How They Made Hagrid Look So Big In Harry Potter

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Summary

  • The VFX team for Harry Potter used a combination of practical effects and digital techniques to make Hagrid look larger than life. This included creating different-sized sets and using forced perspective techniques.
  • Robbie Coltrane’s portrayal of Hagrid captured the character’s idiosyncrasies and sensitive heart, making him the perfect choice for the role.
  • The use of practical effects in the Harry Potter movies helped to create a realistic and immersive magical world, with iconic exterior shots of Hogwarts and the portrayal of various magical creatures. Other movies, such as Lord of the Rings and Avengers: Infinity War, have also utilized similar effects to make characters appear bigger or smaller.


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Harry Potter‘s VFX team tried out many exciting techniques to make Hagrid look almost twice as large as a regular-size human, but how did they make Hagrid so big? Rubeus Hagrid is around eight feet tall, considerably smaller than the 12-foot half-giant described in the books, yet the adaptation’s VFX crew nailed the task of making him look too big for his surroundings, especially because he is always walking around with much smaller students. The character was the first of many examples that succeeded in bringing Harry Potter‘s magical world-building to the screen, giving life to the absurdities that make the reality of the wizarding franchise so unique.

Hagrid is one of Harry’s most valuable allies in the books, and there couldn’t be a good movie adaptation without him. Robbie Coltrane was cast in the role, beating out Robin Williams, who almost played Hagrid in the Harry Potter movies, and he proved to be the perfect choice, capturing all the idiosyncrasies of the half-giant, half-human character and his sensitive heart. Most importantly, Coltrane quickly adapted to Hagrid’s clumsiness, which only makes the VFX work around the character all the more effective. However, as the actor is just slightly over six feet tall, how did they make Hagrid so big?

Related: What Happened To Hagrid After Harry Potter Ended


Making Hagrid Look Big Was A Practical Effect

Hagrid and Harry in the woods in Harry Potter

Making Hagrid look big seemed a huge challenge for original Harry Potter movie director Chris Columbus. The first idea was to digitally insert Robbie Coltrane in every shot that Hagrid is in, but that turned out to be unfeasible due to the expense at the time. Resorting to in-camera practical effects was the most cost-effective option. Throughout the movies, many practical techniques were introduced and enhanced by different set departments. For example, the production design team created two versions of Hagrid’s hut at Hogwarts in Harry Potter, one bigger so that regular-size characters would look small, and another smaller so that Coltrane would look enormous.

Additionally, the Harry Potter cinematography team used forced perspective, cleverly positioning Hagrid closer to the camera to make him look bigger. However, the VFX team often superimposed Coltrane’s body into scenes with the help of a green screen to make Hagrid look larger than the characters next to him. For Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Columbus hired Martin Bayfield, a 6’10” former rugby player as the perfect body double for Hagrid. Through enhanced heels, layers of a fatsuit, and the help of animatronics, Bayfield stood in as Hagrid for far-away shots and full-body appearances where viewers could only see the character’s back.

Harry Potter Was Full Of Practical Effects

Harry Potter and the Basilisk in the Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Harry Potter‘s use of practical effects made the magical world look as real as it could. Almost all the iconic exterior shots from Hogwarts were possible because of giant miniatures. Throughout eight movies, Harry Potter faced all sorts of magical creatures too, such as giant spiders, hippogriffs, and even a basilisk — a 50-foot snake — which were all at least partly achieved practically. Other examples include the iconic life-size Chess match and Aunt Marge floating away, practical effects that enabled the Harry Potter movies to explore the impossible with only hints of CGI while also helping the actors feel immersed in the fantastical world.

Other Movies That Used Similar Effects

Frodo and Gandalf sitting on a bench in Lord of the Rings the Fellowship of the Ring

The same practical effects have been used in other moves to make an actor seem bigger or smaller than they really are. Forced perspective is how the Lord of the Rings Hobbits look small compared to regular-sized characters. Camera tricks were used to get the proper Hobbit height, including moving sets that would shift in synchronization with the camera’s movements, which would maintain the same height perspectives throughout the scenes. When the Hobbits didn’t have to interact with other characters, the Hobbit actors would be filmed separately, and they’d then be superimposed into the full shot in post-production.

The MCU has used the same Harry Potter effects too. In Avengers: Infinity War, Peter Dinklage plays Eitri the Dwarf, who is actually a giant. The effect of making Dinklage look bigger than Avengers characters was by having him stand next to miniature cardboard cutouts (via Insider). While She-Hulk is mostly made up of digital effects in She-Hulk: Attorney at Law, director Kat Coiro revealed that She-Hulk’s movements are based on a double’s movements too. The filmmaker revealed, “We had an actress, a stand-in who was 6’7 with us at all times, and we would ask her to walk across the room so we could see what her stride was.”