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Remembering Toni Gras Remembering Toni Gras

Remembering Toni Gras, a long-time contributor to HPFZ

It is with great sadness today that I share the news that Toni Gras — a long-time friend and contributor to Harry Potter Fan Zone — has passed away.

I first met Toni at the Goblet of Fire premiere in New York City in 2005. Over the last decade, Toni was a regular contributor to the site, representing HPFZ at Harry Potter related events and conferences around the world. Her contributions weren’t limited to the content she wrote, equally touching was her unbridled enthusiasm, support and kindness.

If there’s one thing the Harry Potter journey has fostered, it’s a global sense of community. Toni was the embodiment of that community spirit. So to Toni’s family, my sincerest condolences. And to Toni, thanks for the part you played in making HPFZ what it was, is, and will be to future ‘Potter’ generations.

In the words of Albus Dumbledore, “death is but the next great adventure”.

Ranking the top 5 ‘Harry Potter’ soundtrack songs (that aren’t ‘Hedwig’s Theme’) Ranking the top 5 ‘Harry Potter’ soundtrack songs (that aren’t ‘Hedwig’s Theme’)

Four composers wrote music for the 'Harry Potter' films

Four composers wrote music for the ‘Harry Potter’ films

Between 2001 and 2011, four composers brought us nearly ten hours of music to underscore the Harry Potter films. There’s melody for characters, for action, for loss and for love, and we’re going to attempt to whittle that list down to the most memorable top five.

For variety (and because it’d be a foregone conclusion otherwise) we’re omitting John Williams’ signature composition, Hedwig’s Theme, from the list.

Aside: if what we’ve heard of the Fantastic Beasts soundtrack is anything to go by, that theme is going to transcend ‘Potter’ and become the musical signature of J.K. Rowling’s entire wizarding world.

You can also click any of the track titles to hear the piece, or to download sheet music. Let’s begin!

5. Lily’s Theme (Alexandre Desplat)

This haunting melody is Alexandre Desplat’s signature theme used throughout Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2. We hear a soft choral version of the theme as the film opens, and probably the best rendition during Dragon Flight. The melody swells and takes full orchestral flight as the captive Gringotts dragon too breaks free of its restraints and flies to freedom with Harry, Ron and Hermione as passengers.

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Read our ‘Chamber of Secrets’ illustrated edition review Read our ‘Chamber of Secrets’ illustrated edition review

Front cover

The jacket artwork features the Ford Anglia flying to the Burrow.

Moaning Myrtle

Earlier this month, Bloomsbury and Scholastic published the second of seven planned Harry Potter illustrated editions. Like its predecessor, the Chamber of Secrets illustrated edition again features glorious artwork from illustrator Jim Kay.

It goes without saying, but the illustrated editions really are a work of art: J.K. Rowling’s beautifully typeset words are complemented with glorious chapter illustrations, full-page murals, character portraits, and sketches by Jim Kay.

Says Kay, “the techniques for illustrating Chamber of Secrets were slightly different to book one … I wanted it to have a slightly different feel, a different look”. In particular, the chapter opens are a little different, stylistically, to book one.

The Chamber of Secrets chapter opens feature depictions of everything from objects (Cornelius Fudge’s bowler hat, the cursed hand from Borgin and Burkes, a certain sock, and the Whomping Willow to name a few), as well as scenes like the entrance to the Forbidden Forest and the Chamber of Secrets:

Many of the chapters, particularly those that are thematically darker, are contrasted with black backgrounds, white text, and artwork that bleeds seamlessly into the chapter. It makes for a really immersive reading experience:

Harry at Borgin and Burkes

Harry arrives at Knockturn Alley: the black background, white text, and full page artwork make this a spooky passage to read.

The Basilisk in the Chamber of Secrets

The Basilisk skin lies in the Chamber of Secrets.

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Jim Kay on designing the Harry Potter illustrated editions, Hogwarts castle, and scenes he’s looking forward to Jim Kay on designing the Harry Potter illustrated editions, Hogwarts castle, and scenes he’s looking forward to

Harry Potter Fan Zone recently had the chance to participate in a group interview with Jim Kay, the artist behind the gorgeous Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone illustrated edition, released today.

Jim is currently at work illustrating Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, but took some time out to talk about bringing J.K. Rowling’s words to life.

Jim Kay is the artist behind the Harry Potter illustrated editions

Jim Kay is the artist behind the Harry Potter illustrated editions

Always J.K. Rowling (AJKR): Were you influenced by previous Harry Potter illustrators/the films or did you veer away from both?

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!

Magical Menagerie (MM): What was the most important detail for you to get right with your illustrations?

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.

SnitchSeeker (SS): What medium do you use to create your illustrations?

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!

The Daily Snitcher (TDS): Because each book is so rich in detail, what is your personal process when choosing specific images?

"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."

“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 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 [UK publisher]. 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.

Read the full article.

Ten years later… Ten years later…

Harry Potter Fan Zone turns ten!On 22 December 2003, ten years ago to the day, Harry Potter Fan Zone came online. It looked a little something (actually, a lot something) like this.

I was – at the time – a bored fourteen year–old looking for something to do over the Australian summer holiday break. And here we are today: two books, six movies, and a decade of digging up Harry Potter news and rumours later.

Harry Potter Fan Zone turns ten!I never imagined that a little pet-project conceived in my bedroom would lead to such awesome opportunities: being featured on the front–page of my local paper, attending the Goblet of Fire premiere in New York City and the Order of the Phoenix premiere in Los Angeles at the invitation of Warner Bros. and twice visiting Leavesden Studios to watch filming on movies six and seven while interviewing the cast and crew.

Plus a bunch more cool stuff (I won’t forget eating lunch opposite Alan Rickman in full Snape get–up anytime soon).

Of course, my highlight of this whole little adventure was hearing that Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling was a fan of the website and reading the lovely thank–you she gave us on her official website.

So thank you to everyone who’s contributed to this website over the past ten years and, of course, to everyone who’s given it a visit. I hope you’ve had as much fun following Harry Potter Fan Zone (yes, I do wish I’d come up with a better name all those years ago) as I’ve had running it.

Harry Potter Fan Zone meets Evanna Lynch at LeakyCon 2012 Harry Potter Fan Zone meets Evanna Lynch at LeakyCon 2012

Evanna Lynch (with HPFZ shirt!)HPFZ’s David and Toni Gras recently attended LeakyCon 2012 in Chicago where, among many Potter festivities, they caught up with actress Evanna Lynch — Luna Lovegood in the ‘Potter’ films (check out her fantastic choice of shirt!). Their report follows:

Potter Passion Prevails! That is the thought of these three reporters from Harry Potter Fan Zone, as we observed and participated in The Leaky Cauldron’s third conference, LeakyCon 2012, at the Hilton Towers in Chicago on famed Michigan Avenue from Thursday, August 9 – Sunday, August 12, 2012. The 3800+ fans overtook the Hilton hotel as they roamed the hallways and lobbies dressed in both normal and Potter gear. Huge LEAKYCON banners draped the inner lobby of the Hilton and a Hogwarts castle-like backdrop was displayed on the main stage area to help get us in the mood. The number of attendees was overwhelming, this being the largest LeakyCon conference, beating last year’s conference in attendance by approximately 800. This itself says something about the excitement that LeakyCon permeates as Chicago boasts no Potter-themed attractions – which means that all 3800 people came for the conference itself.

As conferences go, we can honestly say that we have never experienced the immense amount of passion and excitement from attendees that we witnessed here. Harry Potter brought together all the attendees in friendship and The Leaky Cauldron web site has helped to cultivate and grow Potter Passion which J.K. Rowling started over 15 years ago – for some of the fans present, they were just barely born but yet they mingled with other Potter fans from near and far at this conference. We could sense the feelings of bonding and closeness with those who feel as passionate about the Potter saga as we do.

Our first day, Thursday, August 9, we had the wonderful opportunity to sit in on two press-only conferences, first with some of the actors from the famed “Star Kid” troupe and secondly with the Harry Potter movie actors that were present at the conference which included Robbie Jarvis (the young James Potter), William Melling (Nigel Wolpert), and the ever-friendly, bubbly and lovely Evanna Lynch (Luna Lovegood). Our HPFZ reporter sat with Evanna for several minutes asking her various questions and Evanna’s sweet and humble nature came forth as she talked about her identification with the character of Luna and what Luna has done for her personally.

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James and Oliver Phelps launch ‘Harry Potter: The Exhibition’ in Sydney James and Oliver Phelps launch ‘Harry Potter: The Exhibition’ in Sydney

James and Oliver Phelps with Andy McCray of Harry Potter Fan ZoneLast night, James and Oliver Phelps (Fred and George Weasley in the Harry Potter films) attended the gala launch of Harry Potter: The Exhibition in Sydney.

I had the pleasure of attending the event, as well as a media preview earlier in the day, which was hosted at Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum. James and Oliver, along with creative wizards Eddie Newquist and Robin Stapley, shared a number of interesting facts about the exhibition.

Notably, they spoke about the logistics of bringing such a large exhibition to Australia and some of the more recent props and costumes on show for the first time.

Here are some of the most interesting facts that were shared.

  • It took 23 shipping containers and 40 days to bring Harry Potter: The Exhibition to Sydney.
  • At one point, James and Oliver had to have their wands shipped back to Leavesden Studios for ‘Deathly Hallows’ filming.
  • There’s a mark on one of the Bludgers where it was dropped on set.
  • There’s authentic James and Oliver Phelps graffiti carvings on the Gryffindor table in the Great Hall.
  • There are new props and costumes on show for the first time in Sydney, including the Hallows and Horcruxes (photos below).
  • Bellatrix’s costume is a new edition to the Sydney display (photo below).


Harry Potter: The Exhibition runs through until 18 March 2012 at the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney. Tickets are now on sale.

Photos from the London ‘Deathly Hallows: Part 2’ premiere Photos from the London ‘Deathly Hallows: Part 2’ premiere

Harry Potter Fan Zone attended the London premiere of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 last Thursday. We saw the film which was both amazing and a fitting end to the series.

Here are some of our photos from the event.

‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2’ world premiere tomorrow! ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2’ world premiere tomorrow!

The world premiere of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 in London is tomorrow!

Harry Potter Fan Zone will be on the red carpet wearing black and blue HPFZ stickers – if you see us, come and say hey.

Live stream of the premiere event:

Stay tuned for photos and videos form the event. We’ll also be updating our Twitter account with live updates from the red carpet.

Composer Alexandre Desplat talks to fan sites, Harry Potter Fan Zone Composer Alexandre Desplat talks to fan sites, Harry Potter Fan Zone

Recently, Harry Potter Fan Zone, along with a number of other fan sites, spoke with composer Alexandre Desplat.

Desplat recently scored Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (he also scored part one last year).

Harry Potter Fan Zone: When you wrote the score for the film, did you find that your ideas came to you very quickly in short bursts, or did they take a long time to develop?

Alexandre Desplat: You know these films are such huge machines–there’s such a huge expectation and so much pressure from the past because its the biggest series of the last 10 years–that you have to be very careful and double-check, triple-check that every note you write is accurate and fine, and you want to challenge yourself to be, if not as good, to approach the talent of the master that John Williams is, so it requires a little bit of attention. You can’t write a score of that kind in a short amount of time so you need to really try things over and over again. Also on these big machines now, the editing keeps changing and you have to adapt to that, so you need that time to be able to write properly and accurately.

Did you compose the soundtrack for Part 2 as a follow up for Part 1 or did you treat them as separate projects?

When I first was asked to write Part 1, it was not yet signed that I would write Part 2, so, unfortunately, I could not write thinking of the two episodes at the same time. However, there are still some themes of Part 1 which continue in Part 2 like what I call the “Band of Brothers” theme when all the friends reunite at the beginning of Part 1. We hear this theme again in Part 2 and also some of the themes and motifs of “Obliviate,” the thing that opens Part 2, that comes back also in Part 2, so there is some continuity.

Did you get to see the first half of the final film with your score added to it, and how did you feel about seeing everything put together?

I saw Part 1 finished a long time again, and it was great. I think the essence of what it portrayed–the sense of loneliness and a loss of childhood–were very strong, and I think it was a great first part.

Since Deathly Hallows – Part 2 was filmed way before it normally would be, did you got more time to score the film, and if so, did that affect your scoring process at all?

I think I had a lot of time to write, a very comfortable amount of time to write, because all together writing it and composing took about three and a half to four months for each episode. When you’re filming on set, you can decide on shooting all the scenes that belong to this set and then you can still change them. It’s very different with the score. I had to wait until I saw Part 2 edited to be able to start putting ideas together and try to find a sense of an arc and a dramatic sense for the film. There was enough time, and it was hard work for many months but also still very inspiring.

There are quite a few deaths in this film. Which was the most difficult to write, for and were there any that hit you harder than the others?

Death is very present in the Harry Potter story from the beginning because it starts with an orphan who lost his parents, and, actually, the theme of death is very present in this episode, since Lily, Harry’s mother, is the lead character of this episode. We start the film with hearing Lily’s theme, which will kind of ghost the film all along and be the music thread that will take us from the beginning to the end of the film. So that’s one element of death, the people that you miss, the people that you long for, the sorrow, and the question about death and the resurrection stone and how you cope with the death of the people you love. That’s very present in the themes that are used and you see it when you see the film and hear the soundtrack that I’ve tried to be very sensitive and emotional on these matters. The other side of death is, of course, also the battles, the duels, the final battle between Harry and Voldemort, and they are both fighting for death, and there’s no mercy. So I wrote some epic and lyrical pieces for these battle moments.

Desplat conducts the score to Deathly Hallows: Part 2

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