It’s difficult for Jody Revenson to select her favorite beasts from the world of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. That’s because Revenson is one of the few – outside of perhaps Rowling herself – who is paid to know every twist, turn, first appearance, second appearance, elbow shape and snout color for every beast that has ever appeared in the Harry Potter movie series. The Northwestern University drama grad is an author, and her new book “Harry Potter: The Creature Vault,” releases Tuesday.
It’s a 208-page, behind-the-scenes look at the making and movie concepting of the creatures and plants from the Potterverse, including detailed histories on the making of everyone from Grawp (If you remember, he’s Hagrid’s half-brother as first seen in “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix) to Pidmidgeon (if you’re really good at this, you’ll know that Ron Weasley’s diminutive pet owl appeared in “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.”)
“I consider myself matriculating at Hogwarts,” says Revenson, who has an almost encyclopedic knowledge of each book, and each story or article published about every person who worked on set for each movie. She specializes in these sorts of behind-the-scenes books and has given the same treatment to Captain Jack Sparrow before working on Potter for nearly ten years now. “I’ve been doing this for a very long time. I’ve seen every photo ever taken from behind the scenes and behind the sets and I’ve seen the movies a zillion times because I’m a fan. You can’t complain to say ‘oh, I have to watch Harry Potter again.'”
The book is also a nice introduction to the much-anticipated 2016 release of J. K. Rowling’s “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” which is set in the Potterverse but is (obviously) about the beasts.
When it comes to bringing these creatures to life, Revenson says the overwhelming directive was to make them lifelike. They had to make sense even though they aren’t real. “Everything was ‘what can we do to make this completely logical and credible?'” says Revenson, who also graduated from NU with Julia Louis-Dreyfus. “It’s so easy for companies to say, ‘lets go with CGI.’ But these are such talented people. Would you like to make a dragon? Yeah! They can.”
The beasts include the “real” ones too, and there are extensive pages on the rats, cats, toads and owls. Of those, Revenson much prefers the flying creatures. “The buck beak and the thestral,” to be specific. “Not only the gorgeous look of them but the thought they put into making a half bird half horse. It’s so completely logical you think alright, I’ll be able to see these animals. It’s possible to see a hippogriff flying by.”
She’s also full of movie tidbits. Don’t go against her in a Harry Potter trivia game. “When Aragog died, all the crew wore black arm bands during his funeral service.”
It took her two months to compile the information in the book, and she’s on tap to write two more similar books – all sanctioned by Warner Bros. films.
She’s also a particular bird herself. Revenson won’t fly, so she travels by Amtrak from New York City to Los Angeles as she researches her books. As such, she often stops in Chicago, where she knows exactly what to do with her train break.
“Every time I stop in Chicago, I get off, there’s a ten minute walk to the Art Institute, I hit up my favorite painting, get a calzone, walk by the river and then get back on the train,” she says. “My favorite is Dante Gabrielle Rossetti. I love pre-Raphaelite art and I think they have a great collect with that. I like to walk to the Daley center and see the Picasso. What’s so great is you go to your favorite places and you turn the corner and there’s something new that’s very cool.”
Elsewhere in the Potterverse, fans were happy to see that Daniel Radcliffe was apparently on Reddit, answering fan questions. Always a good sport, he even complimented a user who created a meme making fun of him. He also explained how he perfected his American accent. It was the toys all along!
And, yeah, you know, in England now when we grow up, there we are, so suffused by American culture, from you know, shows like FRIENDS and FRASIER to the Toy Story movies which I saw when I was obviously very young – I think I’ve been practicing my American accent – I used to be really into WWF and I would play with wrestling action figures and give them American accents, so I think I’ve been practicing since I was about 9.