My favorite thing about that photo of Yates, taken as the sun was going down in Orlando at the end of a long day spent at The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter, is the way the silhouette behind him isn’t a backdrop. Those are the actual spires of Hogwarts, part of the incredibly effective illusion created when you’re actually there in person.
When you visit Islands of Adventure, the park is divided into different “worlds,” and it’s designed so that when you stand in each one, it’s all you can see, and you’re meant to be immersed in those worlds. The theme park aspects of the Los Angeles Universal park have always felt like an afterthought to me, wedged into the corners of a working studio property, but the Orlando park is a proper theme park, and you can tell it has been carefully designed and executed to give guests a very particular experience.
With The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter, they’ve built it so that when you walk into Hogsmeade, it immediately feels like you’ve stepped into the world of the movies, and the effect is very impressive. There are familiar shops and restaurants all around you, and you can eat at The Leaky Cauldron or go shopping at Mr. Olivander’s Wand Shop as you work your way past the stands selling Butterbeer or the twin dragon roller coasters, Hogwarts stands above all of it, a fantastic example of real-life forced perspective in environmental design.
As I sat down to talk to Yates, we had a couple of minutes for the cameramen to adjust a few things in response to the light that was quickly disappearing, and we chatted about “The Stand” and his brief involvement in the project. He talked about how much he loves the book, and how tempted he was by the project. He and Steve Kloves, the screenwriter who was responsible for most of the “Potter” series, really wrestled with the decision about whether or not to make the film, but it came down to a simple matter of not feeling like they ever fully cracked the idea of how to pull off something that big in either one or two films.
I think Yates did tremendous work on his Potter films, and I think he got better as a director from film to film, growing in confidence and really nailing down a style that made it possible for the films to go out on a high note. It was great to speak to him about the series, just as the long day of interviews was wrapping up.
“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2” is in stores now on DVD and Blu-ray.