[Intro music begins]
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Andrew: This weeks episode of MuggleCast is also brought to you by Audible.com. The internet's leading provider of audiobooks with more than 75,000 downloadable titles across all types of literature including fiction, non-fiction and periodicals. For a free audioboook of your choice go to AudiblePodcast.com/MuggleCast today for details.
["Hedwig's Theme" plays]
David Heyman: Hello this is David Heyman and I'm the producer of the Harry Potter films and this is MuggleCast.
[Show music begins]
Micah: Because Andrew just can't accept that Hedwig is a she, this is MuggleCast Episode 208 for September the 13th, 2010.
Andrew: Welcome everyone! Back to the show. It's a very exciting time to be a Harry Potter fan. We are getting lots of great Deathly Hallows: Part I promotional material. Or is it great? We'll talk about that coming up in a little bit. Eric, Micah and Laura are here. Hello.
Andrew: Ladies, and Micah and Eric.
Andrew: Laura, I think this is your first regular show. I don't know maybe...
Laura: I know I did one after the tour. But yeah, this would probably be my first one in about a month. I've been busy getting moved back to college and everything.
Andrew: Ah yes...
Laura: But now I'm all settled. So...
Andrew: ...back to Maryland.
Andrew: Well, it's good to be podcasting with you all. So we have a lot to do this week. There's very little time for a proper intro anymore. There's just too much to discuss on each and every episode. I'm Andrew Sims.
Eric: I'm Eric Scull.
Laura: I'm Laura Thompson.
Micah: And I'm Micah Tannenbaum.
[Show music ends]
Andrew: Micah Tannenbaum, tell us what is in the news this week? You are a fantastic reporter. I always look forward to your reports.
Micah: Oh, well thank you. That's very nice of you to say.
Andrew: You have your finger on the Harry Potter pulse.
Micah: That's true, I do. Or at least I try. But as you mentioned there's been a lot of stuff since our last show, and one of the things that I wanted to talk about that you know that I really enjoy very much is pictures when it comes to movies.
Micah: I just really enjoyed all the pictures from Half-Blood Prince that were released last year, and I'm really enjoying all the Deathly Hallows photos that have been released up until this point. We got a lot of them in the last couple of weeks, and I just wanted to know what you guys' thoughts were, and we can run through some of them here if you want.
Andrew: Yeah, I mean a lot of pictures of the trio. Somebody pointed this out. I think - was it on Twitter? Yeah, yeah. Somebody sent this in to us. Farrah is upset. She said,
"I want more pictures of the other people in the series, not just the trio. I really want to see the earless George."
[Eric and Laura laugh]
Andrew: Which - I don't think we're going to get a picture of that.
Eric: Oh! Look the earless George is not a pretty picture. You do not want to see it, I'm sorry. Farrah is obsessed.
Andrew: Well, I look...
Eric: It's not pretty.
Andrew: ...forward to some pictures from the wedding. Let's see, what else is there to look forward to? The Ministry, seeing Umbridge. I mean, there's still a lot of good stuff to look forward to that they're sort of holding back I guess you could say.
Eric: Yeah, I'm glad they keep it under the wraps because it's good. I just like when they withhold things because I hate when they show the whole movie before it comes out. Although, I think with this movie in particular, there you kind of - they could show a little bit more. At least in the former video, like...
Micah: You don't like seeing the movie before it comes out?
Andrew: Because you totally saw it.
Micah: Yeah, if I'm not mistaken you saw the movie.
Eric: Oh! Oh! Oh!
Micah: Didn't you? A couple of weeks ago?
Eric: Come on, Micah. You had to bring that up. I'm talking about them revealing it in the forms of trailers, showing all the scenes, and pictures, exhaustive pictures. This is not the case with Deathly Hallows: Part I. We only...
Laura: You mean like with Goblet of Fire where they released something like twelve video clips from the movie?
Eric: Twelve, separate, five-minute video clips from the movie? Yeah. Yeah, bad idea. Bad marketing. But it seems like they did it with every movie until now. When only yesterday we got a thirty second video.
Micah: Yeah, well that was what I was going to ask you, though. Having seen the film already, are they doing a good job with not showing a lot of stuff that's in the film? I mean, we're going to get a trailer at some point in the next couple of days, a week maybe, but do you think that they've done a good job so far keeping people in the dark?
Eric: Well, I mean I'm going to reserve judgment until the first official trailer, but these promo pictures for instance, Scrimgeour giving - passing on Dumbledore's will inside the Burrow, I like that image. I would say it's probably my favorite promotional image because it's at an angle. The picture is taken from an angle that we don't see in the film. So, I like it.
Andrew: Well, I noticed that they have food on their little coffee table. Wasn't there some perfectly placed food on the coffee table in Half-Blood Prince, too, during that awkward Christmas moment?
[Eric and Laura laugh]
Andrew: But I like the look on Scrimgeour's face. You can see in this picture - you can see his reluctance to hand it over.
Laura: Oh yeah.
Andrew: He looks P.O.'d, which is really cool.
Andrew: I like that.
Laura: He looks awesome. I can't wait to see him play that role.
Andrew: Yeah. Before we move on we'd like to remind everyone that this week's episode of MuggleCast is brought to you by Audible.com. The internet's leading provider of audiobooks with more than 75,000 downloadable titles across all types of literature, and featuring audio versions of many New York Times best sellers. For listeners of this podcast, Audible is offering a free audiobook to give you a chance to try out their service. One audiobook to consider is Will Grayson, Will Grayson, the new book by John Green. He's the author of Paper Towns, and he's a great young adult author. So for a free audiobook of your choice such as Will Grayson, Will Grayson, go to AudiblePodcast.com/MuggleCast. That's AudiblePodcast.com/MuggleCast. So what other promotional material have we seen, Micah, from the film? Besides pictures?
Micah: Besides pictures? Well, we got a TV spot yesterday or two days ago.
Andrew: It was on Thursday.
Micah: Thursday! So...
Eric: Is that what you call it, Micah, a TV spot? Because I was pretty sure I exhaled and it was over.
Andrew: Well, that's the thing about a spot...
Eric: I don't know what that is.
Andrew: It's a boom. It's a little punch. It's a spot.
Micah: Yes. It's like a commercial, Eric.
Andrew: Yeah, it's a commercial. I mean, for some reason they call them "TV spots", but they're technically commercials. And it's pretty good. I wasn't too blown away by it, but the thing with these commercials is that they're only thirty seconds so they don't have much time to build up momentum and emotion. So, you just see a bunch of clips and then before you know it, it's over.
Micah: A lot of the focus is on Voldemort in this...
Micah: ...TV spot, which is - I'm wondering if that's the direction they're going to be going in with at least Part I, having a heavy focus on him.
Andrew: Well, yeah, because they've got to build up the whole "How is Harry going to defeat this crazy man - this crazy, evil man who wants Harry's heart", as he says in the TV spot.
Eric: I don't know. I don't think that any of that's in Part I. I think there's a lot less of Part I than everybody thinks is in this TV spot. Because all those voice-overs of Voldemort, that's not - at least in the version of the film I saw it's not - he doesn't talk about Harry's heart and stuff. That doesn't happen. There's no direct Voldemort to Harry, using the force to talk to him, none of that.
Micah: Well, it could be just for the TV spot. They could've recorded it just for that.
Eric: Yeah, like this overview to build it up - to psych it up. But I didn't feel like there was a whole lot from Part I, especially new footage. There's not any in this TV spot. So, I can't wait for a trailer because I really want to see how they're going to use the scenes in this movie to portray the film, because we still don't have a trailer of just Part I.
Micah: There were definitely things in here though that we haven't seen before.
Eric: Such as?
Andrew: Ghostly Dumbledore...
Andrew: ...which was very cool to see. That was our first look at him. We also saw Death Eaters attacking the Burrow, I believe. Somebody said there was a shot of Voldemort or Death Eaters attacking Shell Cottage but I don't think that's...
Micah: No, no. I think what they were attacking was Lovegood's home.
Eric: Yes, that's Lovegood's home.
Andrew: Yeah. Okay.
Micah: And we also saw Nagini slithering down the table.
Laura: Yeah that was cool.
Andrew: And if you look closely you can see Snape in that shot by the way. If you look at the end of the table, Voldemort's - Snape's sitting right next to Voldemort.
Micah: So what's her name? Charity Burbage is about to meet her untimely end.
Andrew: Yes, and we see some cool shots of Harry and Hagrid on the motorbike. I feel like that's going to be one of the clips we are going to see a lot. Harry and Hagrid riding through Britain.
Laura: Yeah I really enjoyed them going through the tunnel in London. [laughs]
Andrew: Yeah the little loop-de-doop? That could be a great new ride at the Wizarding World theme park.
Eric: [laughs] Yeah.
Micah: You should work for them.
Eric: The Motorbike Escape?
Laura: When people get sick of the Forbidden Journey. [laughs]
Micah: But also that mid-air battle between Harry and Voldemort. Where their wands connect?
Eric: Oh they spoiled that. I can't believe it. That is cool.
Andrew: It's hard to tell it's Voldemort though. If you look at it, it just looks like a ghostly figure.
Eric: He's doing a lot of weird stuff. Voldemort's...
Andrew: I guess you can kind of figure out what's going on there.
Micah: So plenty of new stuff.
Andrew: Yeah, and just a minor thing at the end when you see the title it looks like they used the – where it says, And the Deathly Hallows it looks like they used the font that was used on the book. That's the first time I think that's ever been done.Which is kind of cool.
Eric: Do you think?
Andrew: I think so.
Andrew: It's written more closely. It's more - it's not exactly but it's a little closer to what you see on the book.
Andrew: Hey Eric, I meant to ask this actually and this would be really cool, I've been meaning to say this on MuggleCast. You know how the Deathly Hallows, the U.S. edition, it says at the beginning, "We now present the seventh and final blah blah blah blah blah". Wouldn't that be cool if they had text like that at the beginning of Part I?
Andrew: The movie.
Eric: Wait in Book 7 what happens? You say they present it...
Andrew: At the beginning of Book 7 Scholastic has a page that says, "We now present the seventh and final installment of the greatest series ever" or whatever.
Andrew: You know that page I'm talking about?
Eric: No I don't! I'm looking it up right now!
Andrew: Micah, you know what I'm talking about, right?
Micah: No, I never saw that.
Eric: That's not in my copy, Andrew.
Laura: Yeah me neither.
Micah: Is that a special book?
Eric: That is not in my copy. Andrew, you have a special...
Andrew: How about the inside flap? The inside flap?
Eric: Yes! Okay, the inside flap of the hardcover says, "We now present the seventh and final installment of the epic tale of Harry Potter." That's in...
Andrew: Yeah they should have...
Andrew: They should have something like that in the beginning of the movie. I think that would be really cool. A little tribute to the book and it's also to get you freaking pumped!
Eric: [laughs] Well, I wonder when the title card came up in the beginning of the movie, it didn't say, Part I even then. So, I don't know when they're going to - this whole Part I, Part II nonsense. Because there's no trailer for just Part I I'm really wondering if they're ever going to say that this is just Part I. But it's obviously in two parts. So, what I'm saying is I don't think that they'll celebrate that it's the final thing until the next movie. Maybe they can do something for the beginning of the next film. Because this is just - this is just leading onto that. It's not the finale.
Andrew: We got some feedback sent into our twitter which is Twitter.com/MuggleCast. twistedowl87 says:
"Amazing! I was very pleased with the fact it seemed to only show clips from Part I."
"Zombie Dumbledore looks freaking awesome! And Bellatrix got a whip?"
Micah: Oh yeah, I forgot about that.
Andrew: Yeah, it was pretty hot. Liz_Anne_B says:
"They showed too much for a thirty second preview. It's hard to follow and you have to stop at every second to actually see the clip."
You can't win with Harry Potter fans. You show too much, people complain it's too much.
Micah: Well, that's why I put these in.
Andrew: You show too little, people complain it's too little.
Micah: There's such a mixed response. That's why I like seeing what people had to say particularly about this clip.
Andrew: mattcahoy said:
"Very solid looking spot. It captures how against the odds Harry is. Plus we see the wands connect in the 'Seven Potters' scene."
"Why does Voldemort say 'I've seen your heart and it is mine', in the TV spot?"
Andrew: Sounds like a bad romance fan fiction.
Eric: Yeah, APGB, the jury's out on that one. I don't know why. [laughs] I don't know why he says that.
Andrew: And pinkdude64 says:
"Epic! Slightly repetitive and a little confusing. I both can and cannot wait at the same time."
So, overall a good TV spot. And finally somebody emailed us, Meghana, 17, from Williamsburg, Virginia. She pointed out that again Warner Bros. used old clips from previous films in the TV spot. And she specifically refers to at the - about the six second mark you see the stretched image of Voldemort, and you can tell it does not fit with this trailer. It's not even in the proper format. They stretched it out - I think they stretched it out because there's another person in that scene. And they don't want people to realize that it's an old clip. Because you see Voldemort talk, but his mouth...
Eric: Oh yeah!
Andrew: ...isn't moving with those words. Very strange of them to add that.
Eric: Wow! That is very weird.
Andrew: It was one of the first things I noticed.
Eric: I'm looking at that now, I think it's from Goblet of Fire.
Andrew: So, anyway we've been talking a lot about a trailer, Micah. Apparently it's due out by the end of this month?
Micah: According to MuggleNet.com, yes.
[Andrew and Eric laugh]
Eric: The source that we rely on for our news in this show.
Micah: Yes, according to this news post, an alleged tweet from the official Harry Potter Twitter account appeared online claiming a specific date and time for a Deathly Hallows: Part I trailer release. UniverseHarryPotter.com contacted Warner Bros. International to confirm whether or not this was true, and W.B. told them a trailer for the film will indeed be released at the end of this month. So, we will get a trailer.
Andrew: I don't believe the tweet was real because nobody re-tweeted it, and usually I get a little text message every time this Twitter account sends out a tweet, so I think it was definitely fake. But we know a trailer exists. We talked about it on the last episode. The British Board of Film Classification whatever, they rated a new trailer for Part I. It's about two minutes long. And it's just time. Now somebody emailed in and - Joshua, 20, from California e-mailed in and said,
"Do you think the Part I trailer will be premiering in front of 'Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole,' another Warner Bros. film released September 24th? 'The Order of the Phoenix' trailer debuted before W.B.'s 'Happy Feet,' and I think they'd like to show it in front of one of their films with a similar audience and possibly the same weekend online as well."
I think he's absolutely right. This owl movie first of all, it looks like you might as well call it 'Hedwig's Tale.'
[Eric and Laura laugh]
Andrew: It looks like Hedwig. And I only want to see it because it reminds me of Hedwig, and it looks adorable.
Eric: It actually looks like David Bowie in Labyrinth, playing Jareth the Goblin King who can become an owl.
Laura: [laughs] Oh my God!
Eric: That's what the movie's stylized like, but I really want to see this Legend of the Guardians.
Andrew: So, I think, yeah, Joshua's absolutely right. Every time I see the trailer for this movie, this owl movie, I think it's Hedwig. They should have just made it a Hedwig spin-off.
Micah: Yeah, and what? Blow up the bird in the end?
Andrew: Well, it works great, because in the film, we see Harry let go of Hedwig so this could be Hedwig's - say he didn't die. This could be his...
Eric: She. She.
Andrew: She, sorry. This could be his...
Andrew: His epilogue.
Andrew: [laughs] Her epilogue.
Micah: Her illegitimate child?
[Eric and Laura laugh]
Micah: Anyway, but what does that mean for us though? Because normally we would get the trailer before it ends up in theaters.
Andrew: Yeah, I think they'll release it online first. So, maybe the week beforehand. I actually have a theory I shared with Micah the other day. They are letting me release a tease of my Deathly Hallows: Part I set report on September 15th. So, I'm guessing it's going to be that week that the trailer comes out. So, in just a few days.
Eric: Oh, they're like promoting - that thing you did a few months - well you can talk about it but only some of it, and not for another two weeks.
Andrew: Two paragraphs.
Andrew: Two paragraphs, no quotes.
Andrew: So I think they're going to release it in a few days and that makes sense because I think that's what they did with Half-Blood Prince too. They released the trailer and at the same time they said: "Oh yeah you can do a tease for your set report."
Eric: But it's really close!
Micah: Oh, that's nice of them.
Eric: It's really close to the release of the film isn't it? Like six weeks? Eight weeks? Something like that for a trailer is kind of late in the game.
Andrew: It's two months, two months. Anyway, what else is going on in the news in the wizarding world Micah?
Micah: We talked about this next story a little bit, or how this story came about, with the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in that if you try and go on the Forbidden Journey ride, there is a certain body size limit that may prevent some people from being able to enjoy themselves and you noted that specifically it has to do with your gut area. If the ride worker does not hear the safety harness click inward three times, you cannot go on the ride and apparently, some man was so determined to go on this ride that he actually lost the weight necessary in order to go on the Forbidden Journey.
Laura: Wow, that's really cool actually.
Andrew: Yeah, yeah, it's a cool idea and he started this whole blog called Banks Lee and the Three Clicks.
Eric: Which is awesome. Everything about this story, everything about this guy inspires me. This is - as soon as I saw the post on MuggleNet I was like I had to friend him on Facebook and I sent him a nice message and I said congratulations because I think it's cool. This whole three clicks thing is pretty official. Universal says “if we don't hear it click three times, you're not going on the ride” and for him to overcome that is awesome.
Laura: Actually, I'm reading his blog right now and it says that they've just added modified seating to some of the cars for larger riders so that's a good thing, I mean because I remember when we were there, there were a lot of people who just flat out got turned away and it was really sad because that was sort of the highlighted event for those of us who were there. So I'm really glad to hear that they've done that so that more people have access to it.
Andrew: We'll have to contact Universal and ask about this because first of all he just posted this today and he said he heard it from one of the commenters. But in a recent article Universal said that they didn't have any plans to make any changes so we'll have to look into this, but yeah it's definitely good news.
Micah: How much did he lose? I think it was 12 pounds? I wonder if he is continuing on to lose weight after that. If this has inspired him to lose weight. It'd be interesting.
Eric: Well I know it's interesting because both Andrew and Micah, both of you have been hitting the gym a lot in the past two, three years. I read your tweets and stuff, so it's really cool, fitness. And I really need to - this article made me realize that I should probably get more in shape too.
Andrew: Eric, you're in fine shape.
Eric: Oh, well thank you, Andrew.
[Eric and Micah laugh]
Eric: No, but really, I should work out.
Andrew: I check you out quite frequently. Okay, what else, Micah?
Micah: Well speaking of the Wizarding World, it's possible that the theme park will expand within the next two to three years. And Andrew, you actually did some digging on this, and you think that the Lost Continent will be lost...
[Andrew and Eric laugh]
Micah: Within, I guess, six to twelve months. And never return. Jurassic Park is going away, and hopefully they don't make - how many movies are there now? Three?
Eric: There are three.
Eric: There are three.
Micah: Well hopefully they're not making a fourth. And this is great, I think, for fans of Harry Potter who have already gone to the park and experienced it, that they will have something to look forward to if they decide to go back in the coming years. And there's really no limit in terms of what they can do, I think, in terms of ideas for rides and other things.
Andrew: Right. I think I said this to you guys at the park, or I said it to some people - you walk through that Lost Continent area and it's just not good.
Andrew: There's one good thing about it, and it's the restaurant Mythos. It's a really good restaurant. But other than that - there's this dumb show, I don't even know. It's some Greek god battle show. And I went on it once, and when I went on it there was this huge technical difficulty where the audio cut out, so we were just watching all the action in silence. It's this giant area for nothing. So it's really good to hear that that's the big rumor. It makes sense because the first comment on this news post I made said it best: 'Time to beg my mom take me back.' That would be the entire point of them expanding it. Once they expand it and open it up, every single person who went for the opening is going to come back again.
Eric: Well, I think some people will come back even without an expansion, and it took them...
Andrew: Of course!
Eric: ...two or three years to build the Wizarding World Park. How long would it take to expand? That's a lot of construction, and in the mean time, you've got people trying to get into the park that exists already, the Harry Potter. If there's construction all throughout the Lost Continent, which is the only way to get into that park. You can also get in through the Jurassic Park entrance, but what I'm saying is, if there's all this added construction, it's going to add to the wait times just to get into the Harry Potter park because there's less space to wait.
Micah: Yeah. Well, one thing we did note is that wait times have diminished at the Wizarding World. One of the bloggers, who writes frequently about the Wizard World theme park did say at the beginning of September, just after Labor Day weekend, that the wait time were going down significantly on the rides, and you could actually navigate your way through Hogsmeade without really bumping into somebody else. If they were going to start, they would definitely have to start it within the next couple of months if they're looking to open an extended area by 2012.
Andrew: Especially now that the summer is over. It's...
Micah: It's a good time.
Andrew: Yeah. Well, crowds are diminished. I don't think we're going to get an announcement soon, but you know they're working on an expansion. We've also heard that W.B. has an agreement with Universal stating that they have to make additions every two or three years. Or changes. Something to refresh it every two or three years. That is that. What else Micah?
Micah: The final piece of news: according to BBC, J.K. Rowling donated over 10 million pounds, which is I think about 15-and-a-half million dollars, to the University of Edinburgh to set up a Multiple Sclerosis research clinic. This clinic is in memory of her mother, and the hope is to help researches find a cure for the disease, which took her mother's life just at the age of 45, and the significant thing I think about it was that J.K. Rowling herself just turned 45 in July. So it obviously meant a lot for her to be able to do this at the same age that her mother had passed away at.
Andrew: Well it's great that she donated all that money. It's a nice remembrance.
Eric: I hope it works. I hope they find a cure. It seems - there's always donations of great magnitude. Jo has been a patron of a lot of charities and I hope that it works.
Andrew: Yeah. Okay. So that's all for news. We have a special interview this week with Jonathan Smith of TT Games, one of the developers of the Lego Harry Potter: Years 1-4 video game. Micah conducted this interview with him at - what was it Micah, like five in the morning your time? Four?
Micah: Yeah, maybe there were some bloopers to include from the beginning of our conversation, but Jonathan was definitely surprised that I was up at five o'clock in the morning here in New York talking with him but...
Andrew: That's how much you love the game!
Micah: ...that's how much I love the game, and it was good talking to him - head of production, so he oversees everything - and they're really happy with the success of the game.
Andrew: Let's listen to the interview.
Micah: Okay, well we are now joined by Jonathan Smith, who is the head of production at TT Games Publishing, makers of LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4. Jonathan, thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us today.
Jonathan: Micah, thanks so much for having me here. It's great to talk to you and all the MuggleNet guys.
Micah: Now, I wanted to start talking about the success that LEGO Harry Potter has enjoyed so far. The last report that I saw said that 2.7 million copies had been shipped to date and I think that was sometime around the end of July, beginning of August. Did you guys anticipate the success that this game was going to enjoy?
Jonathan: Well you've made two points, it's a fantastic number and we're so proud. I'm so pleased that everyone's been enjoying the game, that so many people have been enjoying it. We never bank on success, we can't become complacent. We have had some success in the past with our previous LEGO games but with each new title we work incredibly hard and the whole team works incredibly hard to raise the bar for what they're putting in the game, the quality of the game, and the scope and the level of ambition of the game. Harry Potter was a completely new world for us to make a LEGO game in and we never know. We never know quite how it's going to turn out and we never know quite how people are going to receive it so yeah, we're absolutely delighted.
Micah: How many hours of development went into creating the game itself and the different levels? I played it as soon as it came out in June and I still haven't made my way completely through it. I think I'm somewhere between the second and third task in Year 4, but the levels themselves just seem far more than anything that we've seen previously even in other Harry Potter video games.
Jonathan: Well, you know, we've always set out to make games that can be played for a very long time. We've always set out to make games that are really fun, not just for a day or two, but for months and months that people can really fall in love with and so expansive, so rich. So luscious is the world in Harry Potter that we just found so much that we wanted to put in the game and so much to get our teeth into, so yeah, it is our biggest ever LEGO game. I said we wanted to raise the bar, raise the scope of ambition each time and that was the goal we set ourselves for Harry Potter. We have had a massive team, the size of the team fluctuates so we've had about up to eighty people working on it over the course of two full years. A quick calculation of how many hours that is I supposed it's many hundreds of thousands of hours. There is a lot of work that's gone into LEGO Harry Potter and again it's lovely that it's paid off.
Micah: Yeah, absolutely, it definitely has paid off, I think, just by sitting down and seeing everything that's there and just the different areas that have been created that maybe you've always wanted to go to but you have had that opportunity from something as simple as the Quidditch Pitch to walking around Diagon Alley and being able to attack different people.
Jonathan: Is that what you always wanted to do? Attack people in Diagon Alley.
Micah: [laughs] Well, you know, it's interesting the different characters you see walking around Diagon Alley now and again and it's tempting to take a shot at them, I won't lie.
Jonathan: That's where everybody needs to go to get their magical supplies.
Micah: It's true, it's true. Now, with creating the levels, was a lot of that taken from the books or the movies or was it a bit of both?
Jonathan: Well, as I'm sure you can tell, it's both. Visually, we take a look at cues from the movies, the movies have realized the world of Harry Potter over the many years now and in a really compelling way. A lot of people have quite strongly in their imaginations and we really wanted to work and build and take advantage of all the work that has already been done by those extremely talented people so visually there are lots of cues from the movies, very sympathetic to the movies but there are as you've pointed out areas which are not yet touched on in the movies and we wanted with the games to create a really coherent game world that's like everything you've imagined from the books with all the presence from the game where we build areas of Hogwarts in particular like the Common Rooms which you haven't seen before like Hufflepuff Common Room, Slytherin Common Room, sort of extrapolating from clues in the books and then going through - and this is behind everything that's in the game - really attempting the process of support and feedback and discussion with a lot of representatives from the book side, from J.K. Rowling and from the movie side from Warner Bros. as well and then pull that projection as a reflection of their own imagination of what these places are like and coalesce into what you finally see on the screen.
Micah: Yeah, you mentioned the Hufflepuff Common Room in particular. I was wondering what the process was of creating that particular area because it was only mentioned but never seen in the books - or it was never talked about in the books or described.
Jonathan: Right. You know we have lots of other pieces of information about how Hufflepuffs behave by personality and examples of individual's who come from it. So you sort of extract that. You build on the clues that are there throughout the text, what you've seen in the movies. And you know the world of the books is so imaginative and compelling. You may not have seen a place like Hufflepuff Common Room on screen in the movies before but everybody has read the books. If you were to ask them to describe it they would probably have a pretty good go at it and be able to see it pretty vividly. And I'd have to say what we did was talk with lots of different people who were experts in this area and were very intimately connected with the fiction and with this imaginative world and draw upon everyone else's ideas. And ultimately it's the work of a couple of individual artists at Traveller's Tales - who are putting all of that together with extreme talent. And it seems to have worked.
Micah: You also mentioned building on the other LEGO games that have come before it - Batman, Star Wars. What features were you really looking to improve upon with Harry Potter and maybe what are some features that you added in this game that you were really looking forward to people getting a chance to play?
Jonathan: So in order - the level of improving there is a continual, sort of technical, rolling process of innovation that the teams at Traveller's Tales are taking on for each project. So you'll notice with Harry Potter just look back at any game you've seen before. There are lots of pieces of innovation technically going on behind them that enable the artist to do their job which sparkles even more than it has done before with a greater level of visual detail. There are technical things going on behind in the background such as now the implementation of a physics system within the world that make the world feel more real, that make the LEGO elements that you encounter in the world behave in a way which is much more like real physics, like real LEGO. You can kick the LEGO around. You don't build necessarily from pre-scripted animations anymore. You can actually pick up using magic, individual LEGO elements and build them to your own design. That resting on the bedrock of the new physics system which is technical innovation. It's also a completely new addition that really fits with the world of magic that we wanted to create distinctively in LEGO Harry Potter. So the really big new things that we were focusing on moving forward with LEGO Harry Potter was obviously magic implementation. Lots of different spells, cool spells, special effects, particularly magical building, and then immersing you in the scope of a massive adventure of four full years of experience within Hogwarts and beyond as well. So creating what you were describing earlier. This sort of apparent and massive, sort of awe inspiring environment of Hogwarts which feels real, which feels alive. Which is recognizably the place you've been to when your imagination from the books and films, but also functions of the video game environment so you're not completely overwhelmed when you start. That the game is structured in such a way that by attending lessons, by sometimes perhaps following Nearly Headless Nick, but being always free to explore, you get sufficient cues to lead you on adventures that take you through the story in a way that we hope is compelling.
Micah: Yeah, absolutely. The ability to switch characters I think was essential for the gameplay and I was wondering also - I guess it kind of goes along with this question about - did you feel that the game players would like, obviously, the ability to switch off to different characters? I know in certain scenes you don't really have a choice, you have to sort of divert from being Harry. I think that is one of the things that people really like about the game. I know there are over 150 or 70 - something like that - playable characters.
Jonathan: That's right.
Micah: And that's just unbelievable in and of itself to be able to wander around this world as Scabbers, or Hagrid, or...
Micah: ...any number of different characters.
Jonathan: Yeah, absolutely! You know, we refer to it as The World of Harry Potter - the films and the books have got Harry Potter in the title - and Harry Potter is an amazing story, but Harry Potter is not the only person in that world by any means. Anyone who's a fan of that world and those stories follows the stories of many, many other individuals perhaps equally closely as well. They all add texture, so in our games right from the start we've always thought it was important for the way that our team functions and the way we like to play games to be able to be free to try out different things, to experiment. That means experimenting with being different people so that seemed a really good fit for this one.
Micah: Yeah, I know one of the things that people have enjoyed immensely with this LEGO Harry Potter game - or this LEGO game in general - is the humor, and I was wondering who is responsible for putting those cutscenes together? Because one of the things that made this game, in my opinion, so highly anticipated was seeing those vignettes and the way that they were put together. It just seemed like people couldn't wait to get the game into their hands to play it. Is there a specific group of people that is dedicated to writing those scenes?
Jonathan: There is. We have a specialist LEGO cutscene group within the team at Traveller's Tales who have worked on the games previously and absolutely relish the opportunity to bring that style of humor. It's an authentic irreverence, I think. I've just coined that term.
Jonathan: We haven't used it, and it sounds like jargon but it means that we're always absolutely true to the elements that make the story imagined to be powerful, but at the same time in the world of LEGO, surprising things will happen and it won't always get played straight because that's how the world of LEGO behaves. We have a fantastically talented team of animators led by the head of animation at Traveller's Tales, Jeff Pardon, who are able to draw the inspiration and be absolutely true to the very best and most exciting, most dramatic sequences you remember from the fiction or you see in the films, but then put that wonderful LEGO twist on them, bring the humor out in the characters and out in the scene in a completely fresh way.
Micah: Yeah, and with really no sound, no speaking lines between these characters, I guess it can be difficult to communicate the story.
Jonathan: We always have - sorry, I interrupted you.
Micah: No, it's okay.
Jonathan: That does make it easier, in some ways, to be funny. That is part of the LEGO characters creating their distinctive way of interacting with each other, adding to the story, which is more funny than were they explaining everything in a way that was very similar to a movie.
Micah: Yeah, I absolutely agree.
Jonathan: But you're right, there are some instances where not having words can make - particularly where the plots of the LEGO Harry Potters do become quite complex at some points can make that hard to explain, but we do have this quite strict rule that if we start trying to explain things, we're probably going to have a long part and we should just skip over it.
Jonathan: Because the books tell the stories extremely well, and the movies tell their stories extremely well as well. And our job is not to tell the whole - every detail of the story. We're not there replicate the experience of reading the books, we cannot come close to the experience of the books in terms of the density of information and the story and the detail that's there from a plot point of view. We shouldn't try to do that, the books are there for everybody. We should experience - what we should concentrate on is keeping our tempo moving, keeping people smiling, and communicating the scope and breadth and reach and energy of the overall narrative.
Jonathan: And the personalities.
Micah: [laughs] I was going to say I think those cutscenes do a great job, especially with the humor, of keeping the flow of the story for the game player. Who decided on the main set of spells that were going to be used in this game? I know you sort of had that little circle that you could choose from and you can also go into Diagon Alley and buy additional spells on top of that that you can use - but sort of the core group, were they the most popular in the books and the movies and that's why you felt that they would work best? What was the process in deciding that?
Jonathan: The lead designer of LEGO Harry Potter at Traveller's Tales, this chap called Arthur Parsons who's, as you'd expect, a massive Harry Potter fan and lots of big fans like him...
Micah: Yeah, I met him in New York.
Jonathan: Oh, excellent, so you know Arthur. Arthur was primarily responsible for determining which spells were included in the game and what functions they have and how they were arranged. They were in the process of development over two years, so of course it was back and forth with other people as well. That sort of knocked things in shape, but afterwards picking on certain spells which were very important to fulfill the story of Harry's progression through Hogwarts in those early years, those certain spells he learns in the lessons and which he learns more memorable and the uses to which he puts those spells to help progress the actual main narrative. Also spells which were very important for us because we had good gameplay effects for them. I mean Leviosa is a case which also covers both of those. Leviosa's obviously a signature spell in the fiction early on. Also it enables - in the video game - us to build objects out of LEGO, which is something that is very important to us in a LEGO game. You can go around building and constructing, and particularly in LEGO Harry Potter, building to your own design by moving around individual LEGO bricks, elements. That was naturally a key focus. Many of the other supplemental spells, the bonus spells, the extra spells, Arthur's just taking from his wide and deep reading of the fiction and just running off in his own imagination about how cool - "I'd like to see some things, and wouldn't that be really cool if I could turn - put antlers on someone's head, and a spell which does that, so we'll put that in the game." So the energy of the team led by Arthur to include as much as possible, that is fun and cool lies behind the extra spells that there are in the game.
Micah: I definitely think that you can tell his passion for the series when you go and you play the game, because there's just so much that's there from a detail standpoint. I thought it was unbelievable just playing though those first couple days when I got the game and just seeing everything that's there, that you would think about when you went and read the books. So it's just an unbelievable job and that's why we've pushed this so much on the site, on the podcast, "Go out and play this game because if you're a Harry Potter fan you will absolutely love it."
Jonathan: That's what we set out to achieve.
Micah: [laughs] A couple of final questions - I'm assuming that you've played the game, do you have a favorite year, a favorite, task, a favorite character, from your time sitting down and...
Jonathan: Yeah, I mean, we're seeing the game - as the game's being built up, we see new sequences, new themes come in over the course of a very long time rather than having the experience of playing them all through in a very smooth progression. And so some of them have - some things have real impact at the point that they first appear. I think what really stands out most is the dragon task from Year Four for us. When we first saw that fantastic creature, the fire, all the drama and the action and that, it came at a point in the development when we were - we'd just got Hogwarts - Hogwarts was just starting to work. The whole thing was starting to fall into place after quite a long period of trying to put it all together. It's a long time, when you're making a game, before you can actually play it. The whole thing was just starting to come together and then in the individual story sequences - to have that as a real signature "wow, this is how cool and exciting the action's going to be and that really stands out," it's absolutely a favorite. Favorite character, like so many other people it has to be Snape, I think. I think to a very specific extent it's the story of - I mean, for me it is the story of Harry Potter is what is very dramatically the story of Snape.
Jonathan: And that's a great story.
Micah: Do you play as him throughout the course of the game? Have you...
Jonathan: [laughs] Well, you're - where possible. I mean, often when we're checking specific things within the game we're just trying to get through things as quickly as possible under a very short program we use to try and get through things as quick as possible. But for pleasure, for fun, let's say for pleasure, yes.
Micah: [laughs] Okay. Anything as far as Easter eggs - I think is what they call them, that if you're a diehard Harry Potter fan that you should keep an eye out for that may be hidden in the game?
Jonathan: I think you'll find them all over...
Jonathan: ...throughout the whole game, since if you're a fan you should find some things, surprises, at every turn rather than having a little bit of fan service tucked away later on in the game. That's what you should find in Harry Potter, definitely.
Micah: Okay. Well...
Jonathan: So I wouldn't pick up any individual - I mean, it's just so full of little sort of winks and nods.
Micah: Yeah. Yeah, I agree. I think it's...
Jonathan: That's the way the game works, it's full of secrets and things.
Micah: It's very rich with detail. Now I want to thank you - those are all the questions that I have - for taking the time to speak with us, we really appreciate it.
Jonathan: It's a great pleasure. I'm really glad you've enjoyed playing the game and thank you for your time.
Andrew: All right, great job, Micah. Even at four or five in the morning you are still an intrepid reporter. Thank you.
Laura: Yeah, that was impressive.
Andrew: And the game's been a huge success, like you guys talked about. So it's pretty impressive that - I'm really happy to see it was so successful, because it totally deserved it. Matt got it the other day and I've been watching him play it and the graphics are beautiful, the gameplay's great, and a pleasant surprise, I found, was that they used all the music from the films. So that really added a lot of the authenticity of it. Even just when you're just walking around, you hear the nice - some of John Williams' nice compositions from the film. It was really nice.
Micah: Probably the biggest question that I didn't ask that a lot of people are probably wondering is are they going to make a follow up? Years five through seven. And I would bet on it. Unfortunately I wasn't allowed to ask that question, but I would bet on them making another game because of the success that this one's had, like close to three million copies sold just in these first couple months.
Eric: And speaking of Matt, it's his birthday today. Isn't it?
Andrew: Yes, it is.
Andrew: Matt's not on the show this week, but...
Andrew: Happy birthday to Matt Britton, turning 25, and playing LEGO Harry Potter as we record this. Always Harry Potter going on in this apartment. Anyway, time now for Chapter-by-Chapter. This week we're looking through Chapters 7-9 of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Cozy up, open up your book. We have a lot to talk about this week ladies and gentlemen. We're going to start with Chapter 7 of course, and this chapter is called "Bagman and Crouch." And I have to say before we start, I have a paperback version of Goblet of Fire, and it's really falling apart...
Eric: Mine too.
Andrew: ...and I'm going to be really impressed if we get through Chapter-by-Chapter without this thing completely splitting in half...
Andrew: ...because that's the condition it's in. So anyway, the chapter begins with Harry, the Weasleys, and the Diggorys arriving at the World Cup campsites, and they head to their particular tent. Mr. Weasley struggles with the Muggle money, and I - because he has to pay the Muggle owner of the campsite, and I agree with Mr. Weasley. The British Muggle money is very - something about it, I have yet to learn their coins very well. I'm still very confused. I have to sit there like a tourist and pick out the specific coins.
Eric: The coins are cool. I think that the two pence piece is like gold surrounded by silver. I love it.
Andrew: They're cool, but...
Andrew: Yeah. Yeah. Those are my favorite.
[Andrew and Eric laugh]
Andrew: I don't like to spend them, I like collecting them, holding them. So the Muggle who owns the campsite tells Mr. Weasley he doesn't understand why all these people are showing up at the same time, which I feel is a bit risky. And they keep wiping - Mr. Roberts, the Muggle owner, they keep wiping his memory. They say they have to wipe it ten times a day. It just seems very interesting that with all the magic in the world and all the precautions they put around the Quidditch World Cup stadium itself, so Muggles when they walk towards it they remember an urgent appointment, Why couldn't they have built their own, I don't know, underground - something where all these people can stay? I mean, we talked on the last episode that it must be very hard to coordinate a huge event where one hundred thousand wizards are all descending on one Muggle area, but...
Eric: Yeah, well, they do say in the book that it was like - it did take months and months of preparation and, I'm wondering if they wipe Mr. Roberts' memory ten times a day why even bother paying him for his services? Why go through the hassle of British money at all? If, I mean, I feel like he needs to have some memory, that's why they don't just do away with him, or - why didn't they relocate Mr. Roberts and his family? Say he won a trip to Hawaii...
Eric: ...or something?
Andrew: Right. I mean, I guess they want the Muggle to earn their - I mean, he runs a business. He's running his campsite business and they want to pay...
Andrew: ...him for his business. So this book, I've been noticing, even in these early chapters, Harry's learning a lot. And...
Andrew: It's something I've forgot. [laughs] Even in Goblet of Fire, he's still learning quite a lot of big bits of information. So, Harry and Ron start going to walk around for water - to get water, and Harry gets his first look at a large group of Wizards. And he sees wizarding mothers and children for the first time, which I thought was interesting because it's just hard to imagine. This is his first time! This is his fourth year going to Hogwarts, and he's just now getting a good look at real wizard families other than the Weasleys.
Andrew: And he also realizes, "Wow, there are a lot of wizards in the world" now. And we also here get our first look at Krum. And Ron points him out. [laughs] And Hermione only notes that he looks really grumpy.
Andrew: But we'll see in a couple of chapters later the developing love interest there...
Andrew: ...but she brushes him off so quick. Which tends to be my problem with women. They brush me off very quick until I show off my great skills and then they - my great podcasting skills.
Laura: Yep. That's how you win them all, Andrew.
Eric: I think it's the line, "Don't you know who I am?"
Andrew: So, speaking of love interests, we also get to see Cho Chang. Now, this wasn't the first time we get to see her but Harry's still very taken with her. He spills his water all over himself when he goes to wave at Cho. He's very nervous, the poor guy.
Andrew: So they get back to the campsite and the group meets Ludo Bagman, and Mr. Weasley makes a cheap bet with him while the Weasley twins make a pretty large one.
Andrew: And Ludo asks for Crouch's whereabouts but nobody knows, so Mr. Weasley asks for an update on Bertha but there is none, and he suspects she's just lost, the poor girl.
Micah: I wanted to ask you a question here. There was actually a tweet that somebody sent in, a DoctorSubmarine, asked about Bagman.
Micah: Yeah, I don't know, DoctorSubmarine. Anyway:
"Bagman is one of the biggest omissions from the films. Why do you think that is and would you have preferred to see him in it?"
Eric: Okay, so Bagman is what? The International Department of Magical Games and Sports, right? That's Bagman. That's not Crouch.
Micah: Yes. That is Bagman.
Eric: And he gets into debt with some goblins in this chapter or later on, and ends up getting - disappeared by the mob. I feel like even Mr. Crouch when they showed - a lot of Crouch Sr. is omitted too, particularly his death. Isn't it? Or is it not? Is his death omitted from movie four? I forget.
Micah: No, it's there.
Eric: The focus in all of this is Crouch Jr. where they had to splice him into the beginning scenes so the end of the movie would make sense. So a lot of this I feel like - the wider world as it were - this book is all about the wider magical world, but I feel like the movie didn't really - had to omit it because there's so much.
Micah: Yeah. Well, no, I agree. I think there's definitely bigger omissions of characters in this book than just Ludo Bagman, but I don't know. He comes into play obviously later on towards the end of the book, and he's really the whole reason why Harry ends up giving his winnings to the Weasley twins because Ludo never came through.
Eric: Oh, I didn't remember that.
Andrew: So Barty finally does show up and discusses business with Ludo, Arthur, and Percy. Ludo drops another hint about that big thing that's happening at Hogwarts. Fred finally gets curious and asks what it is, but Percy insists that "it must remain secret. The Ministry isn't ready to disclose the information." Blah, blah, blah.
Andrew: Percy is such a jerk. That's something else I forgot. Ugh. How annoying. He's got real issues. So the summary of the chapter, I think, is that this is one giant disorganized event. It looks to be impossible to organize without Muggles not realizing what's going on. It just seems like a lot of trouble.
Eric: Well, Muggles - there are some things Muggles can't see - what's going on. So I feel like they have some - and what's the difference between an unorganized and disorganized event and an organized one? Really? If you're talking about a sporting event, what decides if it's organized or not? I think this is as good as it's going to get. They did this for months, and without the disappearance of Bertha Jorkins, which I think she worked in this department - did she? Or something organizing this. I feel like losing her - I feel like she was one of the planners somehow, but in the end I feel like it came off pretty well.
Micah: She was involved with the Triwizard Tournament. That's why she was of such value to Pettigrew.
Eric: Oh, yes. Okay, my bad.
Micah: The one other thing I was just going to mention was the - we get a mention of American wizard school, which is, I think, really the only time throughout the entire series with a reference to American wizards actually existing.
Andrew: Oh, yeah.
Eric: There may be one or two in Fantastic Beasts, I feel like, where they mention America somehow, but it's very rare, and a lot of people I think - and I don't know if Jo ever responded to that, but she's like they are British books, so...
Eric: ...we shouldn't expect to find - I know fanfic, the first thing you find is people - American wizards. Right, Laura?
Laura: Oh, God. I can't even tell you how many times we got the ones with the American exchange student. I was like, please, spare me.
[Andrew and Eric laugh]
Micah: Was it the Salem Institute, I think? Wasn't that what it was called in Goblet of Fire?
Laura: Yeah. Everyone used that - I don't understand. Oh my God.
Eric: Because the witch trials!
Laura: So annoying.
Eric: Salem, Massachusetts.
Laura: Yeah, I get that. But - I mean - come on.
Micah: I think that's actually what it's called...
Laura: Be a little more creative.
Andrew: So that wraps up Chapter Seven. Unfortunately, Laura has to leave a little early...
Laura: Yeah, sorry guys.
Andrew: No, it's okay. I blame Eric because Eric delayed us a half hour.
Laura: Oh well. It was nice chatting with you guys.
Andrew: Yeah. So we'll speak to you soon.
Laura: I'll talk to you soon. Buh-bye.
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