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Harry Potter Hogwarts letters scene was completely practical effects

Harry Potter: Magical Movie Mode includes commentary from Harry Potter director Chris Columbus, during which he revealed how the letters scene happened

harry potter letter

There are plenty of magical moments in the Harry Potter movies — after all, most of the Harry Potter characters are wizards. But there’s one memorable scene in the first film where the magic is completely organic: that is, only practical effects were used.

In a featurette for the family movie, which was re-released along with director Chris Columbus’ commentary along with other special features entitled ‘Harry Potter: Magical Movie Mode.’ As part of his commentary, he broke down the letters scene from the kids movie. “The mail delivery scene here was one of my favourite sequences in the film,” he said. “Why? because we didn’t resort to digital effects. When the owes arrive at Privet Drive, there were we probably had four or five real owls. And we supplemented the scene by adding all of these digital owls. But every shot of the letters that arrived through the fireplace was done practically.”

He continued, “We had our special effects supervisor John Richardson come up with this method of using an air shaft to blow hundreds of letters through the fireplace. And it worked beautifully.”

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (Sorcerer’s Stone in the US) was released in November 2001, and went on to gross $974.8 million at the global box office. At the time, it was the country’s second highest-grossing movie ever, only beaten by drama movie Titanic. The film held that position for seven years before it was toppled by the musical Mamma Mia.

The fantasy movie franchise spawned seven sequels over the years, ending with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 in 2011. From 2016, spin-off movies centred around a young Albus Dumbledore and magizoologist Newt Scamander have been released in theatres, with their latest movie, The Secrets of Dumbledore, being released in April 2022.