Alan Gilmore Talks Wizarding World of Harry Potter Art Design


Alan Gilmore discusses the process of designing for the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood.

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Alan Gilmore is famous for his work as Art Director on the Harry Potter series. Working his way up through the ranks from assistant to directing by Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, his other credits range from The Bourne Ultimatum to X-Men: First Class. But since The Wizarding World was imagined as a theme park in real life, he’s been focusing on bringing that world to us Muggles all over the world. He did all the art design on both the Orlando theme park that opened in 2010, and also the Osaka counterpart on the other side of the world.

With the latest iteration opening in California in a few week’s time, Gilmore recently started sitting down for interviews to discuss the process of creating the Potterverse for the real world consumer. No surprise that J.K. Rowling is also heavily involved. According to him she had a hand in all three park designs, and was instrumental in writing the story of the “Forbidden Journey” that park goers take as they move through the sets.

She vets every detail. Any changes she helps us create. So when we grow a store or maybe shrink a shop or create a new place or street, she’s actually a part of that design. So Stuart Craig works directly with her; I work directly with him. It’s a bit of a chain. We all work together. But obviously her world is so huge now – we can’t pull her aside for everything and say, “Hey, what do you think of this?” So we have a structure – like a family structure.

On creating Hogsmede in Hollywood:

I love the set in Los Angeles because the weather here really works with it. On cloudy mornings you get mist – you really feel like you’re in Scotland. I feel very at home. I’ve felt more at home here in California than I felt in Florida.

People here love movies. It’s where movies are made. And it’s bringing one of the biggest movie stories ever home to where it started. Its home is Scotland, but there’s always a link – there’s a strong link to here. It’s very important for us that we put as much effort into this as we could to make it as best as it can be. Each Wizarding World has its own flavor in a way. None is better than the other. Each has its own characteristics, which is very important.

As for the technology that makes the park and the magic go, Gilmore is upfront that this is a world created by analog, not digital. “All the technology in the Wizarding World is mechanical. There’s no electricity here – just gas and oil. Any machines are mechanical, but they’re enchanted. There’s no power system really.”

Next: Ranking Every Death in the Harry Potter Series

The new Wizarding World of Harry Potter opens to the public April 7th, 2016. The rides are currently being tested by lucky selected park goers, so if you’re visiting Universal Hollywood in the next few weeks, you might get a chance to ride it.