A new chapter in the wizarding world of Harry Potter is here, with Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore arriving in UK cinemas on April 8, and US cinemas a week later. The incredible world-building of the fantasy movie series is, in part, down to the amazing work of graphic design studio MinaLima, which is headed by the talented duo Miraphora Mina and Eduardo Lima.
MinaLima have worked on all the Harry Potter movies, and all the Fantastic Beasts movies to date. Their work involves creating the sets, props, and all the little details that make the world of Harry Potter so magical. They also have a new exhibition linked to Fantastic Beasts 3 and the work they’ve done in the past 20 years for the franchise.
We spoke to Miraphora Mina and Eduardo Lima recently about how they established the new series of Fantastic Beasts movies to be connected yet independent to Harry Potter, the challenges of the work they do, and what the future holds for the MinaLima design studio.
The Digital Fix: Eduardo, Mira, lovely to meet you both. Thank you for taking the time to talk today. Eduardo, I’ll go to you first and I’d love to know more about the creative process behind your new exhibition, which ties to the Fantastic Beasts films?
Eduardo Lima: The House of MinaLima is kind of our little immersive experience, where you can basically get inside our head in that house. So, it’s colourful, full of layers. With the exhibition, we collated the 12 images that are very strong in Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore, but we were also able to bring in some other designs we did for the previous two films. I think there’s a really nice, compelling story with the designs we picked.
Miraphora Mina: Yeah, it still sits within the context of a wizarding world, but that’s just the exhibition. The idea of the House of MinaLima is that it feels like a home, with the home being your head. As soon as you step across the threshold, you feel a sense of nostalgia and comfort, of being with like-minded thinkers.
EL: It’s also really nice to see the other artwork we did for Harry Potter too, on the same wall. You can see some of the connections, and Easter eggs that one graphic offers to another. It’s nice to see fans come and find those Easter eggs and make those associations.
TDF: Absolutely! Mira, I wondered, with a big IP like Harry Potter, how much creative freedom do artists like yourselves have when it comes to such a hugely successful franchise?
MM: Extraordinarily, a lot! That’s mainly down to the hugeness of film production, and the amount of requirements of details; across visual effects, costume, prop manufacturing, directing, and acting. All of those elements need so much care and attention, so there’s never really a necessity for the director, or writer, or producer to be like ‘it absolutely has to be like this’.
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And that’s kind of how it’s evolved since the early Harry Potter films. Remember, back then, there was no science behind how we should find the solutions. So everyone was given their time and authority to imagine their own little part of this world. Slowly, you build up this confidence with the people you’re working with to be the person that makes that decision.
We’ve been quite fortunate to be given that room and responsibility to imagine. Obviously, everything does need approval, and if there are opinions from the director or head writer, then that would be final. But on the whole we’ve been able to make our mark.
EL: Obviously it’s all about the story too, how Harry is seeing everything for the first time. And now with Newt too, it’s all through his eyes. So we need to make sure we introduce all these new worlds in the right way. This is our 22nd year working on Harry Potter now, and in the beginning we didn’t know we were establishing this graphic language for the wizarding world, but I think people recognise that now.
TDF: Eduardo you kind of mentioned it there, but how did you guys manage the balance between creating something new for the Fantastic Beasts movies, while maintaining the legacy of what came before?
EL: I think because of Harry Potter having the books, if we were stuck, we kind of had those to go back to for more information. With Fantastic Beasts we had some more freedom in this sense, but also, we always wanted to make sure there are some connections to Harry Potter. We did that with The Daily Prophet, with the books Newt has in his case. I think fans always like to look for that.
I think in the first Fantastic Beasts movie we made a reference to Harry’s grandfather opening his hair potion business in this state, and the fans really liked that. So if we can punctuate Fantastic Beasts with Harry as much as we can, we like to do that.
TDF: Fans love an Easter egg, you’re right! I wondered as well, your work on these projects is so diverse, so Mira what are the main challenges of dealing with something bigger like settings, and then working on smaller, more intricate pieces too?
MM: The role of a graphics designer in film is quite diverse. It could be something really small but super important, what we call a hero piece. Something so key, like a locket for example, but your work can also include the big stuff like a whole street or a whole city, that you’re not meant to notice.
More importantly, though, in that context, none of those pieces should ever look like they have been created by me or Eduardo, you know? They need to have their own standalone personality and identity, especially the hero props. So, if for example Dumbledore has a book in his possession for 200 years, that’s been handed down through generations, the audience needs to see the significance of this piece very quickly.
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We do that through finishing, choices of materials, and techniques, and the same applies to pieces being created from scratch. So, a Newt drawing needs to consider how Newt would mark the paper, and we need to understand how Snape would annotate the back of his book differently from someone else. Those are the key criteria we set ourselves all the time; those characters are with us all the time. We joke and call it method graphics!
TDF: You just touched on how long this work takes too, so Eduardo, I’m assuming some ideas are already swirling around for the next movie?
EL: We don’t actually know anything yet. We are celebrating this one for now, but we have been working in the wizarding world for 22 years now so hopefully, I’m sure there will be more projects in the future for us to work on.
MM: It’s great the level of diversity in the projects too. You know it started with books, and then movies, and theme parks. We keep being pulled into the rhythm of this that just keeps us, as a studio, connected to this world.
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EL: It’s funny, when we finished the last Harry Potter movie in 2010, we thought that was it! We said goodbye and thank you to everyone. But then six months later we got the call and we started working with Universal for the theme park in Orlando. And then, of course, Fantastic Beasts came along. Then we have House of MinaLima, and in October we have a book called The Magic of MinaLima which will celebrate 20 years of working on Harry Potter.
TDF: Well, it’s certainly kept you busy! Thank you so much for your time today!
Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore is in UK cinemas on April 8, and US cinemas a week later, on April 15. If you have already seen the new adventure movie, you may be interested in reading our spoiler-filled ending explained guide.