Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire has some of the greatest effects in the entire fantasy movie franchise. The Triwizard Tournament features a dazzling array of effects, not least with the dragon, the terrifying Hungarian Horntail, which, it turns out, was made to scale.
For the creature’s introduction in the Harry Potter movie, filmmakers wanted something tangible to really induce some fear into viewers (and make it easier for the actors to react). “The production wanted a lightweight life-size dragon head to run about on set with,” Nick Dudman, creature effects designer, told Monster Legacy. “Once we had that head and eight feet of the neck, we suggested that we could sculpt the rest very quickly, keeping it very basic. We used that for wide shots of the dragon in its cage.”
The Horntail’s head was built on a skeleton leftover from bits of Aragog and the Basilisk, using computerised technology to control the mouth. The skull was made of fibreglass, fire-resistant material was used all around it to allow the Horntail to breathe flames through a pair of jets.
The result is a remarkably lifelike flying lizard that Harry, Cedric, and the other champions have to get past in the first round of the Triwizard Tournament. Though it’s only on-screen for a short time, the model serves its purpose.
There was a suggestion from Christopher Columbus that Goblet of Fire become two films as the franchise was being developed, but that didn’t happen. Instead, we got one of the more epic Harry Potter instalments, with a bonafide dragon and all!
Check out our guide to Fantastic Beasts 4 if you’d like to ponder the future of witchcraft and wizardry.