June 15, 2016
Okay. New favorite day. Wow. Today was amazing beyond words.
This morning we got up bright and early for our tour of Warner Brother’s Harry Potter studios and sound stage. The studios are located in Watford, so it was a bit of a trip to get there. First, we walked to the Euston station, which is about 15 minutes away from our hostel. We “topped off” of Oyster cards so we had enough money to get us into Zone 2. We caught an overground train to Watford Junction, which was about a 15 minute ride. After getting off the train, we took a bus from the station directly to the studios. We printed our Harry Potter tour tickets when we got there, and we still had about 20 minutes to spare before the studios opened for the tour. So naturally, we explored the gift shop. I would have bought everything if I could have.
The studio opened at 10 and we went right in. The first thing they do is show you a couple of videos about how the movie series came to be and a short summary of the decade of filming. Then, they opened the door to the Great Hall and we were instantly transported into the magical world of Harry Potter and Hogwarts. The majority of the tour was self guided, so I got to mosey around and see a lot of the really cool things that happened behind the scenes. Here are some of the things that I saw and some of the fun facts I learned:
Over the 10 years in which the Harry Potter series was filmed, 588 sets were built. some were long lasting and still exist today, others were taken down in a matter of days.
When filming began, Daniel Radcliffe was 11, Rupert Grint had just celebrated his 12th birthday, and Emma Watson was also 11.
There were 17,000 wand boxes made for Olivander’s shop. Each of them was hand decorated and then labeled with the name of a crew member who worked on the films.
I got to see a display representing the seven horcruxes, which are
-Salazar Slytherin’s Locket
-Rowena Ravenclaw’s Diadem
-Helga Hufflepuff’s Cup
-Marvolo Gaunt’s Ring
-Tom Riddle’s Diary
Warner Brother’s studios is one of only four places in the entire world that is licensed to sell authentic butterbeer.
The Dementors were originally built to be a practical effect, but they proved to be too cumbersome and time consuming. They were changed to a digital effect, and the movement of their cloaks was inspired by the movement of fabric underwater.
The Ministry of Magic has 17 fireplaces connected to the Floo Network, each of which stands 30 feet tall.
15,000 Prophecy orbs for the Hall of Prophecy in the Order of the Phoenix were built before the director decided that he wanted to use a digital effect instead.
The Ministry of Magic’s Atrium was one of the largest sets built for the series of films. It took twice as long to build as the Great Hall. The atrium was inspired by London’s oldest Underground stations and was then covered in colorful ceramic tiles.
Umbridge’s costumes became progressively more pink as she gained more power. Speaking of Umbridge: “She’s the worst. I know she likes cats, and I hate cats.” -An enthusiastic 10-year-old.
The very first shot of the series and the very last shot of the series were both filmed Platform 9 3/4. The first was Harry’s first encounter with Hagrid by the Hogwarts Express, and the last was Harry sending off his own children to Hogwarts.
The scale model of Hogwarts took 40 days to complete. It is an intricate masterpiece that displays both the castle and its grounds.
I got to see lots of props, set pieces, costumes, sketches, models, and other memorabilia related to this decade-long, world-wide phenomenon. Check out my Facebook for all the pictures! Producers never expected this to take off. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was on the bottom self of things to be read in order to determine if it would become a movie, now, seven books, eight movies, and several budding spin offs later, Harry Potter is one of the most successful franchises ever.
I had lunch at the cafe, including a glass of butterbeer! Yum! Then I took a walk through the back lot which housed the larger sets like the Knight Bus, Number 4 Privet Drive, the Hogwarts bridge, and the chess pieces from Philosopher’s Stone. After the back lot was a room filled with special effects makeup, prosthetics, and all kinds of things related to the making of the magical creatures of Hogwarts. Diagon Alley was definitely a highlight as well. The best part of the entire tour was the surprise at the end: the large scale model of the Hogwarts Castle. It was absolutely beautiful! It was lit up in all different colors to show how it would look at all times of the day and night. Absolutely stunning. I really want to go to Hogwarts for school. Like really bad.
The tour let out at the gift shop, so of course, I had to buy some merchandise. I traveled back to the Pickwick and relaxed for a little while. I had dinner in my room and then headed out for my evening show: The Lion King!
This show is extremely design heavy. The costumes, set, makeup, lights are all amazing, and I believe this is a huge reason why The Lion King is so renowned, and rightfully so. The cumbersome animal costumes (you’ve seen pictures) force every actor to carefully choreograph his steps and movements. The result is a beautiful ballet of color and life.
However, I felt that some of the acting fell flat tonight. Inconsistencies in accents and different character voices than I am used to (based on those in the Disney movie) were a slight disappointment. Let me emphasize the word slight, because this really was a great show! My experience was also dampened because I was sitting in the middle of a huge group of foreign tourists and small school students, none of whom know proper theater etiquette. That was something that was out of my control, and I shouldn’t let that affect my judgement of the show.
Also, I think I’ve decided that I don’t like breaking the fourth wall. Ever. I just don’t think I’ve found a play that does it successfully. It ruins moments for me. Maybe there is a way to break the fourth wall with more subtlety, I just haven’t seen it.
But it was a great day! Tomorrow we have morning class, then I am going to a matinee show of The Woman in Black, and we are all going to the evening show of Human Animals.