Being my very mature self, I’ve pretty much been wanting to visit the Harry Potter Studio Tour since it opened in March. Luckily, it only took a few days of heavy hint-dropping for my dear old Mother to give in and treat her grown-up children to a grand, and very grown-up, Christmas day out!
This is HP at Warner Brothers’ Studios’ first Christmas, so the first chance to see the set of the Great Hall as it was dressed during the festive season: enormous turkeys, huge globes of Christmas pudding and grand ornate wreaths. If anything was going to make me miss my prop-making and art fabrication days, this was certainly it.
Enormous ice castles, life-size houses and food alike are all cast in resin – even the peeling wood of the bridge to Hogwarts is actually a rickety resin model. No wonder each film takes over one thousand workers to complete with so many props, camera tricks and green screens to handle, as well as costumes, set dressing, animatronics, live animals – the list is almost infinite.
Even though I cannot claim to be a huge Potter fan, this trip instantly transformed me into a wide-eyed eleven year old, running about the place snapping away at gnarled wands, circular NHS glasses and an enormous array of bizarre objects and fictitious creatures.
Far from ruin the magic of the films and the story itself, seeing the studios simply added another layer of enchantment: fire-breathing dragons, biting books and dancing pot plants are not green-screen creations but instead technical masterpieces working with liquid propane and motion detection.
Perhaps it’s more expensive to make these props than simply conjure them up on a screen, but surely far more interesting, innovative and enjoyable.
While I expected Diagon Alley to be the highlight, for me by far the most fascinating part was seeing, first-hand, the smaller and less static works of these genius prop-makers come to life. The hours of labour spent on pieces which are only seen in a single shot is unbelievable – but what fun to do.
I may not have got the job I was interviewed for at Frieze this week, but I think it may in fact be a blessing in disguise – Pinewood Studios here I come!
This experience proved that the magic is, most certainly, in the making.