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The Next Best Thing to Being There
on December 5, 2012
While the Harry Potter phenomenon at large is a property with almost an unlimited reach, the audience for a pricy collector set like this can only be a limited one. But when I set my eyes on it I knew I was one of those people. While not a devotee of the books, as a filmmaker I recognize the incredible scope of the work that went into each film. I bought the Harry Potter Page to Screen book immediately upon its release, figuring anything that weighed in at 531 pages would be comprehensive enough for my tastes. But to condense a decade worth of filmmaking into one tome risks merely skimming the surface of topics like costuming, props, and set design. I believe that the limited-run Collector's Edition expands upon these topics admirably (if not exactly comprehensively).
At nearly 40 pounds, the set arrived nestled in a series of cardboard boxes and was an epic unveiling, packed between black molded polystyrene bumpers like a hefty computer printer. The replica Monster Book of Monsters was the first out of the box, and is a nice collector-quality piece which seems to be made of heavy resin and fake fur, with well-done hand painted details. The numerous, tiny eyes are particularly good. The art portfolio is an incredibly sturdy piece, cloth-bound and gilded. The art they chose to print are not the most striking items seen in the vast catalog of production design generated for the film but are nice standalone items, representing a good range of subjects suitable for display, and are printed on a heavy, matte stock.
Each of the books gets a different "textbook-style" treatment in line with the series design, with attractive bindings and great quality paper and printing. Tons of spot varnish and classy presentation throughout -- though made in China like most print work these days. Most of them weigh in at 130 pages or so, with some as many as 150 pages in length. Of particular beauty is the Guide to the Graphic Arts Department, which showcases all of the incredible paper ephemera created for the series.
Is it worth the cost? When my wife heard the price, she nearly did a petrificus totalus. This is not for everyone. A wealthy Potter Completist will find an excuse to purchase it, but I would only recommend the set if you both are a Potter Fan AND a film design fan. If you are in the filmmaking and production design business, this is quite possibly a required set, as it must closely approximate being in proximity to the actual art department itself.
While most of the world is content seeing the final film product, those interested in the accumulation of detail and design that goes into the film's environments will not be disappointed by the wealth of concept work and photography that chronicles the series stunning and spot-on design work. Production designer Stuart Craig and company crafted a vast, beautiful visual world for these films, and it takes a package like this to do it justice.