the books have on our hearts. And the questions that are now left are, what will it win at the standard BAFTA’s? And could there be an Oscar in Harry Potter’s Future?

Patrick Hudson from Magical-Menagerie .com

A huge thank you to Patrick who attended the award show on the site’s behalf!

Filed Under: Deathly Hallows, Exclusive
Exclusive: Magical-Menagerie Previews Harry Potter: The Exhibition In Sydney
Posted by Megs

[A special thanks to Nora who attended the event on behalf of the site!]  You may view a few photos from the day in the gallery, with more on the way later today!

Walking into Harry Potter the Exhibition was like being transported back through time and into a magical world. The exhibition opens November 19 in the Powerhouse Museum Sydney, the first location to harbour it outside North America. Magical Menagerie was given the special opportunity to preview the exhibition two days early, with special guests James and Oliver Phelps who play Fred and George Weasley. They described the fun they had filming the Harry Potter series, reminiscing about the Halloween scenes where they got to enjoy real food and after 30 takes the actors were swearing off profiteroles. They also talked about the delicacy of the wands they had in the sets and how they’ve broken several wands on- and off-scenes.

Magical Menagerie asked the actors on upcoming projects and whether they plan to pursue their interests such as football and music. James Phelps said he wished he could be a football commentator, but for now he’s focusing on his acting and has lined up some jobs. Oliver is planning to go on a vacation before going back to work, and both boys are excited about pursuing their acting careers separately.

We also met Eddie Newquist, the Chief Creative Office of GES who described the complexity of putting together the exhibition. Robin Stapley, Exective Creative Director of GES, mentioned the hard work of selecting the different props to display in the Great Hall and then transporting the exhibition pieces in total of 23 containers to each sites. He then walked us through the exhibition and highlighted the details and intricacy of the pieces.

The exhibition shows you the different sets of Harry Potter movies, recreating some of the sets such as Harry and Ron’s bedroom and Hagrid’s Hut. The details that you get to see in the pieces are the main reason this exhibition is so worth seeing. We got to see up close the details on Buckbeak and Fawkes, the lovely creatures that appeared in the movies. There were numerous pieces that makes you appreciate how much thoughts J.K. Rowling must have put into the character. We saw the life-size painting of Professor Lockhart and all his narcissistic photographs and Professor Umbridge’s clothing and her kitten ceramic plates. It was also interesting to see how the different directors seem to influence the style of the uniforms worn by the different characters.

There aren’t really enough words to describe how magical the exhibition is. It really makes you relive the whole Harry Potter adventure, and you just have to be there to witness it. The enchanting series might be over, but it will forever live in our minds.

© Nora for Magical-Menagerie. Do not take text or photos without proper credit.

Filed Under: Exclusive, Harry Potter: The Exhibition, James and Oliver Phelps
Exclusive: Natalia Tena in You Instead; Win Tickets to Launch Event
Posted by Megs

Natalia Tena, best known for portraying Tonks in the Potter films, recently starred in a film titled You Instead that was filmed at Scotland’s T in the Park music Festival.  The synopsis and trailer for the film may be seen below courtesy of Icon Film Distribution.

Shot guerrilla-style, over five days during T in the Park in the summer of 2010, YOU INSTEAD is a free-wheeling rock’n’roll love story set against the raucous magnificence and unforgettable sounds of Scotland’s leading music festival.

The film features a charismatic performance from Luke Treadaway as strutting indie star Adam. Arriving at T in the Park for his gig, Adam is handcuffed to punky girl-band leader Morello. Initial frustration gives away to grudging acceptance and then the stirring of genuine feelings over the next 24 hours of the festival.

The film will be released on September 16th but Icon Film Distribution will be holding a launch event on September 13th in London.  Here’s where the fun comes in! The studio have offered up 2 tickets for a Magical-Menagerie reader in the UK, who is 18 or older, to win! You will be able to attend an exclusive screening of the film and a VIP after-party. For full details on how to enter visit this page!

Filed Under: Exclusive, Giveaway, Natalia Tena
Exclusive: London Premiere Photos and Videos
Posted by Megs

Finally I have uploaded the rest of my coverage from the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II London premiere. You can see all the photos in the gallery (do NOT take without linking back to magical-menagerie.com). Watch the videos below:

Here is Part 1 again:

Filed Under: Bonnie Wright, Clemence Poesy, David Barron, Deathly Hallows, Exclusive, Helen McCrory, James and Oliver Phelps, Jason Isaacs, Jim Broadbent, Julie Walters, Matthew Lewis, Michael Gambon, Ralph Fiennes, Rupert Grint, Tom Felton

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