Of Centaurs and Kreacher

Jul 18, 2007

Posted by: SueTLC


There is a fascinating article now online that details some of the work that went into creating some of the special effects and creatures seen in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. In this detailed article, the work done by Framestore CFC is highlighted, including the job they had while creating the Centaurs. Of interest is the fact that the Centaurs were originally scripted to have much more dialogue than appeared in the final version of the film, with the piece stating:

As originally scripted, the centaurs had a great deal of dialogue, and so were the focus of much of the team’s initial development work. A huge amount of effort went into pushing the new skin and muscle methods for doing overall bodies, with particular reference to the facial aspects. Ultimately, changes to the script during production meant a much reduced – and virtually silent – role for the centaurs.

“It was sad for us,” says animation supervisor, Max Solomon, “But it made sense in terms of the film – they’ve got so much story to tell in just a couple of hours.”

The team strove to create a whole animal, rather than just a man with a CG horses hindquarters added – the approach taken in some other films. “We wanted to make it feel like a man was thinking and making the horse part move,” says Solomon, “One of the trickiest shots is where Bane- one of the centaurs- is caught by a rope, rears up and falls to the ground.

“We had some rearing horses but the mechanics of a horse rearing is different—what they do is throw their heads down low in anticipation, and then throw their heads up. So we had to make it feel like a man jumping, keeping the back very straight, and yet like a horse as it lay thrashing on the ground.”

The article also focuses on Kreacher, the house elf who resides at Grimmauld Place. Creating the nasty elf was quite a challenge for the team, and cites one of the members on the staff who created Kreacher.

The number of shots Kreacher is in isn’t huge,” he says, “but at the same time it’s a tricky bit of work because he’s a humanoid character who acts, delivers lines and fills the whole frame. Three of the guys on our side decided that they really, really wanted a shot at him. On their own initiative they built, modelled, textured and did a turn-table of his head and sent that off to the client. And it was that work which won us the gig.”

Although he delivers just a few lines, Kreacher’s words are loaded with meaning, and his body language is similarly freighted. Says Max Solomon, “You tend, as an animator, to animate – to put in the traditional, slightly heightened stuff, with the creature hitting its marks perfectly and so forth. But we soon realised that that was not what was wanted here. So we worked against our instincts, and it was quite strange.

“We kept thinking he’s not really doing much, he’s not moving, he’s not really acting – but actually that does feel more real. A little hunchbacked old man doesn’t actually move or gesticulate a lot, so doing almost nothing was the right choice.”

You can read more about the detailed and meticulous work that companies such as Framestore do for the Harry Potter films and more via this link.

The Leaky Cauldron is not associated with J.K. Rowling, Warner Bros., or any of the individuals or companies associated with producing and publishing Harry Potter books and films.