The Making of Harry Potter Tour Part Two [Gal About Town: Fashion and Travel at Your Fingertips]
Last time we met, we were just about to enter the Great Hall through the magnificent Hogwarts main doors.
The Great Hall was absolutely majestic and awe inspiring. Additionally, since it was the holiday season, they had the hall decorated much like it was for Christmas in the movies. As you walked through the halls, you could see the carvings kids had made in the benches and tables over the years, costumes from The Philosopher’s Stone, and then the costumes of the Professors and Staff of Hogwarts at the head of the room. I got goose bumps as I stood in front of Dumbledore’s owl carved stand.
From the Great Hall you walk into the main exhibit room of the tour. Here you are introduced to the Producers and Directors of the movies, and what inspired them in their work on the movies. From there you move on to see costumes, ice sculptures and food from the Yule Ball. Interestingly enough, they used both real and fake versions of the cakes and treats created from the props department for filming the Yule Ball. This was the start of the “vignettes” for each department from Art, Props, Hair/Makeup, Costumes, etc. The entire tour has a great variety from each of the departments, but the vignettes help you to discover a bit about what each department does. And while there’s a wealth of costumes around the whole exhibit, of course I had wished there had been a bit more to the Costumes vignette. What was really interesting about their vignette is that they had two mannequin’s there; one wearing Fleur Delacour’s Beauxbaton uniform, the other wearing half the muslin mock-up of the costume and the other half the paper pattern of the costume.
I really loved that they showed people the steps it took to create the uniform. There was also a small rack of four identical jackets and jeans that Harry wore in The Deathly Hallows movies. Each costume showed the level of distressing that had been done to reflect the wear and tear they would’ve received from being worn by a wizarding fugitive on the run.
From there the room seemed to go on for forever. It was overwhelmingly wonderful. The room housed complete sets from Dumbledor’s office, Professor Slughorn’s Potions Classroom, the boy’s Gryffindor dormroom, the Gryffindor Common Room (complete with fireplace and portrait of Minerva McGonagall in her youth), Professor Umbridge’s office (complete with kitty plates), bits of the The Ministry of Magic, Hagrid’s hut, the Weasley’s kitchen, and the massive Malfoy mantle piece. Additionally there’s a wealth of props from the Room of Requirement, Portraits from throughout Hogwarts, the Hogwarts Clock, the amazingly intricate doors to The Chamber of Secrets and Gringotts. And that’s only a portion of everything you will see in that main room. It is so massive that it took us well over two hours to explore it, and we still didn’t get to do everything. It was enough to make any Potter fan think they had died and gone to heaven. It was just amazing to see all of the details of the sets, props, costumes. It truly made me fall even more in love with the movies, because after seeing all of this, I appreciated the art of it that much more.
We decided to take one last giant lap around the room to quickly see whatever we had missed. Once we got back to the area near the Great Hall…we noticed we were the only ones there, and the Great Hall was empty! A staff member graciously took a picture of us, and began chatting with us about our visit. I quickly learned that a seamstress/cutter/draper/embroiderer/Jill-of-all-costume-trades that had worked on the movies was there that evening! The lovely staff member pointed her out to us and I just couldn’t resist talking to her. Shelley Hazell worked on making the costumes from movies 5-8. She embroidered Dumbledor’s robe, made the exquisite looks of Narcissa Malfoy, and had a hand in just about everyone’s costume at one point or another. After about two minutes of chatting she realized I actually was in the costume business and not just a crazy HP fan who thinks they know how to sew (they exist) and we immediately began talking shop and swapping secrets. The whole tour was amazing, but this was my absolute favorite part. Shelley was such a lovely person, and it was heartwarming to hear just how much she enjoyed working on the movies (which isn’t always the case). We talked fabrics, patterns, prep time. All of the juicy little intriguing bits that I love about costume design in film. In addition to her work on HP, she also did a great deal of work on X-Men: First Class, Les Mis, and many other great cinematic works of art. Did you notice how perfectly tailored Kevin Bacon’s suits were in X-Men like I did? She did that. I’ve been a fan of her work for years and didn’t even know it! I made sure she knew her work had not gone unnoticed. In the end we had chatted for over half an hour and there was only a little over an hour to get through the rest of the tour, and I still had to try the Butterbeer!
I had been trying not to get my hopes up about the Butterbeer. I have so many food allergies that I had worried it wouldn’t be possible to try, especially because they don’t divulge the actual ingredients to anyone….But would they tell me what WASN’T in it? The staff was so sweet about the whole thing, they gave me a list of the possible allergens, and were able to answer a few extra concerns not on the list. And then there is was in my hands BUTTERBEER! I mean, I have dreamt about butterbeer ever since reading the books. I took my first frothy sip, and I was in love. It was sweet, butterscotchy, bubbly, and the whipped topping was thicker than a regular whipped cream, and it all blended together so wonderfully. I wished that I could’ve had them fill a thermos of it for later! It was truly delicious, and everything I had hoped for!
As we slowly sipped our butterbeers, we walked around the outdoors area of the tour. Here you could walk up to the front door of Harry’s house of Privet Drive, you could get into Hagrid’s motorbike, walk through the bridge from Hogwarts (even though Neville destroyed it- they must’ve fixed it again ;-) ), and you can even hop on the Knight’s Bus for a great photo op.
After we finished our butterbeers we were able to go onto the next building of the tour. The first two rooms of the building housed much of the “Creature Shop”. It was truly awe inspiring. You could bow to Buckbeak and see the extremely life-like Hagrid latex mask and wig his giant body-double had to wear. Look at how the Gringott’s goblins ears, hands, noses, and teeth were made. There was a wealth of creatures and FX makeup from all eight movies. (See all the pix below!)
And, there was Dobby. In the world of Harry Potter, Dobby is my absolute favorite character. We got to see much more of him in the books than the movies, but I just love that little house elf with all my heart. Spoiler Alert if you haven’t read the last books or seen the last two movies… It has been a long time since I’ve cried that much when a character in a book died. Dobby’s death rivaled the tears shed for Amy (Little Women), Melanie (Gone With the Wind), and even Old Yeller. His death in the movie broke my heart all over again. It was so wonderful to see how the creature shop made my favorite character come to life.
Next you got to walk through the set of Diagon Alley. The cool factor of this really can’t be explained, it’s one of those things that you just have to see for your self. To see the stores, everything in the windows, etc, it really made you feel like you could just walk right into Ollivander’s and buy yourself a wand (which you can do in the gift shop).
The next room had several renderings and different scales of models for Hogwarts. It was interesting to see the different variations of ideas for what Hogwarts should be/look. This room snaked you around the different models and led you to the final part of the tour-the GIANT Hogwart’s model. It was thee model used in the first movies before they were about to completely computer generate all of it. This massive “set” took up a rather large room. It was another awe-inspiring moment to be able to walk around the model and see every little bit of detail and art of it. Each shingle on the spherical roofs was individually hand laid. Just the sheer amount of work that went into it was breath taking. And the people who worked on it, laboriously for weeks on end, put such care and love into it. As the tour ended, I realized this tour wasn’t just a love letter to the Harry Potter movies, it was a love letter to every member of the cast and crew that went into making them. Their hard work and dedication have given us a series of movies that I will love and cherish until I part this earth.
As we reluctantly left the model room (we had to catch the last shuttle bus to the train station) we passed through a room, like that in Ollivander’s filled with wand boxes. Each box had the name of a crew or cast member on it. There were thousands of boxes. It warmed by heart to see that WB had honored their work so wonderfully.
I loved every moment of this tour. We didn’t even get to see everything. But this will help me justify going back again one of these days. It is an experience for everyone, not just a Potter fan. There really is something everyone can appreciate.
Just remember: 1) Plan your visit a few weeks ahead. 2) Buy your tickets for the earliest time slot possible- this will be an all day experience 3) Take your time, there is so much to see and learn 4)There aren’t a lot of food options, so if you have food allergies, bring a snack 5) Be prepared for one of the most fantastic experiences of your life!
P.S.—If you’re craving butterbeer as much as I am now, check out this recipe.