We sat in the car at 3:30 am and waited for the cinema to open the doors. It was November 2004 and I was about to see my first Harry Potter film in theatres. Flash forward 12 years, 2 books, 5 movies, a bachelors degree in film and hours of obsessing and binging on the world's favorite wizard and you arrive at me...finally sitting in the room I had dreamt of my whole life, the great hall at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
When planning our trip to London, I talked to so many friends about the value of the Warner Brother's Studio Tour and time and time again I was brought back to the same conclusion. If I didn't go and walk those halls I would surely live to regret it. I am so grateful we bought those tickets because our day in Leavesden was one of the most memorable and rewarding experiences of our entire trip/summer.
We arrived early on a Monday morning and discovered our tickets were in fact for Tuesday. But with a small ticket change fee we were on our way to wonder through the multiple sound stages and galleries that comprise the tour.
After a wonderful (and emotional) video presentation that looked back on all 8 films the curtain rose and we entered into the infamous Great Hall. As I am sure most of you are well versed in the world of Harry Potter - I will leave my descriptions brief and instead tell you about how emotionally charged this day was for me. After all, the photos tell the story themselves.
I honestly imagined this moment so many times since I was about 15 years old. One day, I knew I would be in that room - weather I had somehow finagled a role in the film or was there to work on it or as it ended up happening visiting with the millions of fans. I used to dream about this space. I could visualize it all from the cracked cement walls to the feel of the wood on the tables. It was all just as I pictured, and there I was in the middle of it. You could feel the energy, the drama, the history of this space and all that it meant to us who followed along with the narrative masterpiece Jo Rowling created alongside David Heyman and the thousands of cast and crew members.
Harry Potter is the very reason I majored in film and have worked in the field ever since. These movies weren't just a hobby but the primary source of my vocational inspiration. Standing and sitting there at the epicenter of it all overwhelmed me with the deepest sense of gratitude.
After a good long mosey through the Great Hall, the tour segues into a collection of categorical rooms and displays which educate guests on the myriad of departments involved in the filmmaking process. Here, we could gaze upon the costumes, props and builds soaking in every detail that enriched these films with life and magic. So much of the film seems unreal, and although the Visual Effects added so much, so too did these famous objects and spaces existing with such a stark unfathomable reality. So much of it was real, so much of it was tactile and seeing it all there at arms length was truly special.
Eventually we found ourselves walking through the Ministry of Magic itself and then on to the Exterior Sets stage. The benefit of having such a long running franchise is that the return on building these mammoth sets was so great. Walls could be fortified and hold for years on end and facades would hold for film after film after film. It made seeing these impressive pieces that much greater. They were not merely paint on foam board but actual wooden structures. This meant that we could walk through them and on them, we could hold and touch and experience the magic of the movies on a very practical level. And experience them we did.
Of all the sets and prop pieces, Jeff and I were most impressed with the Hogwarts Bridge, Hogwarts Express and Diagon Alley. Not only were these sets to such a large scale they consumed entire rooms, but the were also immaculately detailed. You could literally walk down the entire train and look into each car. Being IN the actual sets brings you right back to the memories of the film, I could literally replay those scenes in my head. It felt like we were living them out ourselves. On the tour you are surrounded by so many adoring fans that you fit right in while snapping 100 pictures or positioning yourself at just the right angle. No one judges or questions your motives, they just jump in and take your camera for you.
We ended our trip with some fresh butter beers and an attempt to pass through Platform 9 3/4. There are so many amazing facets to the Studio Tour both for the wizard worshipper (me) and the nimbus novice (Jeff). We both appreciated the sheer expanse of the tour and how much joy it brought to us to dwell in a true cinematic wonderland. And the very best part of the entire tour??? You will have to wait and watch our upcoming VLOG of the day over on my YouTube channel :)
This day meant the absolute world to me and I hope this post has brought happiness to those of you who have stayed with Harry...until the very end.
~ A ~