From San Diego Comic Con: Scholastic’s 20th Anniversary Panel with Melissa Anelli!

Jul 21, 2018

Posted by: Emma Pocock

Exclusives, Fan Events, Fan Sites, Fandom, Fans, GrandPre, Jim Kay, Leaky, News, Posters, Publishers

This afternoon featured another exciting event for Harry Potter fans–a panel celebrating 20 years of Harry Potter with host Scholastic at San Diego Comic Con!

The panel, moderated by Melissa Anelli, author of Harry, A History: The True Story of a Boy Wizard, His Fans, and Life Inside the Harry Potter and founder of LeakyCon, featured the artists and editor who have so creatively reflected and transfigured J.K. Rowling’s magic. Jim Kay (Harry Potter illustrated editions), Kazu Kibuishi (Harry Potter 15th anniversary edition cover artist), Brian Selznick (20th anniversary edition cover artist), Arthur A. Levine (editor, Harry Potter) and David Saylor (art director, Harry Potter) all attended to discuss their process as illustrators and the inspirations for their work.

Prior to start of the panel, which began at 3 p.m. PST, Kazu Kibuishi, Brian Selznick and Jim Kay gathered to sign exclusive anniversary posters for fans. (Isn’t that poster amazing!?)


Fans were eager to fill the hall and celebrate 20 years of Potter in the U.S. – we don’t blame them!

Pottermore were present at the panel, covering from start to finish:

The panel started with a message from Mary GrandPré – iconic creator of the Harry Potter logo (as David Saylor said during the panel), and original U.S. cover artist, who sadly couldn’t be at the event – she was there in spirit, so cheers to her, indeed!

The panel then kicked off, with moderator Melissa Anelli introducing the panelists in turn.

Kazu Kibushi then moves onto showing his work (which he constructed digitally, trying to make them look like real paintings), sharing that he’s a Hufflepuff (like Brian Selznick) and said that Harry Potter has touched his life. His work on the cover art helped him get through terrible illness (“in some ways, Harry Potter saved my life”). Running through various versions of the covers, we learnt that he put J.K. Rowling, Arthur Levine, his wife, assistant and himself in the Special Edition paperback box set image of Hogsmeade:

He also said that he visualised his process as an introduction to Harry Potter, like a film tour he would think of himself “as a camera going through Hogsmeade […] filming a scene”. His favorite character? Dumbledore!

Moving onto Jim Kay’s presentation, he shared that he had a bit of stage fright (he compared the feeling to a nightmare), and said – as we learned in our interview with him – that his illustrated characters are based on real-life people. Harry, for instance, was just based on a boy he saw walking around! Though he “winds you up”, Kay believes that Snape’s story and the fact that he is misunderstood is an “ultimate tragedy” of the series. His favorite character, he said, is Hermione, for her love of reading.

He compared constructing Hogwarts to a colonoscopy (that’s one we’ve never heard before), saying he ‘worked his way inwards’  to the detail. The 3D creations he made to help with his illustrations are amazing and pretty much all of them get binned, sadly.

Speaking on the issue of scale, he said that he had particular trouble with Hagrid’s Hut, and making the image of Buckbeak on his bed – attempting to fix the issue by adding in a chicken to the image to show Buckbeak’s size compared to Hagrid, it ended up looking like “a miniature chicken next to a small hypgriff on a normal person’s bed”! He’s being harsh on himself – the miniature chicken is adorable:


Though he was terrified of ruining Harry Potter (he got so worried he had panic attacks and tried to stop his work from being published!), Levine tells him that it’s impossible to ruin the series, calling the artists “geniuses of [their] own”. Kay credited J.K. Rowling’s vivid descriptions of setting in helping him illustrate his way through the series, often basing locations on real places. He also noted that everybody was wearing glasses on the panel, and reassured hopefuls that this isn’t actually a requirement for working on Harry Potter.

Brian Selznick’s presentation began with him explaining the imagery in his mural art covers (available now) – he’d work for 13 hours a day whilst listening to Jim Dale’s audiobooks – by the time he’d listened to them, he was at the Battle of Hogwarts, talk about catharsis!

One detail in particular that fans fixate on is the snake running through the books: is it Nagini? Does it symbolise Voldemort and Harry’s connection? Selznick said the idea actually originated in a doodle, and came to represent “the presence of evil throughout the series”. Eesh – sorry, Slytherins!

On his inspiration, much like Jim Kay he said it was based on real people – Umbridge, for instance, was based on his husband!

The black and white theme adds mystery, he says, asking something of the readers (as well as the huge amounts of detail!). His favourite character, he said, is Dobby (“Oh, not Dobby!” Jim protested – he’s not much of a fan, apparently!).


Editor Arthur Levine reminisced taking the series to the U.S., and choosing Mary GrandPré as the first cover illustrator. He spoke along with David Saylor, Art Director, about everything from not wanting to put spoilers on the covers, being brave enough to be a little “brazen” for a children’s book series. The choice of artists for Harry Potter came down to choosing those with distinctive “personal” styles – original artwork for an original work of art!

The best moment of all, though, was Leaky’s own Melissa Anelli getting to unveil the boxed set of Brian Selznick’s 20th anniversary editions, releasing this August!

We hope you enjoyed the panel, if you were lucky enough to attend! Catch our coverage of the Warner Bros San Diego panel here, and our breakdown of the new Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald trailer here.

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.