Monday, July 2, 2012

Harry Potter Studio Tour, Studio Number 1

Warning, if you know absolutely nothing about Harry Potter/don't care about Harry Potter, just skip this post, it'll make life easier really.  Also, because of how ridiculously long my posts are, I've broken them down into three parts: Studio Number 1, the Back Lot, Studio Number 2, just to make life a little easier on everyone.

So, Warner Brothers took two huge sound stages and turned them into a walking tour/museum type thing all for Harry Potter.  Now, unlike the Harry Potter theme park in Universal Studios, every single object in there is an actual prop/set piece/costume used in the movie, there no replicas.  Now, I'll try not to overwhelm you with photos and video clips, but no promises really. 

So, when you get to the studio, you have a little bit of time, and then you line up to go inside.  As you line up, you get to see the first small set.  It almost seems appropriate that the first thing you see is Harry's little tiny cupboard under the stairs.  Now, it looks a little bigger on camera, but this thing is TINY, you can't help but feel bad for Harry and the fact that he had to live under there for 11 years.  In the cupboard, there were Harry's glasses (of course) and the little toy soldiers he played with in the first movie, and they reappeared in the seventh movie as he's looking back at his little cupboard.

So after walking through the line you go to a big room with movie posters all over, and they show you a brief clip of how Harry Potter became a huge phenomenon.  You then go into a smallish movie theater where you're given an introduction to the actual studio tour by, who else but Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson, aka Harry Potter, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger.  They talk about how the sets were home to them, they're so glad to be sharing them with you, etc, etc.  Then, their little commentary ends in front of the entrance to the Great Hall.  The screen is retracted up, revealing the actual entrance to the Great Hall.  As the entrance to the Great Hall was revealed, the entire audience gasped, and you could feel the excitement in the air.

There, a tour guide gives you a little bit of an introduction as to what you're going to see inside, and she enlists the help of a few excited children on the tour, and they pull open the doors, revealing the magnificent Great Hall from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.  That's it, our first step into Hogwarts

Now, all around the Great Hall are costumes and robes worn at various points during the Harry Potter franchise.  They include the Grey Lady's dress (Ravenclaw house ghost), Cedric Diggory's Tri-Wizard robes, Malfoy's robes, Ron's robes, and, of course, Harry's robes, including the first set of Gryffindor robes he wore.

Now, if you're familiar at all with the movies, you'll know that the professors sit at the front of the Great Hall at a long table that faces the students.  Well, up at the front of the Great Hall was the professors' table, of course, along with a collection of robes warn by various professors throughout the course of filming the movies.

Pictured above is what I would call the "highlight" of the professors' table with three of the greatest professors in the series.  Going from left to right is Professor Minever McGonagall, Transfiguration professor played by Dame Maggie Smith (everything with her name on it is labeled "Dame Maggie Smith," which I thought was awesome), Professor Albus Dumbledore, Hogwarts Headmaster, and Professor Severus Snape, Potions Master, Defense Against the Dark Arts Professor and Hogwarts Headmaster.  You can also see the podium Dumbledore uses as well.

The Great Hall is actually A LOT smaller than I thought it would be.  I knew it looked bigger on screen in general, they use camera tricks to do that, but I wasn't prepared for how incredibly small it really was.  I mean, I'd put the size at maybe a little bigger than half the size of a high school gym.  Yeah, I know, it looks absolutely massive in the books.

So after going through the Great Hall, you're officially let into the study and left to your own devices for the duration of the tour.  To help you visualize what this was like, basically take every single prop, set and costume of consequence from all eight movies, put them together in a GIANT sound stage and let a whole bunch of people lose.  It was amazing.  It was like sensory overload, you never knew where to look next.  I'm going to try to hit just the highlights, for me to talk about everything would leave you with a few hundred pages to read, along with photos and video clips.

One of the very first things you see is this wonderful collection of dress robes from the Yule Ball scene from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.  The Yule Ball is a tradition dating back centuries, where, during the Christmas season, there is a huge ball for all the students at the three schools participating in the Tri-Wizard Tournament.  There's music, dancing, food, and it's just a chance for the students to be teenagers and spend time together as one collective group.  Think of it almost like their prom.  Above are four dress robes from four main characters in the movie.  On the left are Harry's robes.  Behind his is Hermione's beautiful dress, and next to hers is, of course, her date's, Viktor Krum.  Finally, in the front is Cho Chang's dress, girlfriend of Cedric Diggory, the other Hogwarts competitor, although the following year she briefly dates Harry.  All of the robes were amazing.  The girls' dresses are already gorgeous on film, but they're even more beautiful in real life.

Now, since there is so much all over the place in terms of props, it was really easy to miss something if you weren't careful, and the next photo I almost missed, simply because it was tucked away in a corner right before all the bigger sets, which people were more excited to see probably.

These are, of course, Professor Umbridge's "Educational Decrees" from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.  In this movie, Umbridge is sent by the Minister of Magic, Cornelius Fudge, to keep an eye on things at Hogwarts since both Harry and Dumbledore are saying that Lord Voldemort is back, which would cause mass-hysteria.  Progressively, Umbridge is given more and more power in the school, and she releases a series of "Educational Decrees" ranging from rules such as students are not allowed to play loud music to going as far as saying that students will submit to questioning about "illicit" behavior in the castle.

Now, like I said, there weren't just props all over the place, they had quite a few of the sets there as well.  The sets ranged from ones used a handful of times to others that we're all very familiar with.

Yep, you guessed it, this is the boys' dormitory from Gryffindor Tower.  Pictured above is Harry's bed in the back and Ron's closer to the front with a quilt that was presumably made by his mother to keep him warm.  Of course, Harry and Ron weren't the only ones in the dormitory, they also shared it with Neville Longbottom, Seamus Finnigan and Dean Thomas (who dated Ron's sister before Harry did, things must have gotten awkward at times).  Their trunks fit under their beds nicely, and they each have a nightstand full of all sorts of knickknacks and such from home.  There's also a stove in the middle to keep them warm during the cold Scottish nights.  For a guys' dorm, it's kept surprisingly neat (I've been in some guys' dorms, and let me say, not all of them are that clean), but, then again, that's what house elves are for (we'll get to that in a little bit).

Another phenomenal set they had was the Gryffindor Common Room, where all Gryffindor students could get together to socialize, do homework, etc.  This is often where Harry, Ron and Hermione would hatch their schemes to sneak around the castle and break all sorts of rules.  In the time of the Marauders (Harry's father, James, and his best friends, Sirius, Peter and Remus all called themselves the Marauders and caused endless chaos in their days at Hogwarts), this was where the Marauders' Map was born (once again, more on that later).  Finally, after defeating Lord Voldemort, Harry contemplates retreating to the sanctuary of the Common Room for some sandwiches and presumably to catch up on some much-needed sleep.  The three costumes pictured above are Hermione, Harry and Ron's from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.  Because of the whole time travel bit, they basically wear these costumes for the last half or so of the movie.

I'm guessing everyone can easily guess what set this is.  This is the potions classroom, located in the dungeons of Hogwarts.  Snape was Potions Master for the first five movies, then he became Defense Against the Dark Arts professor with Professor Horace Slughorn taking over as Potions Master.  After Snape killed Dumbledore, he became Headmaster of Hogwarts (that's one way to get a promotion).  The potions classroom is actually a lot bigger than it looks on screen.  It's a massive classroom, lined with all sorts of vials and ingredients on all the walls (like what you can see in the picture above) and tables in the middle with cauldrons for students to work.

Another huge and magnificent set they had was Professor Dumbledore's office.  This office is huge, but do you honestly expect anything else for the Headmaster?  The walls are lined with all sorts of books and little magical knickknacks for his use that he's collected over the years.  There are also several key pieces to Hogwarts history hidden away in the office, such as the sword of Gryffindor and the Sorting Hat, but we'll come back to those in a little bit.  There's not detail spared in the office, down to all sorts of work papers on his desk.

Here's another famous set from the movie, the Burrow, home of the Weasley clan, and also Harry and Hermione during various school holidays.  The costumes pictures above are from Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.  On the left hand side you have Ginny Weasley, the youngest and first girl in the Weasley family in several generations.  Then, Fred and George Weasley, who are in the middle of the family and constantly causing trouble.  On the far right in the background almost is Molly Weasley's outfit, the mother of the family of nine.  The Burrow is a magical house that seems to be just thrown together and is literally held together by magic.  If a muggle were to actually build the Burrow, it would collapse in on itself.  Everything about the Burrow is enchanted.  In front of Ginny above are self-knitting needles making something for one of the members of the Weasley family.  In the background, Molly is supervising the carrots being cut by an enchanted knife and the pot scrubbing itself in the sink.  Just out of the shot is the magical clock with a photo of every member of the Weasley family on a separate hand, and the hands point to various "times" such as at work, home, mortal danger, etc, so Molly knows where every member of her family is at every moment of the day. 

The last monumental set I'm going to talk about is a key set piece from the movie franchise.  Other than the Gryffindor Common Room, this is where the Golden Trio hashed out a lot of their schemes and got a better understanding of the world around them.

That's right, I'm talking about Hagrid's hut.  Hagrid is the gamekeeper at Hogwarts after being accused of releasing the basilisk in Hogwarts while he was in school.  Well, Dumbledore let Hagrid stay on as gamekeeper.  He was also the one who brought Harry to the Dursleys after his parents died and came to take him back to Hogwarts.  Well, his hut sits right on the edge of the Forbidden Forest, and Harry, Ron and Hermione would often show up either just to spend time with Hagrid or to talk to him and figure out what was going on in the world around them.

Alright, enough with sets.  Now on, very briefly, to a few costumes I saw.  Once again, I'm just going to hit the highlights, this post is already starting to get long, and there's still so much to cover!

Well, these costumes are VERY special.  These are the costumes Hermione, Harry and Ron (left to right) wore in the climax of the ENTIRE series, the Battle of Hogwarts.  Lord Voldemort and his Death Eaters are attacking the castle, bent on killing everyone, especially Harry.  The Golden Trio must help prepare the castle, find (and destroy) the last Horcruxes and do it quickly before anyone they love dies.  I know, it's a lot for anyone to deal with.  You can see how they do in the clip below.  HUGE spoiler though, if you haven't seen the end of the series by now and actually want to be surprised, what's taken you so long?  No, you don't deserve a spoiler then, watch the clip, see the movie, stop wasting time!

Alright, the next set of costumes are from my three favorite characters in the entire series.  Unfortunately, all three of them end up dead.  That's right, not one of my favorite characters made it out of the series alive.  To make matters worse, two of them weren't even supposed to die at first, J.K. Rowling changed her mind while writing the series.  What is wrong with this woman!?

Alright, we have the costumes of Sirius Black (played by the wonderful Gary Oldman), Nymphadora Tonks (played by Natalia Tena) and Remus Lupin (played by David Thewlis).  Sirius' outfit is from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, where Sirius breaks out of Azkaban Prison (think of it as Alcatraz on steroids) to get to Peter Pettigrew, the man he apparently killed after betraying Lily and James Potter to Lord Voldemort, although it was really Peter who did that.  To add to the confusion, Peter Pettigrew has been masquerading as Ron's rat for the past 12 years.  That's right, he's been a rat.  Now, for all you diehard Harry Potter fans out there, here's a thought.  Fred and George have had their hands on that Marauders' Map for a little while now, and they probably saw Ron there, sleeping, in bed, with the name Peter Pettigrew right next to it since Peter, as the rat Scabbers, slept in Ron's bed with him.  Don't you think they should have said something!?  Alright, enough of that little tirade.  The other two outfits are the robes of my favorite couple in the entire series, Tonks and Remus.  Now, to say their parts were butchered would be a HUGE understatement, those parts were massacred beyond belief in the movies with nothing left to cling to.  You want to know what I did during the epilogue of the last movie?  I'll tell you.  I looked for bright blue hair, the ENTIRE TIME.  Now, a true fan would know that the bright blue hair would belong to Remus and Tonks' son, Teddy, who was born a month before their death and is Harry's godson.  Now, did I see a single flash of anything even remotely resembling blue hair...NO!!!!  That's right, even in death, Remus and Tonks could get justice.  Oh, by the way, the costumes pictured above are from Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, when they were SUPPOSED to proclaim their love for each other but didn't, good job, thanks for that slap in the face.  Below is the ONLY clip in the entire series that shows any sort of romantic relationship between Remus and Tonks (besides Tonks calling Remus "darling" in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince).  I'll be honest, I really only included this clip in the post for my sake, but you should still watch it anyway.

Alright, the last set of costumes belong to everyone evil we know and love from the movies.  That's right, the Malfoys and Lord Voldemort.

Pictured above are some of the costumes, presumably from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1.  We have, going from left to right, Lord Voldemort (the green robes, played by Ralph Fiennes), Lucius Malfoy (played by Jason Isaacs), Draco Malfoy (played by Tom Felton) and Narcissa Malfoy (played by Helen McCrory).  Now, during the last two Harry Potter movies, Malfoy Manor was basically the headquarters of Voldemort's movement, with meetings being held in their dining room and their basement being used as a prison.  The Malfoys allowed this because they were trying to redeem themselves after Lucius screwing up that whole "get the prophecy" plot.  How embarrassing, he was defeated by a bunch of 14 and 15 year olds, oh, and the Order of the Phoenix.

Well, you can figure out who this is pretty easily.  The sadistic and evil Bellatrix Lestrange, the bad guy you love so much.  Nobody else could have done such an amazing job other than Helena Bonham Carter.  She plays Bellatrix as being...unstable mentally, but still fully capable of serving the one man she loves, Lord Voldemort.  Below is a scene showing how unstable Bellatrix is.  Warning, it's a little intense, it's from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1.

Alright, now I'm done with costumes, time to move on to props. This is a really long post, I know, I'm sorry.  The next two shouldn't be nearly as long, there's simply so much to talk about.  Remember, I'm only hitting the highlights too, although just about everything felt like a highlight to me.

It seems appropriate to start with this prop, since it's the main focus of the first movie.  This is, of course, the Philosopher's Stone, aka the Sorcerer's Stone for us in America.  This stone can be used to give anyone immortal life, so, of course, Lord Voldemort wanted it for himself.  In this movie, Harry gets a sense of how evil Lord Voldemort is, but he has no idea how complex everything is at this point

The Goblet of Fire, which gave the name to the fourth book/movie in the series.  The Goblet of Fire is used in the Tri-Wizard Tournament where competitors from Hogwarts, Beauxbatons and Dumstrangs all get together and compete in three very difficult tasks to get a "champion" (basically for bragging rights and a cash prize).  Potential competitors only need to put their names into the Goblet of Fire, and the names will be magically selected. 

Now you may be thinking to yourself, "Gee, that one guy looks REALLY familiar."  Well, that's Rob Pattinson, of Twilight fame, before Twilight became big of course.

The Sword of Gryffindor, now this was something hidden in Dumbledore's office.  I just so happened to look up and see this on the top of a shelf, most people didn't even see that it was there, so I'm glad I saw it.  This sword belonged to Godric Gryffindor, one of the founders of Hogwarts many, many years ago.  Now, Harry used the sword in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets to kill the basilisk Tom Riddle's spirit (aka Voldemort's spirit) contained in the diary Horcrux had released on the school with the help of young Ginny Weasley, who was basically under a curse the whole time.

Now, this is what makes the Harry Potter series so amazing.  The sword is goblin made, so it takes in only that what makes it stronger, like the ability to act as a basilisk fang, venom and all.  This is crucial, because a basilisk fang is one of three things that can destroy a Horcrux, so, with this scene, the sword can now destroy Horcruxes in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, which it does.

Another crucial piece of Hogwarts history that's even more well hidden in Dumbledore's office, the Sorting Hat.  The hat is located on a high shelf behind Dumbledore's desk, kind of in the shadows, so it's fairly easy to just skip over without even realizing it.  The Sorting Hat is used to sort the Hogwarts students when they arrive as first years, what else?  There are four houses, Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw and Slytherin.  Each has its own common room, it's own traits associated with it, etc.  You put the hat on, and it reads your personality and takes your own decision in mind when making its decision.  You can see Harry be sorted in the clip from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone below:

Alright, moving on with another crucial part of the movie series.  Without this next prop, Harry Potter probably wouldn't have ended up at Hogwarts (alright, maybe I'm exaggerating a little bit here).

Yep, Harry's acceptance letters to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, sent by Professor McGonagall to tell Harry of his status as a wizard and how he's to go to Hogwarts.  The Dursleys, however, don't want anything to do with the wizarding world, and they tried to keep all the letters from Harry.

Alright, if you've stuck it out this long, you've been really patient with me.  Here's the last part of this post, one more truly amazing prop that's hard to see because it's high up on a wall, although it's huge.

This is the family tree of The Most Noble House of Black.  The black marks you see are scorch marks, courtesy of Sirius' mother, who blasted members off the tree when they didn't follow the Black family values of pure-blood relations.  This entire thing is a huge tapestry that hung on the wall.  What makes it even cooler is that J.K. Rowling actually drew the whole thing out.  In her mind, she knew who was related to whom on the family tree and planned it all out in detail.

Now, you've gotten through this much, good job.  I'm going to do the last two posts tomorrow, they should be significantly shorter.  Thanks for reading this, I really hope you enjoyed it as much as I did!

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