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  Harry Potter DVD extras reviewed
Updated 11 October 2004, 19.19
The Knight Bus is used a lot on the DVD
Lizo Mzimba is the first person to get to check out all the special features on the DVD of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

The third film in the series has the biggest array of extras seen so far on a Harry Potter DVD.

Using an on-screen Marauder's Map, it allows you to explore different features in four basic areas.

  • Divination Class
  • The Great Hall
  • Hogwarts Grounds
  • Defense Against the Dark Arts

(It's worth mentioning that the American vocabulary is used even in this British version. So it's Defense with an 'S'. The first movie is referred to as Sorcerer's Stone, rather than Philosopher's Stone. And the voice over is by Jim Dale who voices the American Harry Potter books, although Dale is, of course, a British actor.)

A fifth section is a 360 degree tour of Honeydukes.

Most fans will head straight for the Divination Class area, as this contains interviews with key cast and crew, as well as scenes that weren't included in the original film.

As always you can select a scene
As always you can select a scene
The most fascinating feature here is Creating The Vision which has JK Rowling talking alongside the film's director Alfonso Cuaron, as well as contributions from the likes of Producer David Heyman, Steve Kloves who adapted the book for the screen and Production Designer Stuart Craig.

The ground of how the first three films have reached the screen is covered well. And there are a few gems of information for hardcore fans. Stuart Craig shows us a map of Hogwarts that J K Rowling drew for him when the first movie was being planned, showing how she sees the exact position of the castle, the forest, the Quidditch pitch, Hagrid's Hut etc. Alfonso again talks about how he planned a scene in a Hogwarts graveyard, but that JK Rowling asked him not to include it because there was a graveyard somewhere else in the castle that we'd find out more about later. And JK Rowling mentions for the first time that when she was a teenager, she had a nightmare about 'hooded, gliding figures' which were part inspiration for the Dementors.

It would have been great to have more detail on the scripting process. Several elements of the book didn't make their way into the film, it would have been good to find out how the decisions were made about what went in and what was thrown out. And when Alfonso talks about the graveyard, Potter fans would have loved to hear a little from JK Rowling herself about this mysterious cemetery.

There are actually five deleted scenes included here, some carrying the warning that you're about to view footage in which the effects were unfinished. Here are details of three. We'll have details of the remaining two soon.

The first is a short section of Harry on his way to The Leaky Cauldron, featuring the Knight Bus spinning around in a circle several times on the streets of London, while Harry clings on inside. The backgrounds haven't been added on some of the interior shots so we see blue screen instead of night-time London.

The second is an extended version of a shot that takes us from inside the castle, over the bridge and past Hagrid's Hut.

The third is the best. A scene inside the Great Hall with Harry, Ron and Hermione. Harry's two friends are discussing going into Hogsmeade.

And choose which language to watch it in
And choose which language to watch it in
The Great Hall scene has some great background action, with Hogwarts pupils opening various parcels of magic tricks. And in this scene, Ron also gives Harry his Pocket Sneakoscope, telling him he picked it up for him in Dervish and Banges.

More deleted scenes would have been welcomed by fans. Especially parts of the story which we know were filmed, but never made it into the final cut, like barking-mad Knight Sir Cadogan (played by Paul Whitehouse) who was all but cut out of the cinema release.

So much attention often goes on Dan, Emma and Rupert who play Harry, Hermione and Ron, that it's nice to see some interviews with other members of the young cast. All the interviews are done by British TV and radio presenter Johnny Vaughan along with the Shrunken Head from the Knight Bus - voiced by Lenny Henry.

So we hear not only from the main trio, but also from the actors who play the Weasley twins, Neville, Seamus, Malfoy, Crabbe and Goyle. There are additional adult interviews with the actors behind Professor Lupin and Sirius Black among others.

There are lots of interesting tidbits. Dan talks about the weirdest experiences he's had - including marriage proposals! The Phelps twins, Matt Lewis and Devon Murray talk about how they originally got their parts. We learn that David Thewlis (Lupin) first read Harry Potter when he was being considered for the part of Quirrell in the first film. And for fans who have a big interest in the technical side of film, there are some insights from the Director of Photography about how he lit scenes like the inside of The Shrieking Shack.

The interruptions from the Shrunken Head get rather annoying after a while. And Seamus's name is misspelled as Finnegan, instead of Finnigan.

Aunt Marge is on the extras disc
Aunt Marge is on the extras disc
The other main point of interest for fans will be this look at how some of the film's biggest scenes made it onto the screen. For the first time, we get to see some of the movie's special effects. And follow the creation of creatures like Buckbeak the Hippogriff and the Dementors.

Early concept drawings and test footage of puppet controlled Dementors are given a public airing for the first time. We see how a mechanical Buckbeak was blended imperceptibly with one created purely in a computer. And we get to appreciate what the cast and crew had to go through when they were filming in Scotland, when it rained every day they were there.

More detail on scenes like where Harry and Buckbeak soar over Hogwarts would have been welcome. Along with a demonstration on how scenes filmed in Scotland were combined with scenes shot in the studio.

There is a small feature where we get to meet the animal trainers. The game Catch Scabbers. An interactive challenge where we get a small glimpse of Sir Cadogan, and a memory challenge.

There's lots of fabulous content for Potter fans of all ages here with extensive interviews, as well as games and challenges. Much of the content we've heard before, but there's more than enough new material and insights to keep fans going. The Marauder's Map theme works well, and makes it easy for users to move around the different areas.

Hearing from JK Rowling is, as usual, a welcome part of the disc. As the creator of Harry Potter, her insights are great to hear. Seeing how some of the special effects are put together is also fascinating. Overall, it's a DVD that should satisfy fans of the film and the books.

It would have been amazing to have a commentary on the film from Alfonso Cuaron, David Heyman and J K Rowling. And it also would have been wonderful to have some kind of sneak preview from Goblet of Fire - footage would have been difficult, but perhaps a picture of the odd prop, The Goblet itself, a Dragon's Claw or even something minor like some Gillyweed or a Golden Egg.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is out on DVD on November 19th.

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Past StoriesBORDER=0
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