Wands and brooms on disc

By Tom Russo
Globe Correspondent / July 10, 2011

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If you’re a true Harry Potter fan, you’ve not only read all the books and seen all the films, but you also find yourself under a spell anytime you’re given a peek at the movie magic behind the magic. Early “Potter’’ DVD releases skimped on featurettes in favor of kid-targeted interactive features that were as layered as the narrative, but recent “Ultimate’’ editions of the movies delve deeper into the series’ many special effects elements. Among the highlights of each:


In pop-up Blu-ray commentary and an hourlong DVD documentary, director Chris Columbus remembers visualizing Quidditch for the first time. (The documentary is the intro to “Creating the World of Harry Potter,’’ an eight-part series focusing on various aspects of the franchise - cast, characters, effects, music, etc.) We also get a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the giant wizard chess board, as well as the anthropomorphized Sorting Hat, looking like some mad scientist’s skeletal invention.

CHAMBER OF SECRETS Sorry, arachnophobes, but this one goes heavy on flashbacks to giant spider Aragog and his creepy-crawly army, with Columbus commenting on his determination to avoid comparisons with ’50s atomic-insect flicks. There’s also background on elfin Dobby, the series’ first prominently featured all-CG character, and the climax’s Basilisk, for which Columbus drew on mentor Steven Spielberg’s “Jurassic Park’’ experience.


Part three of “World of Harry Potter’’ spotlights the series’ creature menagerie, from the half-eagle, half-horse Hippogriff of “Azkaban’’ to the next film’s fearsome Hungarian Horntail dragon - a mock-up that concealed a real flamethrower! - and beyond. A tour of the creature shop at England’s Leavesden Studios reveals which ones were created with animatronics, makeup, and computers.


In pop-ups, the filmmakers dive into Harry’s turn as merman in the Triwizard Tournament’s loch-bottom sequence, which involved building a 600,000-gallon water tank (Europe’s largest, they say). They also discuss Ralph Fiennes’s appropriately eerie intro as Voldemort - as a faux infant with a face not even a mother could love.


The fifth film marks the arrival of David Yates, the director who would complete the series, and a shift away from some of the more colorfully fantastical effects work. Still, the disc provides snippets on those darkly rendered centaurs, upgraded here from “Sorcerer’s Stone,’’ and the crystal-ball-filled Hall of Prophecy, the series’ first all-CG set.


This is a biggie for tech-heads, as “World of Harry Potter’’ part six devotes almost a full hour to, yep, “Magical Effects.’’ Here’s your comprehensive look at Hogwarts’ Oxbridge-meets-Haunted Mansion riffs, and Harry’s explosive encounters with Voldemort. In a separate segment, a British entertainment program breaks down the film’s showy destruction of Muggle-London’s Millennium Bridge, among other bits.


No “Ultimate’’ treatment for the franchise’s most recent installment just yet. Still, the Blu-ray, released in April, offers opportunities to gawk at Daniel Radcliffe pulling off the trick of playing seven Harrys at once, and Fiennes getting a digital nose job as Voldemort.

Tom Russo can be reached at

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