This article was originally published in the 2011-2012 academic year.
With seven books, eight films, and millions of fans across the globe, Harry Potter has undoubtedly become an entertainment phenomenon over the past fifteen years. It’s a franchise that has captivated the minds of many with its tales of the young boy wizard and his magical friends, and as a result it has turned one woman into a multi-millionaire… or billionaire… or perhaps even a zillionaire. The point is, it’s made J.K. Rowling one very wealthy author and she’s probably rolling around in a massive pile of money as we speak, simply because she can.
Anyway, just when you think the udders of the Harry Potter cash cow have been milked as dry as they possibly can be (without managing to stoop to the all-time low that would be an eighth novel – Harry Potter and the Unnecessary Sequel), Warner Bros. have opened up the doors to The Making of Harry Potter, a tour of the film studios that brought the fantastical stories to life. But after a theme park in America and whatever the hell Pottermore is supposed to be, is this yet another cheap cash-in or is it a worthwhile celebration of the series that left children everywhere with lightning bolts drawn on their foreheads (not to mention bumps from running headfirst at the barrier in between Platforms 9 and 10 at King’s Cross station)? As a budding screenwriter and film maker myself, I was lucky enough to head up to the studios to check it out.
Now then, I want to beat around the bush (or should that be Whomping Willow?), I really really do… but I won’t, because there’s absolutely no denying it – this is an experience that any Harry Potter fan is going to find amazing, be they adult or child, die-hard or casual. There truly is something for everyone at The Making of Harry Potter. Right from when you first step into the studio foyer and are greeted with photos on the walls above of the principal cast members from across the years, as well as the infamous flying Ford Anglia hanging from the ceiling (complete with blinking indicator light), you know this is going to be something special.
Into the heart of the studios you go (through the door to Hogwarts no less, providing there’s a child volunteer on hand to help open it) and you’ll find yourself immersed in the world of J.K. Rowling’s creations, walking on some of the actual sets from the films and surrounded by familiar props, costumes, and anything else you could possibly think of. From the Great Hall to Diagon Alley (the latter of which truly being a spectacle when you first step foot on it), more or less everything is covered in some shape or form, with specially made videos and information to be found alongside to give you the behind-the-scenes scoop. The final part of the tour is easily a highlight so I shan’t spoil it… although according to one of the attendants, it’s made people literally cry with joy upon laying eyes on it. Make of that what you will.
What you’ll truly appreciate about the tour though is that it displays just how much effort goes into making a film on this scale. The attention to detail is astonishing and you wouldn’t believe some of the stuff that’s gone into bringing the Boy Who Lived to the big screen, with hundreds and thousands of tiny things that add to the overall atmosphere that you’ve probably not even stopped to notice before. You’ll never be able to watch the films the same way again, and all the better for it.
Now though, let’s not forget that this is a Harry Potter product, so there is some amount of cash cow milking to be done. Following the tour you’re conveniently led into the gift shop, which can be seen as either a blessing or a curse. Hardcore fans will be in heaven, with pretty much anything you could ever want under one roof (Hogwarts robes, replica wands, you name it and they’ve probably got it) – but be warned, it comes with a ridiculously hefty price tag. You could spend a lot of money in this place if you’re not careful! If you desperately want to buy just a little something though, I do suggest trying the Butterbeer they sell halfway through the tour, although even that’s not for everyone. Personally, I found it delicious. Others have deemed it “diabetes in a cup”. Go figure.
So, in summary, I can highly recommend The Making of Harry Potter for all fans of the series, or even just wannabe film makers who want to see the sheer amount of effort that goes into making a movie like these. It’s a resounding success through and through, and it will – deservedly, but begrudgingly – be lining J.K. Rowling’s pockets with extra wads of cash (not that she needs them) for a good while to come. Prepare to unleash your inner Muggle and be spellbound by this series all over again.