Monday, September 05, 2016

Making Harry Potter

hello there

ok, and, here we go.

i have little or no doubt, look you see, that the most general interest in our exploits around the land will be in respect of all elements which covered the world of Harry Potter, or Harry Potter if you like, should i forget to do them italics commands at some point. i've narrowed down some 428 (!) pictures to 30 or so, so let me get this one done.......

visiting Making Harry Potter or if you like Harry Potter World was the "big one" of our holiday. it was the activity that would take up just about a whole day, and also the one that would account for a significant percentage of our budget.

 for what reason did we select to go here? because the 75% of my family that you all like more than you do like me are quite big fans of the whole thing. me? i've nothing much against it, i just don't know so much about it. i mean, i think that i know the basics of the storyline, and i did watch that one which had Ian Brown and Gary Oldman in it, Prisoner Of Azkaban.

to that end, then, forgive me if any or many of my comments about all this Harry Potter stuff strike you as dumb ignorance. it's not me being flippant; it really is the case that i didn't have all that much of an idea what i was looking at. perhaps at some stage i shall get my (considerably) better half to do a guest blog, as she shall surely be able to do a better job of explaining what was what from all the pictures.

some practical information about getting there, then, and whether or not it's all worth it. i am not saying that the approach we took is the best, but i can quite confidently tell you that our way worked out really, really well for us. despite the costs, we have absolutely no quibble with the fact that we got, on the button, value for money.

we ordered our tickets from the Warner Bros Studio Tour website directly, with the family ticket (two adults, two children below the age of 16) costing £107.  our reason for doing this was that we wanted the tickets in our hands, and needed to check availability before we booked the rest of the holiday around it. they control the number of people going in very well indeed, which means that limited tickets are all that are available. i'd strongly suggest you book at least a month in advance.

after that we weighed up the ways of getting there. Spiros offered us the use of his car, which was kind but if you've seen London roads then you will know that you don't really want to drive on them if you can avoid it. the train looked reasonable but also overtly complicated. bus it was, then, as you have no doubt clocked from the first pictures. we used someone called Golden Tours, who offer transport and tickets or, as we required, transport alone.

the cost for transport alone was £108 for the four of us, which is indeed £1 north of the actual entry. for that, however, you escape the headache of transport, and it really was a first class service, so no complaints from me.

the above is in the foyer, or if you like entrance area, for the whole tour thing. as mentioned earlier, they are really very good at not letting people get overcrowded so that all may enjoy the experience. this means waiting to be let in for a bit, but they've gone out of their way to make that (short) time as passable as possible by having some exhibits outside the actual tour. and yes, even i know that this is the cupboard under the stairs in which Harry Potter lives.

please note, like most if not all of what you will see, this is the cupboard under the stairs from the film. all of the exhibits are actual props and sets from the films. which means that it was in itself wonderful for me despite my lack of knowledge on the Harry Potter universe, as i really do love the magic of how movies were made.

i suppose that one of them "spoiler warning" things should be here, yeah? i mean, if you are planning on going and just wanted to know if it was worthwhile, then yes it is and i trust the above info has helped. everything after this bit here, however, is likely to reveal some of the magic and mystery of the place. you've been warned, then, so you have, to be sure.

the above is the doorway into the absolutely massive studio tour. when i say massive, it's two warehouse sized studios joined. this doorway appears by magic after you watch a short film hosted by him who played Harry Potter, her who played the lass that has the same name as one of the songs on Bowie's Space Oddity album, and that other lad that's Harry's mate, or something.

it's a really good film. they thank us (ostensibly) the fans for making it all such a huge success, and spend a lot of time thanking the many, many thousands of people who worked behind the scenes to make it all possible. this film was a really nice touch, and gets you well in the mood to enjoy it all.

whilst you know, i know and Warner Bros know that what everyone is there for is to see how the Harry Potter films were all made and enjoy the magic of the props and effects, you get to see a lot of credit, praise and respect being paid to those otherwise unnoticed and possibly unacknowledged people who helped make the films. sure, yeah, they got paid to do it, but if their talents were not available for hire, then none of the magic would have been possible, would it?

at the entry there's a board like this and some information on each of the film directors who made the movies. i chose to picture and include this one as, from what i recall, this was the bloke who made the one movie i saw. he would, then, have been involved with the very wise decision to cast Ian Brown and Gary Oldman in it.

the celebration of those who worked behind the scenes to make the films is admirable and not at all heavy handed. as i said, all and sundry are quite aware that you're not there to see highlights of the career of whoever was appointed senior assistant to the key grip in the making of the fifth movie. you're all there to see the stuff from the films, and that's what you get.

even me with my limited knowledge knows the above - that's Professor Snape, as was played by the late, great Alan Rickman. from what i recall of that which i am aware of, he has a fairly significant part in all of the films and the plot overall. you know what, perhaps i should watch the films.

whilst the displays and exhibits like the one above are strictly off limits for touching and what have you, there is a very welcome level of interactive stuff as you go around. most would be at no extra charge to what you paid to get in, but we shall get to that later.

one of the free, as in gratis, things that you could do was to have a go at commanding a broom to go "up" and into your hand. here's James showing how it is done, for those of you capable of playing video on this blog.

my understanding of the brooms in the world of Harry Potter is that they are not used for conventional transport as much as they are used in the form of chariots for that mental game they play, Quidditch i think it's called. still, i imagine it's important for all witches, warlocks, wizards and sorcerers to know how to command and fly a broom, lest they have absolutely no means of travel.

the interactive things you can do and touch carry on all around the tour. i, as indeed did my (considerably) better half, took pictures of most if not all of them, but again i don't know too much about what i was looking at. like, for instance, this one. 

the sign next to this one says that what is getting mixed is unicorn's blood. nope, sorry, i have no idea if they are making unicorn blood or mixing it with something, and i would have less idea as to why one would do this. presumably this would all make a good deal of sense to those more familiar with the world of the wizard, so there you go.

some video of William having a go at commanding the broom to come up? of course.

the boys, as hopefully is conveyed in the above videos, had an absolutely amazing time with all that was on offer at the tour. i'm not sure it's accurate to say that it is all aimed at them, as the sense i have is that Harry Potter is aimed at family, rather than just children's, entertainment. the significant number of grown, at least in part educated, adults i saw wandering around dressed as Harry and other characters from the movies all suggested that it has that Star Wars or Star Trek magic to it with the fans.

more of a look at what is on display? sure. if i remember right, this is a family tree tapestry which must have taken some making, and presumably was only seen in the background during the films. no, i would have no idea why some of the people on the family tree appear to be burned out.

this could well be wrong, but i seem to recall my (considerably) better half informed me that this was a family tree tapestry of the Sirius Black family. as i know who he is (or at least know that he was played by Gary Oldman), i elected to pay attention to it, then.

virtually everywhere you look on the tour is somewhere that you will see props, devices, outfits and such from the films. dotted around are some magnificent display cases featuring some of the books used or created for use in the films. here's an example.

i say some, but certainly not all. a massive disappointment for me was that of all the books on display the one that was missing was the copy of A Brief History Of Time by Stephen Hawking that Ian Brown was sat reading in his epic appearance in Prisoner Of Azkaban. that would have been totes awesome, man, to be able to see the book which Ian Brown held in his hands. perhaps it was his own copy of it that he brought and took home with him, then, or perhaps the cheeky Manc elected to liberate it after filming.

again, then, i find myself somewhat torn between not wanting to share images of things that one will see on the tour and knowing that not all of those who wish to get there would be able to do so, either in this time or the next. i'll just go with the idea that if you don't want spoilers then you don't look.

once again, again, even with my knowledge i know that the above is the office of the headmaster of Hogwarts School For X Men or whatever it is called, with Professor Dumbledore being the incumbent headmaster. out of all the imaginary headmaster offices what i have seen for those appointed as being in charge of schools for conjurers and charlatans, this one is very much in the north end of the top ten.

more interactive stuff that one can touch? surely. how about, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, having a go at that special thing which they do to get onto the train platform which takes the students to the Hogwarts School For Super Heroes?

in the films, and presumably in the books too, platform nine and three quarters is located at King's Cross. those of you who have followed my exploits on this blog shall know that, more than once, i have seen the, ahem, actual one of these located at King's Cross. these replica ones of it at the studio tour did the job just fine, and indeed saved us from queueing for an hour or so at King's Cross to get pictures of the boys having a go.

running at a magic wall and going to a hidden part of a train station was a frequent thing in the Harry Potter films. it cannot, however, been all that much of an important part of the films, as Ian Brown never did it in the one he was in. he did, however, magically stir a cup of tea (or something) by magic, and you can see a cauldron doing something like that.

was the above what Ian Brown was stirring in his epic, criminally overlooked for awards appearance and performance? i am not sure, but i don't think so. from what i remember he had a pretty conventional mug or tankard on the go for his mega scene.

a picture of William having a go at the magic wall to get to Hogwarts? sure.

and a selfie of my (considerably) better half and i in the area, to show that we were really there and very much enjoying it? of course.

yes, quite, i know that many of you prefer not to see me and barely tolerate reading that which i write, but there we go - my blog, and blogs are supposed to be all me! moi! i!, so i can jolly well appear if i want to.

the two studios used for the tour are separated by a most splendid outside area. on the note of the studios, they are named J and K, presumably in honour of the lady who created the world of Harry Potter in them novels. please laugh when the tour guide points this out at the start - no one did in our party, and she looked quite deflated and upset about this.

some of the props and what have you from the film are better suited to being outside than they are in. like, for instance, this absolutely massive purple, triple decker bus. or maybe it has four levels.

i think this one was in that one film i saw, actually. memories come back of them all being on a bus in London traffic, and the bus being able to do this smart thing where it goes thinner so that it may pass through the traffic with ease.

yes, if you were of a mind to do so, you could indeed board the Knight Bus and have a look around it. we were not of a mind to do so, however. we did, as point of fact, cross something that i believe is called the Hogwarts Bridge.

i am going to guess that this bridge either allows one to come and go to that Hogwarts School, or otherwise connects some buildings within it. presumably this bridge also played an integral part in one or more of the stories and films, but i would not know which.

in terms of outside displays that you could go and have a touch of and play with, the boys were very excited indeed to see that Hagrid's motorcycle was one of them. there was also some sort of car you could get in - i think the one that belongs to the family of that lad who isn't Harry, Rupert or something - but there was something of a formidable queue for that one.

what's my knowledge of Hagrid? well, he's absolutely massive and has a beard. this i know as i looked it up after people kept on calling me Hagrid. the size of him suggests that a motorcycle would not be a most comfortable form of travel for him, but there you go and here we are.

i also know that Robbie Coltrane played Hagrid in the films. Robbie Coltrane is class, he is. i've not seen it but i think he's in some sort of cop show where he plays a psychiatrist or something, Cracker i think. all i know for sure is that he was the copper with the boss chainsaw in The Supergrass, a film widely acknowledged as being the greatest ever non-Monty Python British film. well, kind of. Two Tribes off of Frankie Goes To Hollywood is on the soundtrack as he uses the chainsaw, which makes it all the more excellent.

yes, that is as far as i could get into the sidecar. if the comparisons between myself and Hagrid are accurate, i would venture a guess that Hagrid never ever rides in the sidecar himself, unless he - unlike me - can do some sort of magic trick which makes him go smaller enough to fit in it.

a bit of a practical review of the outside area? sure. there's a dining place there. you can buy food and drink if you like, but again with them being as visitor friendly as possible they make it very clear that you are "absolutely" welcome to bring your own to eat and drink, just so long as you don't consume it within either studio J or studio K. and now that i think, wouldn't a Men In Black studio tour thing also be able to call each of its buildings studio J and studio K?

i'm not sure what the cost of regular food and drink is inside this area of Harry Potter World, but i do know that "Butterbeer", something apparently invented for the film, is tres expensive. as in 1p south of £4 for what seemed to be a 200ml cup. apparently it's something that will mean a thing or two to those who have seen the movies, and so i bought, with tears in my eyes and a hole in my wallet, one each for the three of them.

also, once again underlining how they want to make everyone comfortable and welcome, there's a very well hidden away smoking section in this outdoor area. nice one.

the average length of a tour through Making Harry Potter is four hours. that's what they have worked out as a time required to look at all of the exhibits and to have a go on some of the stuff. you are, however, free to go at your own pace. apparently the fastest someone did it in was 30 minutes, whilst one person was in there for 13 hours. i am going to assume that the fastest was someone annoyed that no Ian Brown related things were on display, and the longest was someone who was determined to look at absolutely everything in the hope of finding something related to Ian Brown.

anyway, yes, we took just minutes south of four hours. yes, i probably could have done it all without having a cigarette. the opportunity to do so, however, was a very welcome one. nice one, Warner Bros - thank you for thinking of the comfort of very single one of your guests.

i made a point of saying that most if not all of the stuff you see on this tour is as it was in the film. Warner Bros are very much at pains to point out whenever something you are looking at deviates from this, even slightly. i think this is overkill, but i dare say it is done to appease that special kind of twat who would complain about the slightest thing.

hence, then, the above sign being quite visible before you get on the Hogwarts Express carriage. i would not imagine that many would complain, but you never know. for me it made more sense to have one compartment of the train done for one particular film or year, rather than have it just as it was from one of the films.

and how do the different carriage compartments look? very smart. here's one of them, sorry no idea which film it was but looking at the rags what Harry has on perhaps it was the first.

speaking of this train, the Hogwarts Express if you will, i mentioned earlier that most of the activities inside are free. there are a few optional things one can do, but that one must pay coins of money for.

one of these was to have a video made of you very much in a Harry Potter film. they filmed you on the blue / green screen thing flying around on a broom, and then added the background. you got a DVD or USB stick with it on, and the price was, i think, £25. that would have been an eye watering £50 to get done for the boys, but as it would have been a one off chance we'd have done it, only the queue was massive.

there was, however, less of a queue to have an "official" image taken of you sat on the Hogwarts Express. we did that, then.

yes, this is the official picture from it, rather than one taken with either my phone or that of my (considerably) better half. they project movie footage on the window for you to act along with, and you get to choose what you want as your picture.

cost in coins of money? £15 for one picture (with a free digital copy, as seen above), and then an extra £7 for a second one if you want the other pose too. it's not something one has to do on the tour, but for me that is not an unreasonable cost for what you get. like, for instance, when am i next going to be able to go on an actual film set thing and have my picture taken against a professional green screen?

a bit more of the better suited due to size outside props? sure, here's some of the absolutely massive chess pieces which were, i believe, used in the first film.

from what i recall, the first film was, in the UK, called Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone, as was the book. this got changed, in particular in America, to Sorcerer's Stone, as they were worried that American audiences would not know what a philosopher was but that they were ok with the idea of a sorcerer. i do wish people would stop this, you know. right, yes, fine - Americans might be hopeless and clueless at selecting a President, but they are neither as thick nor as ignorant as made out. sure, some are, but doesn't every village have its idiot?

there are some absolutely massive chess pieces outside of the entrance to the studio too, but here you go, the above is a look at the ones you can see inside. now that i think on, i did not think to count and see if all of the chess pieces off of the game were visible. probably not, i would imagine.

back to the inside elements of the tour, indeed inside studio K, and say hello to a familiar face.

that there above would indeed be a most smart likeness of Mr John Cleese, he who appeared (i think) only as a ghost of a partially headless chap.

i don't recall all of who was who in what in the Harry Potter films, but i am pretty sure that they used, extensively if not exclusively, British and Irish actors alone for the parts. that's quite amazing. there must, after all, have been some pressure to cast an American or two for the American / international audience, but that blend of (then) unknown child actors and the very finest of British talent for the adult parts worked an absolute treat, so it did. well, presumably it did, going on the one i saw and the massive box office which all of the films appear to have enjoyed.

a bit more video for you? absolutely. also on display around the studio tour are various examples of animatronics. here is a small, child like one. not a hundred percent sure if it's a person or creature, but i will hazard a guess.

i think, going on the nose and what i know of it all, this is some sort of junior, smaller or shorter version of Voldermort, the "big bad" of the whole thing. unless there's another "big bad" that i am entirely unaware of, which will mean me one day watching all of the films spoiler free.

should that not in fact be Voldermort or a variation thereof, my apologies. in particular if this should be video of another major character that i am unaware of.

one thing that i am aware of is that there are few, if any, grumbles about how the novels were adapted for the movies. well, maybe some cried "cash cow" when they split the final one into two separate films, but then again that meant the fans just got more.

whilst some things in the books got cut for the sake of pacing and the running time of the films, every now and then one or two things got added. no dramatic changes to the story as such, but added all the same. like, for instance, this one. 

should i have remembered right from what i read, this is a statue of the architect that went right ahead and designed Hogwarts. in this sense, he would be a film only thing, for i am sure the notes mentioned that there's no reference to such an architect in the books.

sure, some props and parts of sets have been on display so far, but what about actual sets from the film? well, they appear for the most part in the second hall, or if you like studio K in order that we may please the tour start announcer. here you go, here's a street.

what shop and on what street? no idea. i can recall some sort of market place area at the start of the one film i saw. it had a bank, and various shops where one could buy all that magic stuff they needed in order to learn how to be a conjurer or magician or whatever. also, there was a coffee shop or bar, for that was where Ian Brown had his pivotal scene. but i don't think i saw that one.

more of the costumes and outfits? surely. whilst no, i did not see the smart robes worn by Ian Brown in a quite sage like way, i did see this outfit which i think is one worn by Hagrid. 

i think i am supposed to be flattered and feel like i am being complemented with the comparisons or likeness to Hagrid. i trust that this is the case, at the least. he does seem pretty boss in all of them.

towards the end of this epic length blog post, then, and indeed towards the end of the Harry Potter studio tour. and what an end. you go into a very special, very large auditorium which has a massive sized statue of Hogwarts School in it.

i'm not at all sure that these images will do it justice, but i hope they give you an idea. all i can say is my goodness, the talent, the patience and the incredible skill that went into creating this.

my (considerably) better half has photographed, or if you like taken pictures of, it from all angles, but it would appear that i have selected three from the same spot. bugger. oh well, i am sure one day the best of the rest will appear on here.

at the very, very end of the tour, then, you go into a room that looks like the shop what him off of Alien ran, the one where wizards, warlocks and witches all bought their wands from. except this one isn't so much from the actual films, but it is splendid all the same.

here, you see, it is claimed that there is a wizard wand box for each and ever member of the cast and crew to have worked on or in the world of Harry Potter. that's a fair few thousand. hooray, i thought, at last i would find some reference to Ian Brown and his important contribution to the films.

alas, no. we were told that the staff and tour guide would answer any question, and they in particular liked the really difficult ones. i would have thought, then, that the most difficult one would be to know where exactly it was that i may examine and inspect the box marked with the name of Ian Brown, he of The Stone Roses and he who starred in Prisoner of Azkaban that i watched. sadly this was all too easy for the guide to answer.

apparently there was not a wizard wand box marked with the name of Ian Brown. the nice lady was very sorry to tell me this, and informed me that she had "no idea" why this was the case. it was with some disgust that she said that they bothered to make one for the (considerably lesser) Jarvis Cocker, so it made no sense not to have one for Ian Brown.

so, i did the whole Harry Potter World tour in the hope of seeing at least one item or artefact relating to the presence of Ian Brown, and saw none. hey ho, in his absence, at least we found the wizard box for the second best to Ian Brown person off of the films, Gary Oldman himself.

and after that you exit into a gift shop area. actually, an absolutely massive gift shop, one that is about the size of a supermarket for us up here in proper England, or if you like Yorkshire.

prices in the gift shop? not bad i suppose. there are a few exclusives. a Harry Potter postcard will set you back 95p i think, and no they didn't have any of Ian Brown or Gary Oldman. fridge magnets were £3.99, and again nope, neither of them.

the various styles of Harry Potter Top Trumps were all available, at some £6.95 a deck that is, i believe, about £2 north of what you pay in more regular shops. one can also buy replica wands of the various characters, with the prices being £24.95 each. as far as i am aware, this is more or less what they cost everywhere else.

chocolate toads costs £8.95 each, but they are quite big and come with a hologram wizard card, which i believe also happens in the films. i am not sure how much the packet of peppermint chocolate toads you can see in the background cost, but i can tell you the price of the massive, tankard styled mug. 

yay, in the absence of something related to Ian Brown, i at the least found something which was in some way connected to the presence of Gary Oldman in the films. this fine and splendid mug costs £11.95 and it is quite awesome. considering most places sell "regular" size mugs with film, TV and music licensed stuff on them for about £7, the price is not bad.

not pictured here but bought anyway was the softback version of the "official guide book", and that was £9.95. the hardback variant was £14.95, and looked somewhat cumbersome to carry around. weight with that version would, i think, be in particular a problem for those coming from overseas.

as one goes in and out of the tour one is greeted by absolutely massive, official portrait posters of the various actors dressed, presumably, as their characters. although you would like to think that Gary Oldman always dresses the way he does in this here poster.

and, wow, golly gosh, that's pretty much that for my blog post on the day that was had at Making Harry Potter. and what an awesome day it was too.

hopefully, if there's interest, either i or my (considerably) better half with shot yet more pictures from the tour up here for your viewing pleasure. bonus if it be my (considerably) better half, for she would be able to tell you more of what was what in an informed way.

should you be contemplating a trip to London because of the Harry Potter experience but are not sure that it's worth it, i can assure you that, most decidedly, it very much is. this is the kind of homage, tribute and celebration of cinematic invention which one might only presume exists in America. how nice to find it so relatively close to home.

if you head off to the tour, i trust you all enjoy it as much as we did!

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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