Featherologist, Val Jones, who worked in the creature effects department on the Harry Potter film series, has been drafted back to Warner Bros. Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter to refresh Buckbeak the Hippogriff.

Val, who was instrumental in creating the animatronic, was called in to re-feather and preen the delicate winged creature in preparation for the Feathers and Flight event, which is taking place at Warner Bros. Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter from Friday 4th April to Sunday 27th April.

This is the first make-over Buckbeak has received since the Harry Potter film series was made. His intricate coat is created from thousands of individually airbrushed chicken and goose feathers that Val will carefully clean and replenish in time for the start of Feathers and Flight.

After beginning her career as a Textiles Designer, Val made costumes for films before specialising in hair, feathers and animatronics. By painstakingly inserting thousands of feathers, Val worked tirelessly to create the Hippogriff’s intricate feathery coat and was responsible for transforming the model into a believable creature that moved like a real animal.

Buckbeak was one of the most challenging creatures I’ve ever worked on. It took almost a year and a team of 20 to build three versions of him. We worked closely with mechanical engineers to replicate the exact wing movement and skeleton of a real bird. Each version required thousands of feathers to be sorted, dyed and then individually glued in place by hand. As the Buckbeak on show at the Studio Tour is more than 12 years old now, it’s important to refresh and replenish his coat as the glue wears and feathers come loose when he bows. – Val Jones

This April visitors to Warner Bros. Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter are invited to discover how filmmakers brought feathered creatures to life on screen and created the illusion of flight on the sets of the most successful film series of all time.  As part of the three-week feature, Featherologist Val Jones will lead an expert team to demonstrate the techniques that made winged wonders such as Buckbeak the Hippogriff and Fawkes the Phoenix a reality on screen.

Feathery facts:

Buckbeak’s coat consists of thousands of real goose and chicken feathers which were individually airbrushed with dye in order to create an authentic layered effect.

It took Val and 20 artists one whole year to fully coat the three Hippogriff animatronics, as each feather was individually inserted by hand and then glued into place.

The Buckbeak model seen in Hagrid’s pumpkin patch in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban was an animatronic; his wings, neck, eyes and beak all moved. In other scenes, the Hippogriff was created digitally by the Visual Effects team and the cast were given props – such as a beak on a stick – to interact with on set.

As well as working with Buckbeak Val also spent her time with some of the other feathered creatures from the Harry Potter films including Fawkes and Hedwig.

 The Studio Tour’s Feathers and Flight feature will run from Friday 4th April to Sunday 27th April 2014. All extra activities are included in the ticket price. www.wbstudiotour.co.uk

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