Warner Bros. ‘The Making of Harry Potter’ Tour …by an unsuspecting Potter disliker
The crazy thing about this review which may differ from any other piece of text ever written about Harry Potter is …I’m not a fan. I haven’t read the books. I also haven’t seen the films. In fact, we’re all friends here, so truth be told, I’d even go so far as to say …I arrived at the Harry Potter tour as a serious anti-fan. Maybe, even a hater. Can I go that far? Harry’s a sweet, geeky kid who enjoys simple pleasures such as innocent wand-wielding and occasionally pulling on Dumbledore’s beard. Plus, he wears that endearing stripey scarf which melts my heart.
…No, I can go that far. The whole Harry Potter hype has done my head in for years.
So, I bring this write-up from both perspectives, as I attended the day with a flurry of Hogwarts-loving enthusiasts, all high as kites for the entire journey as they screeched stuff like “expelliarmus!” -which I inwardly assumed was a disease. I hope this review will appeal to the everyman.
Before I begin, I want to let you know that the photos I’ve included don’t give too much away. I’ve gone for a spoil-free write-up, for those of you who haven’t ever read the books and don’t know what happens. The only spoiler photo I have is of me next to Maggie Smith from the scene where she turns out to be Harry’s sister.
(That doesn’t happen. Just thought I’d get the non-fans wondering…)
I want to tell you about how I felt as a non-Potter-lover, whilst also regaling you with the surreal (and often baffling) reactions of my fellow tour attendees. They’d all been tempted to dress up for the occasion -an idea I abruptly dismissed, especially when ‘lightening bolt tattoos’ were mentioned. I was very stern and strict: We would go in as adults and assess the experience in a mature manner. “We’re in our twenties, for crying out loud…”
Then that’s when everything changed. My stiff upper lip went out the window, along with my pride and my calm facade. Something spell-binding washed over me and I transformed into a child who’d had too many e-numbers, quicker than you can say ‘Philosopher’s Stone’.
One minute I was a half-hearted attendee, the next minute I was asking how much you can buy knock-off wizard cloaks for at Brixton Market. From the moment I stepped into the first area I had goosebumps which didn’t leave for the rest of my time there. I gasped and oohed and gawped my way around the entire place, meaning every single photo I took featured me pulling gawky, weird facial expressions…
Granted, my ill-informed back catalogue of knowledge led me to screech things like “Wow! A proper cute, higgledy-piggledy street!” or “Whoa! That’s one seriously massive, hairy bloke!” and “blimey! That dude’s beard is longer than my inside-leg measurement!” but the main thing was, I was like a kid in a sweet shop. (Who’d never eaten sweets. Or gone into a shop before.)
Every detail had been considered -even down to the film score which played throughout, changing tracks in different areas to suit what we were looking at. This was helpful because I started narrating the areas of the tour helpfully, by saying things like “So this scary music tells us all this is a scary scene…” or “I’m getting the message -from the music- that this is a spooky scene, everyone, SPOOKY…” -much to the annoyance of my friends. And one well-seasoned seven year old who actually rolled her eyes and scoffed at me. But I didn’t care. Hell, I was at Hogwarts.
Staff wondered around with huge smiles on their faces, offering fascinating tidbits of extra trivia about how they filmed that scene or how they created these special effects. They also addressed the actors on first-name terms -a bandwagon I jumped on, asking in a Lloyd Grossman-type voice “…So how much stunt work did Dan do himself, then?” The seven year old scoffed again, unsurprisingly.
Every corner I turned, there was something more amazing than the last -resulting in a tour so breathtaking, I was concerned for my asthmatic friend. There are things to see, experiences to try, stuff to taste and tasks to attempt and in a somewhat cringe-worthy fashion, my friend had to tell me off for elbowing her out of the way whilst hoarsely screaming “I wanna go first!”
I don’t know what became of me.
I left feeling like a silenced, awe-inspired child who’d witnessed magic. Actually, that’s a lie. I left dripping in gift shop paraphernalia like a wizarding Buckaroo with a stupid grin on my face. My friend had hauled my former adult self back into me via a somewhat violent shoulder shake whilst sternly instructing that I put everything back where I found it. How the tables had turned.
What’s impressive, however, is the longer-lasting effect the tour had on me. I’ve always said I’d never read the books or take an interest, that it was too late for me now. So imagine my friends’ surprise as I broke my dumb-founded silence on the way home by announcing that I’d be starting on book one that evening. Then I turned my attention back to my boring car window view and sighed despairingly at it’s lack of steam trains and snitches and owl flocks.
That first book would transport me back to my afternoon of experiencing undeniably real magic at the Harry Potter tour, I acknowledged, and smiled at the infantile memory of it all.
Oh, one more thing; try the Butterbeer. It’s absolutely worth it. Plus, you get a froth-moustache like all those magic wizard dudes. Winning.
Tour address: Watford, WD25 7GS / Twitter: @wbstudiotour
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