For a moment, he was sure he’d walked into a nightmare – this was too much, on top of everything that had happened so far. They weren’t in a room, as he had supposed. They were in a corridor. The forbidden corridor on the third floor. And now they knew why it was forbidden.
They were looking straight into the eyes of a monstrous dog, a dog which filled the whole space between ceiling and floor. It had three heads. Three pairs of rolling, mad eyes; three noses, twitching and quivering in their direction; three drooling mouths, saliva hanging in slippery ropes from yellowish fangs.
It was standing quite still, all six eyes staring at them, and Harry knew that the only reason they weren’t already dead was that their sudden appearance had taken it by surprise, but it was quickly getting over that, there was no mistaking what those thunderous growls meant.
-J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
“We wanted Fluffy to look as much like a real dog as possible,” said Rob Legato, visual effects supervisor of Philosopher’s Stone. “Even though he was enormous and had three heads, we wanted him to be more like something from Ripley’s Believe It or Not, rather than a bizarre mythological beasts. The gag was, when first see him, we’d just see one head without size reference — then, as we panned across, we’d see a second head, then a third. Finally, when he stood up, the camera would tilt up further, and we’d realize that he was this 12-foot monster dog.”
Fluffy’s relatively simple design was created by Robert Bliss, based on the appearance of Rottweilers; the design was then translated in three dimensions with a resin maquette by Nick Dudman’s team, which served as reference to build the digital model.
An insert paw animatronic was devised by Dudman and crew to interact with the child actors. However, Legato intended to bring Fluffy to the screen as a digital creature due to its unique anatomy — three necks joined into a single spinal column.
Conveying Fluffy’s furry coat was a complex task, given the fact that its scale had to be figured out. The digital effects crew ended up “cheating” its scale by cloning textures to cover the surface of the digital model.
Animation of the three-headed dog was assigned to a team led by Paul Jessel. The main inspiration behind the character animation was — of course — canine behaviour of real dogs (such as ear twitches and facial ticks), adapted to the anatomy of the creature. The animators also faced the challenge of whether or not to synchronize the heads’ movements. Animation supervisor Eric Armstrong commented: “at one point we see Fluffy sleeping, and Chris Columbus wanted Fluffy snoring. This raised the question, did all three of Fluffy’s heads snore at the same time? We came to the conclusion that Fluffy had three heads but one chest, and hence one set of lungs, so all the heads would snore at once.”
To further elaborate the character animation, the digital effects crew decided to endow each of Fluffy’s heads with a distinct, subtle personality expressed through its motion. “We decided that since Fluffy had three heads, and hence three brains, we would give each head a different personality,” Armstrong said. “Fluffy’s head on the far left was the leader — he was more calculating, but reacted less because he was thinking more. The head on the far right was the aggressive one — he was not as fast on the uptake, but he was very quick to attack. The head in the middle was the dimwitted one, and it always took him a while to catch on to what was going on.”
Particular attention was given to Fluffy’s eyes. Visual effects supervisor Jim Berney explained: “the first thing I brought up when I started on this project was that CG eyes have always looked fake to me. We discussed this with all the modelers and physiquers, and we decided that what CG characters had frequently been missing were lacrimal caruncles — tear ducts! Underneath the tear duct, you also have the semilunar membrane, then a thin meniscus layer of moisture at the contact between the eye and the eyelid that creates a highlight. Usually, that’s all missing in CG, and instead you see his perfect cutout around the eye. That’s why most CG characters look dead.”
For more pictures of Fluffy, visit the Monster Gallery.