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Behind the scenes: Hogsmeade

Described by J.K. Rowling in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban as looking ‘like a Christmas card’, dressing the set for Hogsmeade required a festive flare and a whole lot of fake snow.

A snowy Hogsmeade from afar.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Extracted from Harry Potter: Magical Places from the Films by Jody Revenson
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The village of Hogsmeade is the first ‘field trip’ allowed away from Hogwarts, and only third-year and older students can go. Harry Potter and his fellow third-years visit it for the first time in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, although Harry has to use a secret tunnel to Honeydukes to get there.

Stuart Craig envisaged the village of Hogsmeade as being firmly rooted in the Scottish Highlands. ‘Hogsmeade is the country version of Diagon Alley. It’s just off the perimeter road around Hogwarts. For Hogsmeade, we did need to have a distinctive theme and feel, so we said that it’s above the snow line. That gave it a remote feeling. Every time we see Hogsmeade it is covered in snow.’ Craig’s artistic decision brought to cinematic life the description that author J.K. Rowling wrote in Prisoner of Azkaban: ‘Hogsmeade looked like a Christmas card.’

A sketch of Hogsmeade
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Hogsmeade was actually a redress of the Diagon Alley set. The buildings of Hogsmeade were covered in the granite found in the Scottish mountains, and they displayed the characteristics of seventeenth-century Scottish architecture: steeply pitched roofs bordered by gables called ‘crow steps’; tiny dormer windows; and tall, skinny chimneys. Though covered in swirling snow, the village has a friendly atmosphere. ‘I think it is jolly,’ says Craig. ‘It’s cold and rugged on the outside, but every shop window is warm and inviting and full of magical things, like Butterbeer and great sweets.’

As the high-altitude double of Diagon Alley, there are little to no right angles to the buildings; they have a similar lean. Assistant art director Gary Tomkins recalls, ‘We had endless discussions about how a door frame would shift or a window would tilt. Every building was twisted, skewed, or bent, with every one of them leaning in a different way to its building next door. There wasn’t a vertical wall in sight!’

The snow that covers the Hogsmeade buildings and streets consists of dendritic salt. ‘The salt that you put on your fish and chips is quite dry and fine,’ says Tomkins. ‘Dendritic salt clumps like snow when you put it on. It even squeaks like freshly fallen snow when you step on it.’

Concept illustration of a snowy Hogsmeade, ad the exterior of the Three Broomsticks
© JKR/Pottermore Ltd. ™ Warner Bros.

In fact, this same ‘snow’ fell on a scale model of the village, used in quick establishing or long shots, shaken over the Hogsmeade model from a cherry picker. The model filled out the rest of the village that had not been rendered in full-scale buildings, and it is as detailed as the studio set. Working brass-etched lanterns are placed outside the buildings to light up the street. Inside, the shops are lit by miniscule electric bulbs, which also illuminate the shop windows, filled to the top with goods.

There are jars of sweets in Honeydukes, and cauldrons piled up outside the Hogsmeade branch of Potage’s Cauldron Shop. Scrivenshaft’s Quill Shop features incredibly tiny quills in its windows, and small brooms were produced for Spintwitches sporting goods store. ‘You’d think we could use doll’s house items,’ says Tomkins, ‘but there isn’t much you can find in owl cages or cauldrons. We made 90 per cent of what’s in the storefronts.’

Tomkins would set up a display of props, such as witches’ hats or owl cages, take photographs, reproduce these at a smaller percentage, and paste the photo on cardstock, which was then placed inside the tiny bow windows. Tomkins also ‘populated’ the Hogsmeade street. ‘We made up two sticks with little feet to scale,’ he explains, ‘and then “walked” footprints through the snow coming out of some of the doors and going up the street. We even made up some dog footprints to appear as if someone walked a dog through the village!’

Harry Potter: Magical Places book cover

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