“Harry Potter” Animator on Visualizing Death
One of the most memorable moments in the Harry Potter film series is the animated sequence in Deathly Hallows as Hermione reads aloud “The Tale of the Three Brothers,” a story from the book The Tales of Beedle the Bard. In Week 7 of Entertainment Weekly‘s Binge podcast, Ben Hibon, the director of this animated telling of the story, talks about his vision and designs for the character Death.
As a guest on the podcast that discusses the Harry Potter movies, hosted by Marc Snetiker and C. Molly Smith, Hibon spoke about animating “The Tale of the Three Brothers.“ Thrilled to be a part of the groundbreaking series, Hibon said that “the movie planets aligned” when he was signed on to create the sequence.
The entire animation was initially inspired by the Austrian-born animator Lotte Reiniger, who is well known as the pioneer for something called “silhouette animation.” Hibon said from the very beginning that the Harry Potter production team wanted to have a shadowy, candlelit feel, and he added that
the Harry Potter world is already extremely magical, so I think the desire to go back to something simpler… was what we were attracted to.
On the animation sequence, Hibon and the production team was very focused on fluidity. He wanted to feel like it was all done in one shot and said,
I wanted to get away from cuts and yes, using framing to tell the story, but not to take the audience away from the story we are telling at any point.
This gave the animation a unique flavor, including cuts where one object would very fluidly turn into another to keep the story in motion, “like Escher or Dali.”
Hibon added that he was attracted to “a lot of Asian and Far East puppetry” and that he wanted the characters to feel like “articulated wooden puppets.” When creating the characters, they looked at many reference drawings and depictions of death personified but tried to make their own character of Death. They gave him a skeleton structure and a hulking build, making him fairly traditional in that aspect, but Hibon said that he wanted to set their character apart using motion more than anything else.
Hibon’s Death was
otherworldly less in its look, maybe, but more in its motion. The way it’s so slow, the way the cloth is floating behind him, just gives it a charisma… which defines the character itself very well.
Hibon has worked on various other animation projects and loved his experience working with the Harry Potter team.
What do you think about the design for Death? Did it break from conventional ideas, or was it like you had imagined? Let us know!