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HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN

Amazing Creatures & Magical Transformations
Like all of J.K. Rowling's beloved Harry Potter stories, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is inhabited by imaginative creatures and magical transformations. Introduced in this film are Buckbeak, the half-horse, half-eagle breed known as the Hippogriff; Professor Lupin's secret alter ego, a deadly werewolf; and the chillingly haunting Dementors, who guard Azkaban prison by preying on its captors' worst fears.

In addition, the film features the magical vehicle known as the Knight Bus, an otherworldly "expansion” of Harry Potter's obnoxious Aunt Marge, and the appearance of the squabbling pets Crookshanks, Hermione's cat, and Scabbers, Ron's rat.

Bringing Buckbeak to life required months of imagination, research and extensive preparation, beginning with the winged creature's skeletal design. "I didn't realize how difficult it was going to be to create Buckbeak,” Cuarón admits. "Once we worked out the physiology, the way his bones would actually move, we had to capture his personality, which is a mixture of regal elegance, particularly when he is flying, and the clumsy and greedy creature he becomes back on land.” 

Creature effects supervisor Nick Dudman spent nearly a year developing several "practical” Hippogriffs for the production, while visual effects supervisors Roger Guyett and Tim Burke were responsible for overseeing the creation of a computer-generated Buckbeak who could walk and fly. 

"Some of the effects Framestore CFC achieved with the Hippogriff have never been done before,” Guyett reports, "especially with the complexities of the feathers, which have to respond with each movement as if they were part of a real bird.”

Equally taxing to the filmmakers was the challenge of transforming mild-mannered Professor Lupin into a werewolf in a unique and inventive way. "There are so many werewolves in movie history, we were concerned with repeating something that had been seen before,” Cuarón says. "So, rather than go with a traditional hairy werewolf, we went with a hairless one.”

Like Buckbeak, the lupine creation is a combination of practical effects – done with actor David Thewlis to depict the initial stages of Lupin's transformation – and CGI shots, which show the werewolf in full motion. To ensure the collaboration between practical and computer effects would be fluid as possible, both teams had to determine how, and how quickly, the werewolf should move. "We asked ourselves what would happen when the werewolf walked on all fours instead of two legs,” Guyett recalls. "We needed to understand every detail of his frame and muscle tone.”

Vividly conveyed by Rowling in the novel and perhaps the scariest entities in the film, the ghoulish Dementors wreak havoc on Harry Potter when they descend upon Hogwarts, ostensibly to protect the students from escaped prisoner Sirius Black. These frightening otherworldly beings posed yet another visual challenge for the filmmakers. 

"Alfonso wanted the Dementors to have a completely different quality from the other mythical creatures in the story,” Heyman notes. "He began the design process by experimenting with slow motion movement. Then he played the slow motion in reverse, as if the Dementors were preceding a character into a room, rather than following.”

To achieve the abstract feel Cuarón wanted for the ethereal prison guards, the filmmakers worked with American puppeteer Basil Twist in a series of experiments with underwater puppets. "Basil came to London and we tested various Dementor forms in a huge water tank to get an idea of their movement,” Cuarón elaborates. "We shot these tests in slow motion, which was really beautiful, but this method was not practical to use for the film.”

"It was these early tests that provided the creative direction for the Dementors,” Burke adds. "Alfonso wanted to do something metaphysical, not ta

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