There once was a little boy who lived in the cupboard under the stairs in the home of his mean aunt and uncle. He lived a very unhappy and rather boring life until his eleventh birthday, when something wondrous happened – he received a letter. What’s so wondrous about a letter? This letter was delivered by an owl.
“Harry Potter: The Creature Vault” by Jody Revenson is a beautiful coffee table book about the magical fairy creatures that inhabit the world of the Harry Potter movies. As expected, the book includes photos of the creatures from the movies, as well as concept art, information about these magical beings, and technical information about how they were created for the film series.
Ms. Revenson does something more, though. She tells a story of how the creatures aren’t just there to show the wonders of the fairy land that is Harry Potter’s Wizarding World. She tells how each of these creatures plays an important part in the movies, just as they did in the books. The arrival of the owl marks the beginning of Harry’s journey. It’s the interaction of the mundane world with the fairy world, and that’s where all good fairy stories begin.
“Harry Potter: The Creature Vault” relates the stories of magical beings: animals like owls and rats; traditional fairies like Cornish pixies, house-elves, and trolls; shape-shifting wizards like animagi and werewolves; the spectral dementors; and magical plants like mandrakes and the Whomping Willow.
The book is organized into nine chapters grouped into the following categories: “Forest Dwellers,” “Lake Dwellers,” “Sky Dwellers,” “Trespassers,” “Shape-Shifters,” “The Working World,” “Dark Forces,” “Companions,” and “The Greenhouse.”
The team of visual artists and production designers, without being dry and technical, share their stories of bringing the creatures to life. From their stories, it becomes clear that they had fun in the process. For example, creature effects supervisor and special makeup effects artist Nick Dudman tells how he built a fire-breathing dragon for real, rather than using CGI partly because he’d always wanted to build one. Even when creatures were created entirely by CGI, the creature shop or effects department created fully painted and haired models for the digital artists to cyberscan.
The stories of the live animal actors are also included. It’s a relief to find out that Crackerjack, the red Persian cat who played Crookshanks, was not matted due to neglect. The mats were hair extensions done by the hair and makeup team. In fact, according to the book, the animals were well cared for, and their comfort was a concern to the point of building heated floors for them on set.
“Harry Potter: The Creature Vault” is over 200 pages long, and contains behind-the-scenes photos and rare concept art. It’s printed on high quality coated paper, and features a really lovely cover with gold-tone embossing and silhouettes of magical creatures. It’s published by Harper Design, an imprint of Harper Collins.
This book is beautiful to look at, and so fun to read. Just as no wizarding family can be without a post owl, no Harry Potter fan should be without “Harry Potter: The Creature Vault.”