Creating the set for Budleigh Babberton, home to Horace Slughorn, brought with it the challenge of transforming an overstuffed armchair into a human being.

Horace Slughorn transfigures back from an armchair into a human
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Extracted from Harry Potter: Magical Places from the Films by Jody Revenson
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Professor Dumbledore brings Harry Potter to Budleigh Babberton at the beginning of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009), where Horace Slughorn, the former Hogwarts Potions professor, is hiding in a Muggle’s house to avoid being discovered by the Dark forces. Whilst not strictly a ‘wizarding home,’ the measures that Slughorn has taken to hide himself further, assuming the form of a lilac-striped armchair, are well beyond the means of standard Muggle security! When Dumbledore pokes the chair with his wand, it transforms back into the professor, played by Jim Broadbent. For the design team, the first challenge was finding a fabric that could serve as both upholstery and pyjamas.

An illustration of Slughorn in his pyjamas.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

‘We looked for material that could serve as clothing first,’ explains costume director Jany Temime. ‘And when we found it, enough was purchased to create the pyjamas and cover the chair. I also found some cord that could be used as clasps for the jacket top and piping for the chair.’ Special Effects Supervisor Tim Burke then took over. ‘We talked it through with David Yates, and realised that our approach should be to have Jim Broadbent play an armchair. A rig was created, sort of like a seesaw, that he could sit on in an armchair-like position and then allow him to rise up and deliver his performance, which is him coming out of an armchair.’ At the correct moment in the scene, the rig was raised and lifted the actor, who then only needed to ‘shake’ himself out. Part of the transformation from chair into pyjamas was also animated digitally. Stephenie McMillan took her cue from Slughorn’s pyjamas to create a complimentary palette for the room.

When Harry and Dumbledore arrive, the house is in a state of ruin, which is soon magically restored. To achieve this, visual effects first scanned the living room with everything in its proper place, and after a redress in which the furniture was damaged and the decorations cluttered, they scanned the room again. The scene was then shot in a mostly empty room, with only the actors Daniel Radcliffe (Harry), Michael Gambon (Dumbledore), and Jim Broadbent and a few pieces of furniture. The visual effects team then digitally animated each scanned prop to transform from wrecked to replaced as if on command, and they composited these animations with the live-action take.

Harry Potter: Magical Places book cover

Extracted from
‘Harry Potter: Magical Places from the films'