The Bonus Discs:
Arguably the most successful film franchise in history, the Harry Potter series spanned eight movies from 2001 to 2011. These earned billions worldwide and cemented the character in motion picture lore.
Now that all eight movies are out and the franchise has concluded, Warner Bros. has wrapped a big bow on Potter with an enormous Blu-ray boxed set called the “Harry Potter Wizard’s Collection”. This set includes 31 discs to present all eight films and copious bonus materials.
For full information on the individual movies, please consult my separate reviews of 2001’s Sorcerer’s Stone, 2002’s Chamber of Secrets, 2004’s Prisoner of Azkaban, 2005’s Goblet of Fire, 2007’s Order of the Phoenix, 2009’s Half-Blood Prince, 2010’s Deathly Hallows – Part 1 and 2011’s Deathly Hallows – Part 2.
Please note that the picture and sound grades found at the top of this article represent an average for the eight movies – sort of. The linked reviews discuss the “Ultimate Editions” of the Potter films for the first six – WB never released individual Ultimate Editions for the last two films, so those links go to the standard two-disc Blu-rays for both Deathly Hallows movies.
While I reviewed the UEs for the first six films, I was unable to check out Blu-ray versions of Stone and Chamber; I received DVD copies of those. For picture/audio quality ratings, I had to refer back to my Blu-ray reviews of Sorcerer’s Stone and Chamber of Secrets. Please check out the full reviews to get the details.
Though this article covers the boxed set as a whole, I want to concentrate mainly on the package’s three exclusive discs. Two of those offer the platters that would’ve come to us as the Ultimate Editions for the last two films, while the third – simply called “Bonus Disc” – offers additional materials.
A review that discusses all of the various supplements in the entire box would be about 80 kajillion words long and mostly regurgitate information provided elsewhere. If you want to revisit previously-released extras, please consult the UE reviews, though these discs do include some old material as well; I’ll note “Wizard’s Collection” exclusives for the two Deathly Hallows-specific discs in red print. (Because all of the “Bonus Disc” materials are exclusive, I won’t bother to bold those in red.)
So here’s what we find on the three “new” discs – and elsewhere in the enormous “Wizard’s Collection” box:
HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS – PART 1:
Creating the Magical World of Harry Potter Part 6: Magical Effects runs 47 minutes, 28 seconds and features a conversation between author JK Rowling and screenwriter Steve Kloves. They discuss aspects of the novels, their adaptation to the screen, and their thoughts about character/story elements.
Without question, “Story” provides the most simple of the eight “Creating” documentaries, as none of the others focus solely on two participants. That makes perfect sense, though, as Rowling and Kloves were the proprietors of the text, and it’s a lot of fun to watch the two of them reminisce and discuss their collaboration. Yeah, we get stuck with too much praise and happy talk, but we still learn quite a bit in this enjoyable chat.
Hosted by Ben Shephard, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1: Behind the Magic lasts 44 minutes, nine seconds and offers remarks from producers David Barron and David Heyman, director David Yates, visual effects supervisor Tim Burke, 2nd unit director Steven Woolfenden, supervising modeler Pierre Bohanna, stunt coordinator Greg Powell, makeup effects designer Nick Dudman, and actors Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Domhnall Gleeson, Mark Williams, Julie Walters, Evanna Lynch, Bill Nighy, Jason Isaacs, Tom Felton, Sophie Thompson, David O’Hara, Steffan Rhodri, and Imelda Staunton. The program gives us a story recap and also looks at the choice to split into two movies, various effects, cast and performances, action and stunts, costumes, characters, sets, locations and production design, and some other areas.
No one would ever accuse the various “Magic” documentaries of being hard-hitting, as they tend toward the fluffy, promotional side of the street. That said, they also manage to produce quite a lot of good info, and they move at a brisk, breezy pace. This becomes another likable, engaging program.
10 new featurettes follow. These include “Harry Potter: On the Road” (19:37), “The Return of the Order” (5:35), “Scabior and Greyback” (4:10), “Dobby’s Farewell” (4:28), “The Look of Bill Weasley” (3:41), “The Weasleys” (3:33), “The State of Evil” (9:58), “The New Guys” (7:06), “One Book, Two Movies” (4:38) and “The Wizarding Prop Shop” (5:28). Across these, we hear from Heyman, Watson, Grint, Radcliffe, Barron, Walters, Yates, Lynch, Powell, Isaacs, Domhnall Gleeson, Felton, Nighy, Bohanna, set decorator Stephenie McMillan, production designer Stuart Craig, location manager Sue Quinn, special effects supervisor John Richardson, costume designer Jany Temime, and actors Bonnie Wright, Rhys Ifans, Brendan Gleeson, David Thewlis, Natalia Tena, George Harris, Andy Linden, Nick Moran, Dave Legeno, Toby Jones, Oliver and James Phelps, Ralph Fiennes, Helen McCrory, Helena Bonham Carter, and Clemence Poesy.
The pieces cover sets and locations, various effects, production design and costumes, cast and characters, props and splitting the book into two movies. These resemble the “Focus Points” found on the original Blu-ray and contribute a lot of good info. They can be a little random/scattered, but they’re still informative and worthwhile.
Also found on the 2011 Blu-ray, you’ll find a Sneak Peek for Deathly Hallows – Part 2. It goes for four minutes, 24 seconds and provides some shots from the film along with quick comments from some film participants. This was more interesting before Part 2 hit screens; now it’s pretty superfluous.
The next five featurettes repeat material from the original Blu-ray. These include “The Seven Harrys” (5:29), “On the Green with Rupert, Tom, Oliver and James” (13:38), “Dan, Rupert and Emma’s Running Competition” (2:45), “Godric’s Hollow/The Harry and Nagini Battle” (6:00), and “The Frozen Lake” (4:10). During these, we find notes from Radcliffe, Watson, Yates, Barron, Heyman, Grint, Felton, Craig, McMillan, Christopher, Powell, Linden, the Phelps brothers, Burke, visual effects producer Emma Norton, VFX previs animation supervisor Ferran Domenech, and actor Hazel Douglas.
The shows look at effects, performances, cast relationships and reflections, set design, stunts and action. They give us quick featurettes that flesh out a variety of topics. None excel, but all provide some nice info; I especially like the look at making “Seven Harrys”.
Eight Additional Scenes occupy a total of 10 minutes, 54 seconds. We see “The Burrows Shed” (0:41), “The Dursley House” (0:52), “Dudley and Harry” (2:05), “The Granger House” (0:27), “Ministry of Magic Lifts” (1:51), “Tent” (1:38), “Rabbit Chase in the Forest” (1:28), and “Ron and Hermione Skimming Stones” (1:52). The first few are the best; in particular, “Dursley” and “Dudley” flesh out the brief departure sequence we see at the start. Though I suspect the filmmakers thought those two would slow down the opening, I would’ve liked them to make the final cut; they add even more emotional resonance to the film.
“Shed” also helps set up the use of a radio that becomes prominent during the third act. As for the other scenes, they’re interesting but not especially important. “Chase” and “Stones” are good cuts, as they would’ve padded the movie’s less action-oriented moments and made the film drag a bit.
Four ads appear within Trailers. In addition to both the teaser and theatrical trailers for Part 1, we get “Behind the Soundtrack” (3:51) and a promo for The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (6:25). “Soundtrack” features Barron, Heyman, and composer Alexandre Desplat. We get a few notes about Desplat’s work on the film, but don’t expect much depth; the piece remains pretty shallow.
“Wizarding” takes us to the June 2010 grand opening of the new development at Universal Studios Florida. Various members of the cast attend and we learn more about the park’s design. This is pure promotion, though it’s good promotion; it makes me want to visit.
HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS – PART 2:
For the final installment in the documentary series, Creating the World of Harry Potter Part 8: Growing Up goes for 49 minutes, 19 seconds and features Radcliffe, Heyman, Watson, Grint, Felton, Barron, Williams, Rowling, Isaacs, James and Oliver Phelps, directors Chris Columbus, Alfonso Cuaron, Mike Newell and David Yates, head of education Janet Mills, and actors Richard Harris, Robbie Coltrane, Alfie Enoch, Alan Rickman, Matthew Lewis, Maggie Smith, Kenneth Branagh, Jessie Cave, and Katie Leung. As implied by the title, “Growing Up” traces the evolution of the series’ young actors, with an emphasis on the three leads.
The show can be a bit soppy at times, but it’s usually a warm, enjoyable look back at the ways the actors changed over the years. It’s nice to see the contrast via interviews from over 10 years, and we get a nice feel for the topic. This becomes a nostalgic, enjoyable piece.
Another continuation of a series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2: Behind the Magic occupies 47 minutes, one second. Again hosted by Ben Shephard, this one provides info from Radcliffe, Grint, Watson, Heyman, Carter, Yates, Dudman, Warwick Davis, Burke, Felton, Craig, Barron, Bohanna, Wright, Williams, Lewis, Walters, prop man Sidney Wilson and makeup designer Amanda Knight.
Expect this one to offer topics – and tone – similar to what we saw in the prior entry. We get a frothy mix of movie elements and see Shephard put into makeup to receive “battle wounds”. Like its predecessors, this show offers a fun and interesting overview of the production.
Next comes A Conversation with JK Rowling and Daniel Radcliffe. A longer version of a program on the original Part 2 release, this runs one hour, three minutes, 20 seconds as the author and the actor discuss his casting and her involvement in the process, other cast/character/story notions, changes from her books and aspects of the evolution of the novels, and living with the success of the Potter world.
Though both have a lot to say, Rowling dominates and gives us the most interesting parts of “Conversation”. She lets us take a nice glimpse behind the scenes to learn more about her writing processes and working through Potter areas. It’s fun to see arguably the two most important figures in the franchise chat for such a long period, and this ends up as an enjoyable piece.
(For the record, this version of “Conversation” adds about 10 minutes to the previously released cut. I didn’t compare them directly, so I can’t discuss specific additions, but I wanted to mention that it’s not radically longer.)
Hogwarts’ Last Stand fills 30 minutes, 27 seconds with notes from Yates, Barron, Heyman, Rowling, Watson, Powell, Woolfenden, Richardson, Lewis, Dudman, Felton, Fiennes, Coltrane, Craig, Isaacs, Radcliffe, James and Oliver Phelps, Grint, McMillan, Rickman, Wright, stunt performers Martin Wilde and Marc Mailley and actor Devon Murray. This program concentrates on all the elements required to bring together the movie’s climactic final third or so. It gets into a lot of good details and provides a satisfying examination of the specifics.
Note that the disc lists this as an “Extended Version” of the show. Unless I missed it somehow, it didn’t appear on the original Part 2 Blu-ray, so I don’t know where the non-extended cut appeared.
Two repeated featurettes follow. The Goblins of Gringotts goes for 10 minutes, 56 seconds and provides notes from Nick Dudman, Warwick Davis, and actors Rusty Goffe, Binde Johal, Lauren Barnard, Nathan Phillips, Nikki McInness, Samantha Davis, and Maxwell Laird. We learn about the goblin makeup and the actors who played them. This is a nice look at a side of the filmmaking process that usually doesn’t get much attention.
In the 22-minute, 31-second The Women of Harry Potter, we hear from Rowling, Wright, Watson, Walters, Carter, and actors Helen McCrory and Imelda Staunton. As expected, the program looks at the female characters and actors in the Potter series. Some of this seems self-congratulatory, but we still get decent information. Most of this comes from Rowling, who again provides nice insights into her creations.
A bunch of short-ish new to this release featurettes come next. These include “The Great Hall of Hogwarts” (4:13), “Ron and Hermione’s Kiss” (4:12), “That’s a Wrap, Harry” (4:55), “Neville’s Battle Makeup” (4:11), “The Gringotts Disguises” (4:07), and “Harry’s Death: The Courtyard Confrontation” (10:14). Across these, we find info from Radcliffe, Grint, Watson, Yates, Heyman, Barron, Felton, Lewis, James and Oliver Phelps, Wright, Craig, Lynch, Dudman, Carter, Fennes, Rowling, Lynch, Murray, Enoch, Coltrane, Isaacs, McCrory, 1st AD Jamie Christopher and actor David Bradley. These look at sets, the big smooching scene, feelings about finishing the series, makeup and costumes, and the final battle between Harry and Voldemort. These resemble earlier programs – and sometimes use the same footage – so don’t expect revelations. Still, they include some good new information and remain enjoyable.
Under Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: The Quest, we find an additional 16 short featurettes. Because my fingers are getting tired, I’m not going to type out the titles of all of them, but I will say they run a total of 53 minutes, 37 seconds of material. These feature Ifans, Watson, Radcliffe, Shephard, Bohanna, Fiennes, Newell, Isaacs, Yates, Rowling, Rickman, Barron, Grint, Heyman, Walters, Williams, James and Oliver Phelps, Enoch, Murray, Cave, Wright, Enoch, Lynch, Columbus, Toby Jones, Warwick Davis, animation supervisor Pablo Grillo, and actor Michael Gambon. The pieces cover a mix of topics like performances, characters and actors, props and effects, the premiere, Ron’s romances and aspects of his family, favorite dialogue, props and costumes, a tour of the main studio, and saying goodbye to the series. These pieces originally ran online as promotion, and they emit the fluffiness one expects of those origins. Nonetheless, they come with some interesting bits and are worth a look.
Eight Deleted Scenes fill a total of six minutes, 33 seconds. Given the length of these pieces, you can assume that they don’t add much, and that assumption would be correct. These are mostly just extensions of existing sequences, so don’t anticipate anything that really stands alone – or stands out. The extra bits are fun but fairly inconsequential.
The disc finishes with two trailers - one teaser, one theatrical – for Part 2 and also includes two Previews. One looks at the “Warner Bros. Studio Tour London” and the other delivers a promo for “Pottermore”.
We open with the one-hour, 26-minute, 54-second documentary When Harry Left Hogwarts. It delivers notes from Watson, Carter, Coltrane, Isaacs, Radcliffe, Heyman, Fiennes, Grint, Felton, Powell, Goffe, Johal, Gambon, Williams, Christopher, Yates, Bradley, Warwick Davis, Mailley, Walters, Richardson, Wilde, McCrory, head of publicity Vanessa Davies, plasterer John Lloyd, 2nd AD Michael Stevenson, runner Alfie Oldman, make-up effects Alexys Beccerra, DVD extras Rob Done, stunt double David Holmes, construction supervisor Stephen Challenor, senior effects technician Doug McCarthy, and actors Gary Oldman, Miriam Margolyes, Harrison Davis, and Emma Thompson.
“Hogwarts” gives us a wistful look at aspects of the final film’s production. It doesn’t try especially hard to give us the nuts and bolts – which are covered elsewhere – and instead attempts a more emotional take on the topic. We get to meet people usually not seen in “making of “pieces; some of the best moments involve Holmes, who got severely injured during a prior shoot. “Hogwarts” delivers a satisfying look back.
For a long compendium of movie snippets, we go to 50 Greatest Harry Potter Moments (Definitive Version). Narrated by Robbie Coltrane, this runs one hour, three minutes, 52 seconds as it shows a wide variety of film sequences – counting down to ultimately hit the alleged absolute best one - along with comments from Radcliffe, Grint, Watson, Rowling, Walters, Williams, Heyman, Isaacs, Yates, Felton, Lewis, Thewlis, James and Oliver Phelps, Barron, Burke, Fiennes, Wright, and actors Pam Ferris and Dawn French. Viewers may or may not agree with the rankings, but I think it’s a fun way to re-examine on the series, and the notes from cast/crew add introspection.
Four featurettes finish the set. Designing the World of Harry Potter lasts 23 minutes, 22 seconds and includes Craig, Newell, Heyman, Isaacs, James and Oliver Phelps, Cuaron, Columbus, Burke, McMillan, Radcliffe, Bohanna, Rickman, Barron, Warwick Davis, Felton, Temime, Yates, supervising art director Neil Lamont, conceptual artist Andrew Williamson, art director Gary Tomkins, VFX producer Theresa Corrao, VFX supervisor Jim Mitchell, graphics artist Miraphora Mina, and construction manager Paul Hayes. Here we get notes about various aspects of set, effects, prop and costume design. Of course, other programs have touched on these subjects, but this show delivers a nice overview that involves the whole franchise, not just one movie or another.
The next two pieces follow the same framework. We find Secrets Revealed! Quidditch (10:50) and Secrets Revealed! Hagrid (11:18). In these, we hear from Columbus, Radcliffe, Heyman, Rowling, Powell, Felton, Mitchell, Richardson, Newell, Burke, Yates, Woolfenden, Mailley, Grint, Coltrane, Dudman, Craig, VFX producer Rob Legato, STX supervisor Steve Hamilton, CG supervisors Doug Smythe and Kevin Sprout, stunt double Martin Bayfield, and cinematographer Roger Pratt. The featurettes give us details about various methods used to bring Quidditch matches to life and to make Coltrane appear to be much larger than he is. Both offer good information and move well.
Finally, we go to the 10-minute, 31-second The Harry Potters You Never Met. In this one, we hear from Yates, Mailley, Powell, Heyman, Holmes, Grint, Radcliffe, Felton, and stunt doubles Tolga Kenan, Jo Whitney, and Nick Chopping. “Met” looks at the various doubles for the main actors and their work in the films. It’s another nice look behind the scenes.
The “Wizard’s Collection” comes with a mix of non-disc-based elements as well. We find:
A Label Collection booklet with “prop labels created by the production for potions, wizarding products and more”;
A Catalogue of Artefacts 48-Page book “featuring the favorite props of the film’s graphic designers”;
A 22” by 26” Blueprint Poster of Hogwarts Castle;
Concept Art Prints;
A 24” by 36” Map of Hogwarts and the Areas That Surround It printed on fabric;
Five 5” by 7” Stuart Craig Sketch Prints;
A “wearable, high-quality prop replica” Horcrux Locket;
A “uniquely-numbered” 8” by 10” “inspired by a Hogwarts Express ticket”.
Given the $500 list price of this boxed set, WB didn’t send out a complete copy of it for review; I simply received the three discs detailed above. That meant I couldn’t inspect most of the package’s non-disc-based components, though WB did forward a few of them.
I got the “Label Collection” and the “Stuart Craig Sketch Prints”. Both are nice components, and I especially like the “Label Collection”. That booklet allows us to take a close-up look at prop details that otherwise would be tough to see.
While the individual films vary in quality, I do think the Harry Potter franchise works well overall. Unlike most movie series, the Potter flicks tend to improve as they go, and the whole package ties together nicely. As found in the “Harry Potter Wizard’s Collection”, the various Blu-rays provide generally strong picture and audio, and through this enormous set, we get tons and tons of good supplements.
In a vacuum, the “Wizard’s Collection” offers an awesome package. It gives us eight entertaining movies in high quality as well as all those bonus materials. If you’re a Potter fan who a) owns none of the films on Blu-ray and/or b) can afford this pricey release, it’s a great set to own.
However, if you love the Potter films enough that you’re willing to spend hundreds of dollars for this box, chances are good that you already own the individual releases, so you’d be forced to repurchase most or all of those. That leaves the “Wizard’s Collection” with an exceedingly limited potential audience: Potter megafans with ample funds who didn’t buy the prior Blu-rays. It’s a nice set – and I’ll dance a little jig if anyone buys one via our Amazon link, as that’d reward the site big-time – but I don’t think it’s a logical purchase for many folks.
Footnote: I hope that WB eventually releases individual “Ultimate Editions” for the two Deathly Hallows films. As it stands, the Potter diehards who dropped big bucks for the first six “Ultimate Edition” sets can’t finish their collections unless they drop hundreds more for the “Wizard’s Collection”. That’s not the way to reward a loyal fanbase, so I hope WB does the right thing and finishes the individual UE releases.