As an author I’m always on the look out for new ways of finding inspiration. This often materialises in many forms. Sometimes it’s a piece of art or a poem that triggers an idea or perhaps it’s a visual aid such as a painting or a sculpture.
Last year for Christmas, my son Arron and his girlfriend bought me tickets to visit the Warner Bros Studios in London. Unfortunately due to work commitments I was unable to go until now, but I have to say that the visit was well worth the wait. If you have an interest in everything to do with Harry Potter, Hogwarts and all thing wizardry, then the sheer experience will take your breath away.
For a start, as you walk through the original doors of the Great Hall, you are immediately transferred into the fantasy land of make believe. The solid flag stones are real, having been laid over ten years ago and Harry, Hermione and Ron have all walked those same steps that you are about to undertake.
Your eyes can’t help but feast upon the delightful dishes and tasty treats that are spread along the dark oak tables, there to make your mouth water, even though none of them are edible. Within seconds you find yourself at Hogwarts, and the feeling of wonder will no doubt stay with you for years to come.
However, for me the experience goes far deeper. Although I adore all eight films, I wanted to learn about how film makers turn a fantasy book into a spectacular and successful movie franchise. I didn’t know what to expect although I was soon blown away by what I learned.
Did you know that five large warehouses were needed to store all of the props used during the “Harry Potter” films. They included 5,000 pieces of furniture, 12,000 handmade books, 25,000 printed pages of The Quibbler, and 40,000 Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes products. All in all, there were over 170,000 props!
As I walked around the studios, what hit me was the sheer dedication from a vast team of perfectionists. I was simply blown away by how hard the team had worked. In prosthetics alone, they had 126 people working on all the casts and figures such as the Gringotts goblins. I simply stared in awe at the masks on show. Each one of them so intricately designed that I could hardly believe they weren’t real..
The team spent hours making and putting on masks to create the Gringotts goblins.
I was fascinated by how the features made each character come to life. I peered into a glass case which held a rather sad model of Dobby, one of my favourite characters. I stared in awe at how under his skin, every bone could be seen in his tiny feet. The veins in his arms and hands stood out and I was mesmerised by the attention to detail.
Here I am in Dumbledore’s study. Did you know 900 Memory Vials were made for the cabinet behind me.
It doesn’t matter which way you turn, it’s clear that no expense was spared when these films were made. I saw for myself how the constant stream of people who worked on these sets, loved the movies as much as we do. They worked tirelessly on getting every angle perfect, every prop to look authentic and every magical moment captured on film. So much so that the owl reading lectern which Professor Dumbledore uses in the Great Hall was made from 24 carat gold. This was because everything else they used just didn’t give them the effect they needed. Never in all my years have I seen such a strive for perfection, and only now do I truly understand why the films were so successful.
I don’t wish to spoil the studios by showing you everything there is to see, but to be honest it would take me several hours to do so. However, I do have something to share with you, it’s the ‘Grand Finale’ and it’s of course Hogwarts itself. I can’t describe how I felt when I saw the full scale model for the first time. It really is magnificent, a wonder to behold, and I learned that it took the crew 40 days to set it all up, (there’s a video that shows you how it was all done which is fascinating).
Here’s A Few Facts You Might Not Know …
WANDS ARE INTRICATE THINGS!
1. Did you know that Daniel Radcliffe wore out 60-70 wands during the making of the Harry Potter films?
2. Every wand that you see in any of the films is created on-site. No two wands are alike … not even those owned by the Weasley twins. All wands are for sale at the studios!
3. In Ollivander’s wand shop, each and every wand box was written on by hand to give authenticity.
4. Dumbledore’s wand was a very elaborate design, even though its significance of being the Elder Wand was far from being known when made.
WHAT ELSE CAN I TELL YOU ?
5. Daniel Radcliffe has been through 160 pairs of glasses during the shooting of all the Harry Potter films
6. Forty versions of Salazar Slytherin’s locket had to be created to accommodate Ron and Harry’s failed attempts to destroy it.
7. Five 32-ton trucks’ worth of polystyrene were needed to create all the rubble for Deathly Hallows.
8. To keep brooms light-weight yet strong, aircraft-grade titanium was used inside the structure.
9. 900 Memory Vials were made for the cabinet in Dumbledore’s Office.
10. 250 paintings were created for the Marble Staircase.
11. Producers David Heyman and David Barron were immortalized in portraits for the Marble Staircase.
12. 210,000 coins were made for the Gringotts bank scene for the final two films alone.