The folks over at Common Room are celebrating Harry Potter this week with Potterweek – a week long web event with shared content about one of the most magical series out there. You can check out the prompt list and details here.
I’d wanted to participate but got my dates mixed up and thought I’d missed it. Luckily, I’m just in time for the prompt I wanted to write about since it’s also part of my 30 Before 30 list – PotterParks!
I haven’t been to the Wizarding World in Orlando, which is the dream, especially since they added Diagon Alley and the Hogwarts Express, but next year, a version of the Wizarding World is opening up at Universal Studios Hollywood! So I will hopefully be able to go to that and report back.
For this post though, I want to talk about how amazing it was to go to the WB Harry Potter Studio Tour in England with my sister and college roommate, M. No, there weren’t any rides or character actors or shows, but it was still so much fun and beyond cool because the studio tour had the actual sets they built and the real props and costumes. It was wonderful walking through so many years of cinematic Harry Potter history.
The tour starts with a line by the Cupboard under the Stairs, which then leads into a room featuring the movie posters from all over the world. There’s a short video about the phenomenon of the books and the movies, and then we move into a theater. There’s another brief video about Harry Potter, ending with our beloved trio welcoming us to the studio where they spent so much of their young lives.
At this point, M said it would be cool if the screen lifted up and we walked through it into Hogwarts, and then THAT’S BASICALLY WHAT HAPPENED. The screen lifted, revealing a familiar set of double doors. After gathering everyone around the doors, our guide had people with recent or upcoming birthdays open them…
And then we were walking in to the Great Hall. My sister, roommate, and I were so excited, our hands were literally shaking. There’s evidence of this because all of our first photos of the hall are blurry.
From there, we were free to roam through the various sets and look at the collections of props, costumes, and art. There were videos and placards and animatronics that explained the thoughts behind the designs or illustrated how certain effects were done. For example, there’s an entire wall of green screens with the broom rigs they used for shooting Quidditch. Interviews with the various HP directors play on a screen next to this section as they describe how they filmed all the flying.
The first half of the tour ends by leading to an outdoor area where you can buy butterbeer (we weren’t fans, sadly) and go knock on the door of 4 Privet Drive. You can also hop onto the Knight Bus, pile into the Weasley’s flying car, or take Sirius’ motorbike for a joy ride.
After this area, the final half of the tour is marked by the prosthetic effects and creatures department (where you basically get to meet Buckbeak – he turns his head and blinks at you!), a stroll down Diagon Alley, and a room full of blueprints for all the Wizarding World buildings. And then, there’s the crowning jewel of the tour: the scale model of Hogwarts Castle that was used for the exterior and panning shots in all of the movies.
This thing is huge and incredibly detailed, covering the whole of Hogwarts campus. You see the Owlrey tower on its own on a hillside and Hagrid’s hut below the castle. The castle itself has lights built into it that flicker on and off to simulate lantern light or movement inside. The tour path leads you around the entire thing, so that you get the full 360 degree view of the Hogwarts campus.
Once you’re done picking your jaw up off the floor, you walk into a room packed with boxes and boxes of wands, and then the tour ends in the gift shop. You can bet we all went home with goodies. I finally bought myself a Marauder’s Map, the Sister picked up a Chocolate Frog and a Quibbler, and my roommate bought herself a wand (despite her protests that she did not need a wand).
Quite simply, we had a blast nerding out. The website said we’d spend 3 to 4 hours inside, and even though we were skeptical we’d spend that long there, we actually did stay about 3 to 4 hours! I think the tour is a must for any Harry Potter fan, and it’ll warm your heart seeing the amount of care and craftsmanship the movies dedicated to doing these books justice.
What Potter parks have you been to or most want to go to?