Yesterday was the twentieth anniversary of the publication of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (or Philosopher’s Stone, the original UK title, if we are being specific!) I have easily read the Harry Potter series far more than any other book, so while I struggle to deem one book as my “favorite”, it would certainly imply that HP is one I truly enjoy the most.
I’ll admit, I wasn’t really aware of Harry Potter until some college friends were (rabidly) reading them around 2005 when the second to last book was published. A friend convinced me to read one in 2008 and I quickly devoured the whole series. I still remember sitting in my apartment crying while I was finishing the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows! My two roommates at the time were also huge HP fans so we had lots of fun going to all the movie premieres in the years to come. And while nothing ever can truly compare to the book, I happen to also really love the movies. And since I read the books after the movies started coming out, they definitely visually came to mind while I was reading the series. (An unfortunate downside of reading books after their movies come out is that I can’t picture things on my own.)
Then five years ago the Warner Brothers Studio Tour – The Making of Harry Potter opened just before we were traveling to England! On our trip my husband and I each got to pick one “must do” activity – his was golfing at the Old Course in St. Andrews and mine was visiting Potterworld! (He has enjoyed the movies and, while not remotely a fan on my level of dorkdom, really did enjoy it as well.) While I did recap our trip to England and Scotland here on the blog I never got around to posting about Potterworld – if not now then when?
I have not been to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios, so I can’t compare the two. The Making of Harry Potter is not a theme park, it is a true studio tour and behind the scenes experience in an old airplane hangar that is filled with Harry Potter sets, props, costumes, and all sorts of amazing models, drawings, etc. I love it because it was amazing to see all the actual things used in the movies!
The entire place was dramatically lit, which made it awesome it person, but tricky for photos and I was too busy saying “look at that! and that! and that!” to mess with my settings. It’s crazy how much can change in five years – these were taken on an old point and shoot! The iPhone auto-settings would have come in handy for some better pictures, but I didn’t even have a smart phone then!
The tour started by standing in front of the doors and they dramatically open into the Great Hall!
I loved seeing all the costumes! They had every character and all the house uniforms and robes throughout the years. Even little first year Harry with his hat!
Potions class with Snape and Slughorn:
Details from the Yule Ball in Goblet of Fire:
I loved seeing all the character details – all the wigs! And I love the drawings of the tattoos for records! (I can’t place this character, was it a snatcher?)
And Gryffindor common room: (I love the original “H” and “R” Christmas sweaters up top!)
A peek into Hagrid’s Hut:
The Mirror of Erised and the painting of The Fat Lady. I can not tell you what I saw in the Mirror of Erised, but I was not holding socks.
The Ministry of Magic:
Mrs. Weasley’s kitchen was pretty fun. You could point wands at certain places in the kitchen and you would “magically” chop carrots, scrub dirty dishes, or knit a scarf!
Dolores Umbridge’s office. (Wish I got the cat pictures in!)
Hermione, Harry, and Ron:
The wands of all the characters:
It was also really interesting to learn how they incorporated green screen effects into the set. Such as in the moving portraits, they were simply filled with green screen.
Same with the invisibility cloak.
There was even an area where you could don a robe and climb up on a broom and it would move around and show you on a screen soaring above London and the Quidditch field! Unfortunately no photos of that, as they want you to purchase them. (Not sure I’d want that on the internet anyways!)
There were areas chock full of props EVERYWHERE. Some of them made me laugh, such as that shelf of fake roasted turkeys.
If you went outside there were the exteriors for the Potter’s House and 4 Privet Drive, a Butterbeer vendor, and you could get inside the Knight Bus, Hagrid’s motorcycle, and the flying car!
An area I, as a graphic designer, especially loved was looking at all the paper props. How much fun would it be to get to design Quibbler covers and anti-propaganda for The Chosen One!
After we saw all the sets and costumes and props there was a whole area devoted to the behind the scenes magic. Such as prosthetics and animatronics.
The animatronics area was truly amazing. We were able to see how they made the Monster Book of Monsters and Groots “alive” and Buckbeak (ahem, Witherwings) was moving as well. It’s shocking to think about how much work goes into a movie like the Harry Potter series.
Next was a whole area on drawings, storyboards, and models. After all, this all starts on paper!
And the last room is the real model they created for all the aerial shots of Hogwarts. You can see how huge it is compared to the people!
The exit was amazing. The hallways were filled with wand boxes with names on them. There was a box for every single person that helped create the Harry Potter movies (17,000 boxes in total!).
I think it goes without saying that I loved the tour. If you are in the London area it’s definitely worth the trip!
Also – to my HP loving friends – here’s a fun quiz to see which house you below in.
While this test said I was 48.9% Ravenclaw and 48.7% Huffle Puff, and 2.4% Gryffindor, I’d say I am a Huffle Puff through and through. Know yourself. 😀