Returning to LEGO Harry Potter: Exclusive interview

With the LEGO Group returning to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Brick Fanatics speaks to LEGO Senior Model Designer Mark Stafford about what fans have to look forward to

Now that the Wizarding World of Harry Potter back in the brick, fans of the series are excited to build the characters, locations and vehicles that make up the beloved stories. Covering both the classic Harry Potter stories and the new Fantastic Beasts movies, there is plenty of source material for the LEGO design team to draw from. Sitting down with Senior Model Designer Mark Stafford at the LEGO Group’s headquarters, he thinks back to when his team was told that they would be working on the theme.

Do you recall being told that you would be working on Harry Potter?

Our team was working on NEXO KNIGHTS and we were told that it was coming to an end, which was expected – we weren’t going to do a NINJAGO. We though instead we would be moving on to a new big bang. It turned out they needed us in the IP [intellectual property] team and we were moving over there. We were like, “well, what are we going to be working on? Scooby Doo, Angry Birds or something?

We went to the first meeting with our new Design Lead and we were told we were doing Jurassic World and Harry Potter – we all came out of that like, “oh, that’s pretty good.” Not that there’s anything wrong with Angry Birds, but from our personal interests, this was good stuff. One of the guys, Sam Johnson, is a massive Jurassic World fan. Raphaël likes building vehicles so they were they were over the moon.

LEGO Harry Potter 75953 Whomping Willow 1

One of the NEXO KNIGHTS team, James, is our Harry Potter guru – he knows everything, he was the only member of the team who had had a Pottermore account before we were working on it. He did the Quidditch set [75956], they actually needed him over in one of the other teams, but he still came back for Harry Potter because he loves it so much. We still go to him and be like, “what was the name of that character in this obscure scene?” and he knows, that is exactly what you need.

Because I could see them running with the Jurassic World stuff, I thought, “well I’ll start with Harry Potter then, I want to have a go at it.” So I pulled up loads of pictures and started building.

The first thing I did was get rid of the green roofs, because Hogwarts does not have a green roof. Our Design Lead was like, “oh no, it’s LEGO Harry Potter and it has a green roof.” It doesn’t have a green roof, plus there are no elements currently in sand green. We want to make all these new characters, so are we going to colour change these plates to make a sand green roof, or are we going to have all these new characters? That was how I won the argument and got the grey roof… even though we could have probably done both… well, it worked out well for me [laughs].
It makes the sets more movie accurate and also differentiates them from what has gone before.

I respect the collectors and the fact they are out there and they have this stuff, this is going to look a little bit weird next to the old sets, but so are Great Halls.

What was the trick with balancing 75954 Hogwarts Express and including part of the platform?

Yeah that’s a tough one. Originally we were trying to make it so it was very easily compatible with a motorised set up, that it would be easy to put the battery box in the coal car, like [10194] Emerald Night or something like that. In the end we were spending so much money, when most kids aren’t going to do that, and the adult train fans will find their own way to make it work and it will probably look better. So why are we compromising? Let’s take that money and make St Pancras bigger, so that is what we did, we put that money that would have gone into the compatibility, that was never that important, and put it into the station.

Harry Potter feels like a theme that is very gender neutral, did you take into account balancing what children would want in these sets?

It is incredibly gender neutral, again we tried to represent that in the minifigures we chose. We tried to make sure there are equal numbers of boys and girls, and that this would appeal to everybody. Again, the different play types the boys like, such as conflict, the girls love the details – they might like the conflict too, but the details are important.

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Graham was the Editor up until November 2020. He has plenty of experience working on LEGO related projects. He has contributed to various websites and publications on topics including niche hobbies, the toy industry and education. Follw Graham on Twitter @grahamh100.

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