A Conversation with MinaLima: 20 Years Later & Redesigning “Chamber of Secrets”

Nov 08, 2021

Posted by: Gianfranco Lentini

19 Years Later, Art, Books, Exclusives, Fantastic Beasts, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Interviews, MinaLima, Movie Art, News, Potter News, Products, Titles

For every witch or wizard, young or old, who has ever spent hours examining every detail of the Marauder’s Map, this conversation is for you.

MinaLima–the design studio behind the graphic style of all the Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts films–has conjured yet another bestseller with the release of their illustrated edition of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

However, that’s not the only reason Miraphora Mina and Eduardo Lima (MinaLima), are raising a glass of Butterbeer. Coinciding with the 20th anniversary of the film release of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, 2021 also marks 20 years of operation for the dynamic duo.

The Leaky Cauldron sat down for an unforgettable conversation with Miraphora and Eduardo to discuss the creation of their Chamber of Secrets and to reflect on their Wizarding World journey, 20 years later.

Gianfranco: First and foremost, I need to ask…What spell did you both cast to become so involved in the Wizarding World franchise?

Miraphora: I reckon we’re probably wizards. I was already working with Stuart Craig, the production designer on the [Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts] films, and his next project at the time in 2000 was Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. On one hand, [I was] lucky to be in the right place at the right time. On the other hand, I worked really well with him. … But the most fortunate thing was that [Eduardo and I] got to meet because of Harry Potter.

Eduardo: Yes, and at that time, I didn’t even know who Harry Potter was! … When I joined Mira on [Chamber of Secrets] in September 2001, I went straight away to the books and started reading. Of course, I was contaminated by the Harry Potter virus.

Gianfranco: Were there any signs early on that we would be having this conversation 20 years later?

Eduardo: Not at all. We were [never] really sure that the films were all going to be made. It wasn’t until Prisoner of Azkaban [was] so well received…that I [thought], “Okay, now we are here to finish this amazing franchise.” And when we finished [Deathly Hallows, Part 2] in 2010, we thought that was the end. Of course, in 2012, we got a call from Universal, “We are developing Diagon Alley. Can you come join us?”

Gianfranco: Surprise!

Eduardo: A few years later, Fantastic Beasts arrived. Basically, we never really stopped. We never really left Hogwarts.

Gianfranco: On the topic of the Wizarding World, I just visited Universal Studios Hollywood and the Warner Brothers Studio. Every time I walked into a new room, I noticed the MinaLima designs–the Marauder’s Map, Umbridge’s proclamations–always commanding everyone’s attention. What is it about your designs that are just so viscerally captivating like that?

Miraphora: In the books, there are so many real situations and references to reality that we can all attach our fantasies and fictions onto. … We decided to use that same kind of motivation for our designs. There are moments where you say, “Oh yes, a letter. Therefore, I will receive my [Hogwarts] letter,” because it’s authentic in its portrayal of something real, even though it has some twists of the Wizarding World. Even the Marauder’s Map, though it’s very whimsical and a bit cheeky, has all the elements of something that has a bit of history. … It could be real.

Eduardo: We could have gone really crazy on the design. The Marauder’s Map could have been in a star-shaped format. Why not? … But that was going against what Stuart Craig and Stephenie McMillan (set decorator) were doing. Stuart used to say, “Just use reality as your base and twist 20%, 25%, and make that the magical bit.”

Miraphora: It’s comforting when it’s nostalgic. … Like Umbridge giving that [Defense Against the Dark Arts] textbook to the 15-year-olds that actually should be given to a seven-year-old. Though [it looks] really patronizing, there’s comfort in the nostalgic look of it. Those things are easy to embrace.

Gianfranco: Speaking of books, your illustrated edition of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets just hit shelves! Your edition of Philosopher’s Stone was 368 pages of pure MinaLima magic. What can we expect from Chamber of Secrets?

Miraphora: Just like the films, we feel such a duty to keep delivering, and I think as creative people, you always want to deliver a little bit more than you’ve delivered before.

Eduardo: The great thing is that we’ve already established [what] Hogwarts and the Great Hall and Quidditch [look like in the films]. But every [MinaLima] book will give you another set of [newly-designed] locations and characters. For example, with Chamber of Secrets [we were] able to create Gilderoy Lockhart’s world and his portraits and explore his vanity.

Miraphora: The Burrow, as well.

Gianfranco: Talking about nostalgia, I see that the Burrow design is beautifully reminiscent of what we know from the films. How do you balance that nostalgia while also giving Chamber of Secrets a MinaLima redesign?

Miraphora: To an extent, we had to unthink everything that we knew from the film, unless it’s specifically referenced, like the Weasleys having red hair.

Eduardo: Even the Burrow is so well described in the text, so [that’s why] it resembles the one from the film.

Miraphora: Yes, but this is not a book of the film. From the get-go, the directive to ourselves was that we must imagine it from scratch. … [And] one thing that’s very different from the work we [did] on film was hav[ing] to now think about set design: characterizations, set pieces, environments–

Eduardo: Wigs. Costumes!

Miraphora: It must also be absolutely acknowledged that everything which says MinaLima Studio is the product of our team. We celebrate that, and it makes for a better language visually.

Eduardo: Amy, Lucy, Sophie, Mauricio, and Ina. These are the amazing wizards who work with us. They all are crazy Harry Potter geeks.

Gianfranco: When the team comes to the table, how do you decide amongst yourselves what is going to get the visual treatment and what is just going to remain J. K. Rowling’s text?

Eduardo: Oh, that process sometimes takes a couple of months because we need to reread the book and establish a book map, which is a script of the book and what’s going to be illustrated. We need to make sure that all the important passages are represented. [We also look at] what other things we can punctuate in the story that haven’t been seen before. And sometimes we have opportunities to enlarge things that we saw in the film but were very quick, like the Slytherin common room.

Miraphora: [The book map is] how we create a good reading rhythm for the reader.

Gianfranco: You’re telling your own story with its own cadence.

Miraphora: Exactly. … Because we’re illustrating and designing–thinking about typefaces, drop caps, the endpapers, the finishes, the treatment of the pages so they have a slight aging–we have 100% control over the whole piece. That’s why I call it a piece of architecture because it really is a three-dimensional process that you’re working with. Every time you move something, it affects something else, and you end up with a massive building.

Gianfranco: You’re now celebrating 20 years of MinaLima, just as the Philosopher’s Stone film is about to celebrate 20 years since its release. What does that feel like for both of you, especially now while revisiting the books and films?

Miraphora: It feels like when you have a baby, and suddenly they’re grown up, and you look back and say, “Wow, from this innocent thing, it turned into this whole life of its own.” … Harry Potter has been a vehicle on which we can grow and develop everything we’ve become as a creative force.

Eduardo: Now, MinaLima is also known.

Miraphora: Yes. After 20 years, to be invited to work on the books has been quite a full circle.

Gianfranco: From a very personal place, thank you for everything you both do. In the last 20 years, you’ve shaped my universe, let alone an entire generation. It’s a privilege to be able to say that to you both.

Eduardo: Thank you so much.

Miraphora: It’s very heartening. We’re getting a bit emotional so I think–

Gianfranco: Yes, we’ll put a cork in it there.

Available as of October 26th, MinaLima’s new edition of Chamber of Secrets features 400 pages of full-colour illustrations and eight interactive paper-engineered elements, including the Whomping Willow, the Weasleys’ Burrow, and more.

The UK edition of COS, signed by Miraphora and Eduardo, can be purchased from the MinaLima website. The book is also available for purchase at the Harry Potter New York flagship store.

(This interview has been edited for length and clarity.)

(All photos credited to MinaLima.)

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.