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The Rowling Magazine Issue #53 · May 2021

The evolution of The Daily Prophet

Felipe Gabriel

1047 words

The Daily Prophet newspaper has been used as a key element throughout the Harry Potter series both to provide a broader view of the goings-on in the Wizarding community and at times to deliver important clues and information to move the main plot of the story forward.

Besides the fact that the newspapers contain moving photographs, as it would be expected within the magical world, no specific description is given in the books as to the look and feel of the newspaper overall. 

Therefore, when the movies were produced, bringing the Daily Prophet to life was a task relied on the artists involved in the production. Translating that newsprint visual language to the screen into the Wizarding World resulted in many widely artistic and non-standard layouts and type choices.

Those decisions immediately set out the magical paper apart from anything that we would have been used to or expected to see in the ‘Muggle’ world.

Throughout the series, much like the Daily Prophet in the books changes and evolves, also did the artists behind the making and the directors conducting the movie productions. Such transitions did reflect into the visual development of the Wizarding World

Among those modifications we get to see three main different styles of the Prophet, that could be related to three main different ‘identities’ the paper presents in the series, which could also be tied directly to how J.K. Rowling’s experience with media changed and evolved as her fame grew along while writing the later Potter books.

From Philosopher’s Stone to Prisoner of Azkaban, the Daily Prophet has its most solid and trustworthy phase within the Potter series, as it is being used mainly to provide accurate information to the main characters. At this point, though, we have already been made aware that power and money can come to influence what is published within its pages or not. 

For those movie adaptations, our first glimpses of the Prophet are through a heavily Gothic and overdetailed layout, in which headlines set out the shape of the articles in swirly curves and squiggly detailed typefaces adorned individually by hand. 

The Daily Prophet - Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
The Daily Prophet – Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

The artists behind the magic had every single page custom designed and made from the creation of in-universe wizarding headlines and at times even writing short articles to accompany those, going as far as adding horoscopes and adverts, all styled in a whimsical Victorian way, even though those would never be shown up close on film.

Did you know? The Polyjuice Potion scene in Chamber of Secrets was scripted to be larger than the final movie cut. An extended dialogue would show Malfoy reading from the Daily Prophet news about Arthur Weasley having been fined for bewitching the Ford Anglia and making unkind remarks about the Weasley family to Ron and Harry disguised as Crabbe and Goyle. Despite the scene being left out a full Daily Prophet newspaper was made for shooting.

In Goblet of Fire we are introduced to a new layer of the Daily Prophet as the infamous Rita Skeeter takes over on every major appearance of the paper with the hottest gossip she can come up with, aided by her Animagus form and her Quick Quotes Quill.

The Daily Prophet - Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
The Daily Prophet – Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

At this point, the design of the paper was also reintroduced with a brand new look. The Gothic feel of the earlier editions remained present as an influence, but the logo and all major typefaces were shifted completely.

Although in-universe headlines were still being created to populate the paper, at this point, no small articles were being written to accompany them. The new layout brought a more traditional way of displaying columns, instead of letting the headlines lead the shapes as it was intended in the previous editions. 

A squiggly typeface and preset text blocks took over their place decorated with ancient symbols and shapes painted over the letters. Even the way in which photographs appeared were reimagined and abandoned the traditional rectangular preset to be presented in various formats that would at times highlight the subject of Skeeter’s latest scoop.

This was a short lived style of the paper however, as in Order of the Phoenix a new brand of the Daily Prophet paved its way into the screen. 

The fifth film is the one in which the paper has the bigger presence throughout the whole franchise. From this moment forward the Gothic whimsy look of the newspaper is replaced by a bold modern letterpress style to bring out the dogmatic presence of the Ministry of Magic control over the media in the Wizarding World.

Many animated sequences were developed for the movie in which the main plot headlines were not the only ones required. That made up for the creation of numerous headlines and wizarding themed advertisements to fill out with detail the other parts that could be making an appearance on screen.

Did you know? Lucius Malfoy would make two appearances in the animated sequences of the Daily Prophet in movie 5. One at the beginning supporting the Ministry’s move in setting Umbridge as Hogwarts High Inquisitor. Another one at the end, when he’s being imprisoned in Azkaban. Both scenes for the moving photographs were shot, but cut from the final sequence. The imprisonment plot was moved to a Daily Prophet seen in Half Blood Prince.

The Daily Prophet - Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
The Daily Prophet – Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

The heavy political influence remained until the end of the Harry Potter series and this style of the paper was maintained until the end, gradually leaving behind the funny adverts and headlines pointed to several directions, to present a more straight forward horizontal look featuring more serious content and haunting news that reflected the ongoing ministry crisis and anticipated the upcoming Wizarding War.

Did you know? A full Daily Prophet sequence animation was scripted for the beginning of Deathly Hallows – Part 1. Several pages of the newspaper were designed highlighting the terror faced by the wizarding community as the dark forces grew. The scene did not survive the final cut but the idea was reused in the first Fantastic Beasts movie.

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