The first thing that strikes you as you watch this animated sequence is the use of sepia tones and the fact that all objects and characters are mysteriously conveyed through silhouettes and shadows. As you keep watching however, you quickly realise a distinctiveness about the characters as the silhouettes have different tones using tonality from light and shade. There is a confused illusion of depth as, at times the walls seem to go on forever but at the same time, the shadows of the characters show up on the walls making it look smaller. The sequence has a distinct puppet style to it, which Dale Newton, sequence supervisor explains in an interview with fxguide, how they got to this decision in style:
“Newton: One of the things that got me excited about it in the early stages was the question of what it should look like. We knew it was going to be stylised, but not exactly how. The producers came along with the suggestion of creating something in the vein of Lotte Reiniger, an Austrian-born animator working in the 1930s and 50s doing silhouette style animations. What we got out of that was a certain simplicity and naivety. We knew it had to be told very graphically with bold silhouettes. But Ben and I were keen to make sure it wasn’t only that, that there was something else we could add.”1
Newton and Hibon (director) were inspired by oriental shadow puppetry, with the film “The Adventures of Prince Achmed” by Lotte Reiniger is particular. She made her film using black cut-out silhouettes shot on vertically stacked glass sheets2. They knew they wanted this 2D element but they didn’t want to use stop motion, they needed to keep the audience believing they were in another Harry Potter wizard world so they settled on using 3D, which I will go into in more depth in my next post about the technological side behind the animated sequence.
In the interview with Animation World Network, the director explains how they used the hands, head and bodies of the characters to express everything3. Taking inspiration from oriental shadow puppetry, they made the animation in the form of silhouettes but this brings the problem of not being able to express the characters emotions with ease due to the lack of facial expressions, which is why the body language is so important. The use of the lighting and eerie fog effects and shadows give a very magical and mysterious feel to the story which fits in well with the perfectly soft and detached narration by Hermione. All this gives a more believable feel to the audience which live action wouldn’t be able to do.
|1Ian Failes. (2010). Framestore: Deathly Hallows Animation. Available: http://www.fxguide.com/featured/framestore_deathly_hallows_animation/. Last accessed 5th may 2014|
2 Andrew Osmond (2010). Animated feature films. london: Palgrave Macmillan. Pg 9.
3 Bill Desowitz. (2010). Shadow Play with ‘Potter’’s Tale of Three Brothers . Available: http://www.awn.com/animationworld/shadow-play-potters-tale-three-brothers. Last accessed 5th may 2014.