Sunday 6 May 2018

A Magical Day at Harry Potter Studios - 5th April 2018

On April 5th I went to Harry Potter Studios and WOW, what a magical day!

So a little overdue but I've been rather busy and struggling with PEM in-between the busyness, plus I write my posts on little chunks so this has taken me a while to put together. (Plus a lot of what I typed went missing - grr!)

For Christmas I got an entry ticket for Harry Potter Studios (my favourite gift by far) and it was strange as just the day before I was saying how much I'd love to go so on Christmas Day I was delighted to open and envelope and find an entry ticket!

We booked it for April as my Dad's a teacher so we needed to go during the holidays. I wanted to go in February as I was eager to visit, but Dad was concerned about how the roads could be at that time of year so we decided to book it during the Easter holidays. I did the booking an we got a 4.30pm entry slot so we didn't have to leave the house mega early to get there and it closed at 10pm so we had plenty of time to go round (or so we thought!)

When we arrived when had to go down a long corridor; one one side was quotes from the films and books and on the other side was enlarged excerpts of the Marauders Map.

At the end of the corridor was the main ticketing entrance which had a giant Goblet of Fire cup and a suspended Ford Anglia and pictures of different actors. We got there around 4pm and as it wasn't too busy they said we could enter. The first thing we saw as we was queuing was Harry Potter's cupboard bedroom.

We then entered a room where a video was played showing us how it all began and how a film production company had chosen the first book and as it wasn't so popular at the time put it to the bottom of the pile. But when they read the story
they was so impressive that they knew they had to make it into a film and then it just took off from there and they had no idea that it would grow into what is is today.

Next we entered a film theatre and a video was shown to use about the making of the films and preparing us for the magical experience ahead.

We started the tour by entering through the Great Hall set which had some of the tables set at either end and costumes from the four houses - Ravenclaw, Gryffindor, Hufflepuff and Slytherin. And not forgetting the head table where all the teachers sat including the Headmaster.

After that we entered the main set area. 

I picked up an audio guide which was well worth the money. In that you had little section markers like 'Dumbledore's Office' or 'The Burrow' and it told you all about that set such as fact like how they spent two year collecting items from second hand shops for all the props in The Borrow (The Weasley's home) and then the was extras likes videos, audio clips and image galleries for those section makers.

There was so much to see and I wanted to take in every tiny detail and I wish now that I had a set of binoculars to see the smalls props that was set out in the Gryffindor Common Room, or to read the labels and look at the contents of the potion ingredients jars.

It was really interesting seeing the sets and behind the scenes and what goes into making the films and I took lots of videos and photos.

There was also some interactive things, like Dad had a go at lifting a broomstick to his hand and we all sat at a table which use forced perspective trick to make Dad look bigger then myself and Mandy which is how they film parts for Hagrid who's much bigger than the other characters what with him being half giant.

We didn't go to the green screen area where you could have a photo taken being the wheel of the flying Ford Anglia or on a broomstick, partly because I missed that part as I was so busy looking at all the film sets. 

I spent a good few hours in that part of the tour. Dad and I then took a tour round the Dark Forest and met Buckbeak the hippogriff and Aragog the giant spider and some of his children. 

After that we entered Platform 9 and ¾ and saw the Hogwarts Express train which Dad I went on. I also had a go at pushing my trolly through the barrier at Kings Cross Station.

Dad and I went on the train and each carriage was set up in chronological order of each film.

In that part of the tour that was a participation experience where we all sat in a mock carriage compartment and had to give a go at acting in fornt of a green screen following instructions from an audio director giving instructions such as "you're excited as it's your first year and your on your way to school" or "you're scared; there's a Dementor coming aboard the train." This was quite fun to do and Dad and I really got into it.

Once we'd finished at platform 9 and ¾ it took up through to the cafe where I tried Butter Beer. and Dad got some Butter Beer icecream. (Dad also lost his wallet so a member of off took him down the staff access route which was much quicker but it meant he got to go behind the scenes of some of the displays!)

Next was the outdoor area. I was getting a bit cold and dark by this point but there wasn't loads to see so we don't have to spend too long out there.

In the outside area was the Knight Bus and also the set for No. 4 Privet Drive. Originally they had filmed in a real housing estate and later they built the set for No. 4 Privet Drive and the house next door for filming at the studios. We got to go through No. 4 Privet Drive and see the cupboard under the stairs and the Dursley's living room filled with letters from Hogwarts from the scene in the first film. 

In the outdoor area was also the bridge from Hogwarts Castle and a Ford Anglia and Sirius's motorbike which you could sit on.

The next part was looking at all the Special Effects and Animatronics which was super interesting and really showed all the tiny but huge efforts that went into creating the characters and other elements of the films from the Gringotts elves, to plants in the Hogwarts greenhouses for Herbology lessons to Buckbeak the Hippogriff and even a Hungarian Horntail Dragon!

We then took a trip down Diagon Ally (and spotted a Death Eater down Knockturn Alley). I could have spent ages looking at all the window displays in the different shops. Listening to the books so many times I have more-or-less have memorised Diagon Alley so it was quite spectacular being able to go down it; it was much shorter than I expected but I suppose that's special effects for you?!

Next was on display the sketches and small paper scale models of sets which was really interesting to look at and see the different ideas the artists had and the different takes on JK Rowlings idea of different places that appear in the books.

On the walls where also works of art that the onset artists had created which where lovely to look at.

The final part of the tour was the huge model of Hogwarts Castle which was breathtaking to see. Dotted around where interactive screens and you could see a timescale video of them making the model which was fascinating to watch or you could zoom in on different parts of the model.

Looking on the website I was impressed with the accessibility measures they put in place for customers with disabilities and on the day those expectations were met and the staff where very helpful (like when Dad and I got separated).

The staff where also super knowledgeable on lots of facts about the films and my Dad being me Dad asked one of the staff members what the stupidest thing they been asked/told; their reply was that someone had once insisted that the table in Hagrid's hut wasn't the real thing and they'd where actually in possession of the real thing as they'd bought in in auction and had it shipped to their home!

I also could have spent much longer in the shop; I would have loved to have bought a scarf or a time turner necklace. Instead I bought some postcards for my giant noticeboard in my room and I also bought a book called 'Film Wizardry' which is a brilliant keepsake and it tells you all about the different characters and the making of the films film-by-film and it also has little added extras like a ticket to the Yule Ball, Educational Degree posters, a Marauders Map and a staff passport for the Ministry of Magic.

I grew up with the books and the films and I hope that the magic grows on in future generations. The books and the films, especially the third one have helped me some much in life and in dealing with illness. I like Luna Lovegood for her uniqueness and he unafraidness to be herself. I also like Professor Lupin as he's kind, down-to-earth, the teacher we all hope we had, his sensitivity to others but also a damaged person who hides his own secret ailment and it puts into perspective how we all have our own secrets and insecurities and vulnerabilities and they we're not all invisible super heroes even though he's a sort of hero in the book especially to Harry and a good father figure to Harry. And of course Sirus who when I first read of his demise in the fifth book (sorry, spoiler alert) I actually cried. I also cried when Debby die too a he such a loveable character too. The dementors really helped me to personify my own battle with depression. The books and films give me a place to escape into when the outside world becomes too much and there are so many quotes in the book that help to deal with life and difficulties.