His Dark Materials season 3: Why design of harpies evolved from book

His Dark Materials season 3: Why design of harpies evolved from book

Lyra names one of the harpies ‘Gracious Wings’ in the Land of the Dead (Picture: BBC/Bad Wolf)

Warning: spoilers ahead for His Dark Materials season 3.

The visual effects supervisor on His Dark Materials has spoken to Metro.co.uk about how the team came to the final design for the harpies who rule the roost in the Land of the Dead in season 3.

In the final outing for the beautifully-adapted telling of Sir Philip Pullman’s book The Amber Spyglass, Lyra ‘Silvertongue’ Belacqua (Dafne Keen) and Will Parry (Amir Wilson) travel to the Land of the Dead to find Lyra’s childhood best friend Roger Parslow (Lewin Lloyd), who was killed at the end of season 1 by her father, Lord Asriel Belacqua (James McAvoy).

When they arrive, they encounter initially terrifying creatures called harpies, who instil fear into the deceased people who are stuck in this purgatory-like desolate land.

Lyra realises that the harpies want to hear stories about the living world, and so she encourages those in the Land of the Dead to recall memories from their lives, before making their way to a window cut by Will, which allows them to be at peace and dissolve into atoms, become one with the universe once more.

In the TV series, the harpies have turtle-like heads, scaly skin, are blind and have raspy voices, with their appearance marking a departure from the original source material, where they had the heads of women, in line with the way the creatures are depicted in mythology.

Visual effects supervisor Russell Dodgson, who’s the creative director of TV at Framestore, explained to Metro.co.uk why the team chose to veer away from the portrayal of the harpies as ‘shrieking women’ in the Land of the Dead.

‘Harpies traditionally are shrieking, horrific women mixed with birds. I can’t remember who made the decision, I think it may have been the showrunning team. We just thought, why do we want to represent the tormentors of the underworld as shrieking women? That seems pretty dated as an idea,’ he said.

Outlining what they preferred to focus on when conceiving their design, he continued: ‘We wanted to lean into what’s important. What’s important about those characters is that they’re scary, grotesque, but you also slightly feel sorry for them because they’ve been given this job of tormenting people in the Land of the Dead, but really all they want is to hear true stories and to have these emotional connections to stories, which is a big part of the book.’

With this in mind, the harpies were made to be blind, with cataracts in their eyes, so that ‘they felt a bit vacant’ when viewers looked at them, but they were attentive when using their ears to listen to stories.

‘We leant into that in the animation, because actually it’s about listening to stories,’ he shared.

‘They can’t really look at people but they use their ears a lot, their heads turn away as if they’re listening. We leant into the idea of what they are – they’re blind, but they want to hear. So that was a character trait that we looked into.’

Once they made the harpies look ‘a bit turtley’, they had to add another element so that they would look ‘a bit more disgusting’, which is why the harpies were covered in ‘horribly, flaky skin’.

‘There was this line that we had to keep trying to find where you felt sorry for them but also repulsed by them,’ Russell said.

The final season marks the conclusion of Will and Lyra’s story (Picture: Bad Wolf/BBC/HBO)

The VFX supervisor took the concept – which he developed with production designer and executive producer Joel Collins – another step further, by paying attention to the harpies’ voices.

‘Something that I was quite strong on is because of the fact that they’ve been suppressing people communicating and talking to each other in the Land of the Dead. I wanted it to be that talking was really painful,’ he stated. ‘So we ended up with the voice actor having to have really, really hard vocal sessions where she’d have to drink a lot of honey and lemon, put it that way.

‘In the animation, we made it look really strained. So sometimes when the harpy speaks, it has to swallow in a painful way, as if words are a punishment when it speaks.’

Russell also took inspiration from nostalgic movies from the 80s, when the movements of fantastical creatures on screen would look ‘a little bit puppeteered’.

‘We added a little bit of eccentricity to their movements, so they weren’t totally perfect. It was nice to reminisce. Then the guys at Framestore just did an amazing job of making them so you could put the camera really close to them,’ he said.

His Dark Materials airs tonight at 7.10pm on BBC One, and is available to watch on BBC iPlayer.

Got a story?

If you’ve got a celebrity story, video or pictures get in touch with the Metro.co.uk entertainment team by emailing us [email protected], calling 020 3615 2145 or by visiting our Submit Stuff page – we’d love to hear from you.

MORE : His Dark Materials visual effects supervisor explains why design of Mulefa went through changes from book for season 3

MORE : His Dark Materials writer Jack Thorne shares important element of season 3 that ‘really mattered’ to author Philip Pullman: ‘He knows what he wants’

Source link

Leave a Comment