Northampton College’s Year 1 Media and Year 2 Journalism and PR students were given the chance to go to the Warner Bros Studio in London for ‘The Making of Harry Potter’ tour.
Being a relatively knowledgeable fan of the Harry Potter franchise and part of the generation that felt as if they grew up with the child actors, I was embarrassingly excited.
However, my typically cynical self wasn’t expecting too much. Maybe a room of some props used in some of the later films, a set or two and a canteen to buy the infamous Butterbeer. I was ignorant to say the least. It was massive. I was unaware that the whole studio (so, basically an air bunker) had been taken over by film sets, green screen, costumes, visual effects, props, prosthetics, and of course, a Starbucks.
pon arrival, we showed our tickets and went through an understandably vigorous security check before reaching the entrance of one of the two canteens, the Starbucks and the start of the tour. In the entrance, a full size figure of a death eater stood on an illuminating platform. I closely observed the details of the costume and was surprised. The blood, sweat and tears that goes into each tiny detail resonates strongly in every stitch, engraving and design. The more I looked at the costume, the easier it was to be fooled into the illusion that the clothing is an historical artefact of a non-fictitious event.
The group decided to proceed to the tour entrance. As we stood in the queue waiting for the doors to open, a clearly very knowledgeable staff member stood on a platform presenting Harry’s famous under-staircase bedroom from the earlier films. Our group listened to the many interesting facts he provided about the making of the films while we responded to his open questions, probably a little too enthusiastically for our ‘young adult’ status.
After a surprisingly short wait, the queue filtered into a large, ominously dark room. A voice came through the cinema-like speakers and introduced us to the tour. After a short slideshow about the legacy of the books, we were then filtered into a cinema, where a another short film showed Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint, lead actors in the Harry Potter films, talking about the tour and their experience in this very building. An impressive transition of the actors opening the door to the grand hall and the set doors actually opening was possibly the peak of my childlike excitement. Everyone rushed from their seats into the iconic Grand Hall set.
The set was decorated especially for the Halloween season. Pumpkins hung from the ceiling as if to float by magic, while the tables were set out with sweets, goblets and seasonal fruits. Everything, from the faux brick walls to the real stone floor, was like stepping into the film. At the end of the hall, where the teachers and hogwarts would sit, were the costumes for them.
Amazingly, we spent a good 15-20 minutes looking around in just this room, due to its scale and the amount to look at.
However, we eventually got moving into the main bulk of the tour and saw a massive room containing parts of sets, props and interactive picture opportunities, such as the magical broomstick-riding green screen set-up.
I soaked up the information, and the intricate designs of each piece. A personal favourite was the set design for the Ministry of Magic. The clashing colours and pleasing aesthetics from this particular set were instantly recognisable to me.
As we proceeded, we were lucky enough to see a new feature that had only recently opened. The Forbidden Forest was a walk-through made to be incredibly realistic. As soon as we stepped into the ‘forest’ we immediately noticed the ground sink slightly under our feet, to give the illusion of walking through wet, mushy leaves. Obviously, we reacted in the only suitable way - by jumping as if it was a trampoline. This excitement soon faded when we realised a thick fog had crept across our feet and over us. Multiple giant spiders appeared from the darkness above us and to the side as we walked through the rock trench. Due to this, we didn't waste much time getting to the next feature.
We passed a full scale model of the famous train on platform 9¾ and took the obligatory picture of us pushing the luggage trolley into the brick wall, just like Harry in the first film. We reached one of many gift shops and browsed what was on offer while we had time. I wanted to buy a memento to take home from this trip, but, alas, the bank account of a student at the end of the month didn't look too pretty and sadly the prices were extremely high. However, I was determined to take something physical home with me. That’s when Butterbeer saved the day.
The canteen served a large selection of hot food (none, of which, were displayed as clever magic/wizard based puns, sadly) but I made a beeline straight to the bar. The Butterbeer bar.
I had a choice between a disposable plastic cup or a souvenir cup of the famous drink. I took the latter.
It looked amazing. Literally like something from another world. Bubbles rose up and were popping through the foam on top. So far, very impressed. The smell, not so great. Like melted sugar and flat coke. But my excitement was too great for that to put me off. And then the taste. It truly is a thing of nightmares. It was so strange, the most indescribable bitter and sweet sensation I have ever come across. Much to my friends’ amusement, they filmed my whole experience, from sip to refusal to drink anymore. I gave the rest of the drink to a more sweet-toothed friend and washed out the mug so I could keep it.
Outside the canteen was also fun. We took pictures with the little blue flying Ford Anglia seen in The Chamber of Secrets, that amazing managed to fit four people inside for the picture.
Another attraction that I have seen before online and in pictures but I failed to remember was the model creation of Hogwarts. No image I took did it justice (not just because I have a Samsung). Every single detail that I could ever recall from the films was included in this huge model, along with little lights in the windows to the moss growing on the rocks. I learnt that this wasn’t just made for the sake of us tourists, but was heavily involved in the aerial shots of the castle along with CGI to create the amazing shots seen in every Harry Potter film.
It was probably the best attraction to end the tour with. It perfectly summed up what this was all about. The intricate dedication to detail and an overflow of passion is seen in each creation, and was provided by every single person involved in making the movie feel like real magic.
What I take away from the trip was a newfound respect for all the work that is put in behind the scenes. For me, along with many other 90s kids and millennials, a lot of the sets and costumes struck a nostalgic nerve within us that we crave in this fast-paced world. These are the films we grew up with. From the first film, released in 2001, to the last, in 2011, they have all constantly made themselves relevant in our childhoods. For this legacy to be developed from a few scribbled ideas made on a delayed train from Manchester to King's Cross, I think it can be said, nothing can reach this level of magic, at least not in my lifetime.