Harry Potter Studio Tour!

When we visited London in December, E got tickets for us to go to the Warner Brothers Studio – The Making of Harry Potter tour! The Harry Potter books and films were very important to our family, so we were thrilled to be able to go. We went on a weekday when our son-in-law had to be at work, so we were a party of five – my spouse B, our daughters E and T, our granddaughter ABC, and me. E was the only one who had been there before.

The Studios are outside London, so we needed to use trains and buses to get there. The last segment is on special studio buses. One of the first things you see after entering is a very large dragon in flight. We weren’t sure how ABC, at two and a half, would react to such things, but she loves dinosaurs and accepted dragons as a dinosaur-variant. (T is holding ABC in the foreground.)
HP flying dragon

Because so many people visit, the start times of the tour are staggered throughout the day. There are some introductory remarks from tour guides and a short film before your group is ushered into the Great Hall. Because we were there in December, everything was decorated for Christmas, including, of course, Christmas crackers at each place at the table.
Great Hall

You can see little details of the set, like the tree-toppers with flying witches…
HP XMas tree-topper

and the wreath around the crest on the fireplace.
Great Hall fireplace

After the Great Hall, the rest of the tour is self-guided, laid out in a uni-directional way. There are lots of sets, like Harry’s Gryffindor bedroom,
Harry's bedroom

costumes, like these from the Yule Ball,
HP costumes Yule Ball

and props, like this display of wands.
HP wands

There were certain displays that ABC did not like, such as these disembodied hairpieces.
HP wigs

Sometimes, context mattered. For example, we rushed ABC out of the dark Forbidden Forest Set with its spiders because she was not a fan, but, later, when we saw the huge model of Aragog, Hagrid’s former pet giant spider, which was several meters wide, mounted on a wall, ABC decided to sing “The Eensy, Weensy Spider” to it.

As a big fan of trains, ABC enjoyed the Hogwarts Express.
Hogwart's Express

Even better, we got to walk through the train cars!
Ada on the Hogwart's Express

For some reason, I had to rush ABC through the grand Gringotts Bank set, because she did not approve.
Gringotts

The destroyed Gringotts was much more to her liking! She insisted on watching the scene multiple times. It must have been the attraction of the dragon…

The last part of the display before the obligatory exit-through-the giftshop was the model of Hogwarts used for the external shots. ABC was a big fan!
J and Ada at Hogwarts model

It was a beautiful model. Because it was winter, we got to see it with snow which made it look even more magical!
Hogwarts model

We all had a lovely time. I hope we will be able to visit again in the coming years. It will be fun to see how ABC reacts over time. Warner Brothers also continues to add new displays, as well as having various limited time features, so there will be new things to see each time.

Eventually, ABC – and any future siblings – will be able to read the Harry Potter books and see the films. Perhaps, E and L will embark on our family tradition of reading each book aloud as a family.

Maybe, B and I will be able to join in via videochat…

Happy Birthday, Harry!

Today is Harry Potter’s 36th birthday. Happy birthday to his creator, Joanne Rowling, whose birthday is also today!

Today is also the release date for the script of a new play about the grown-up Harry and his family, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. The premiere performance was last night. There were midnight launch parties in bookstores and other trappings of Harry Potter book launches, not seen since the publication of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows ten years ago.

And it is happening without me.

I do still love Harry Potter and will probably read the script at some point, but the urgency is absent now.

When our daughters E and T were younger and both still living at home, Harry Potter book releases were major events, which began marathon family read-alouds. The books and the connections they engendered were woven into the fabric of our lives. You can read more about why and how in this post.

I have been enjoying the continued unfolding of the world of Harry Potter. Through Pottermore, I know that I am in Ravenclaw at Hogwarts and in Pukwudgie at Ilvermorny, located atop Mount Greylock in Massachusetts, not far from where I grew up. I am looking forward to seeing the new film, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, when it comes out in November. Someday, I hope to visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Florida or go on a studio tour in London.

Meanwhile, today will unfold like a normal summer Sunday…

 

Why I will always love Harry Potter

Happy 34th Birthday, Harry Potter! Yes, I do know that July 31st is Harry’s birthday. (It’s also Joanne Rowling’s birthday, although she is a bit older than Harry.) Harry’s birthday is even marked on my calendar because he – or, rather, the books that J.K. Rowling created about him – has been very important to my family.

I bought the first two Harry Potter books on the recommendation of a friend who worked in the children’s department of the bookstore when the books were just starting to be known in my region of the US in 1999. They were an end of school year gift for my younger daughter, who was then in elementary school. She was having trouble getting into the first book, the beginning of which was too reminiscent of Raold Dahl, who was not a favorite of hers – or mine, so my husband began reading the first book aloud to her and soon the whole family was hooked.

Thus began our family tradition of reading Harry Potter books aloud. We read all of the subsequent books as a family, the four of us taking turns reading subsequent chapters. We would receive first day deliveries or go to midnight launch parties as the new books were released. Because release dates of the later books in the series were summer Saturdays, we would embark on marathon weekend reading days, getting through the bulk of the long books over Saturday and Sunday, with the exciting conclusions reserved for after my husband’s return from work on Monday. (We hid the book on a high shelf in our bedroom so no one would read ahead!)

The book launches became important events for us and the later books coincided with times when our family needed the strength of our mutual support. Order of the Phoenix (Book 5) appeared when our older daughter had just been diagnosed with an intractable migraine, after missing most of a semester of high school because she was ill and no one could figure out what was happening. Half-Blood Prince (Book 6) appeared during the three-week span between the death of my father-in-law and his memorial service. The declining health and death of Dumbledore acted as counterpoint to our own family story, as Grandpa had been a long-serving and much-loved school principal with striking white hair. When Deathly Hallows (Book 7) was released, our older daughter had just been diagnosed with fibromyalgia/chronic fatigue syndrome, giving a name to the puzzling assortment of ailments that she had endured for years, including the aforementioned intractable migraine. She was about to start her senior year in college with a semester away in Vienna. The family time we spent reading together was a precious time before she set off into the unknown.

This was especially fitting because the Harry Potter fandom had gifted her with some of her best friends who had sustained her through some of her worst times. As a precocious literary-minded secondary school student, she had joined some of the adult fandom online. She had taught herself some web design to start her own Harry Potter themed website, including an advice column in which she and Snape answered questions about both muggle and wizarding concerns. She wrote some fan fiction and engaged in literary analysis in online groups. When she became ill with what turned out to be the 8-month migraine and couldn’t leave the house, her online friends became her main social outlet outside of our family. It helped that several of her best online HP friends were in different time zones, as she often could not sleep at night and there would nearly always be someone online with whom she could chat, whatever the hour.

These women are still some of her closest friends. She has now met several of them in person. Two came to her senior voice recital in her last semester of college. She met more at a Harry Potter convention and has even spent time travelling and visiting with them in Japan.

In a way, they are even responsible for her current master’s thesis project. Some of her Harry Potter friends were also fans of J-pop (Japanese popular music), in which our daughter also became interested. Her decision to pursue a master’s in ethnomusicology and to study at University of Hawai’i – Manoa were related to this interest. U of HI is known as a center of excellence for Asian studies.

The life of our family was made richer by Harry Potter and Joanne Rowling. Happy Birthday to them both and eternal thanks for everything you have given to our family!