2012 Spring External Programs Shannon Barter United Kingdom

My Trip to Hogwarts

Greetings! This week my lifelong dream came true: I got to visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter! After I made my decision to study in London this semester, I immediately started looking up cool things to do while here. One of the most intriguing things I discovered was that the Harry Potter Studio Tour was opening during my stay! After attending the red carpet grand opening, I was more than excited to book my ticket to go inside the studio where all eight movies were filmed, and see just how they made the magic happen! Three of my friends and I all made the journey to Watford (where the studio is located) which is about 30 minutes north of the city. The first room in the tour is the Great Hall, which was just as magnificent as it is in the movies! Not only is it massive, but every inch of wall space is adorned with statues and engravings one would never be able to notice in the films. The ceiling was also interesting, because obviously the ceilings in the films are all created with special effects. The real set does not have floating candles when you look up but rather large metal bars and beams, slightly less magical as one might imagine but definitely interesting to see! Here is a picture of the Great Hall!:

Great Hall!

While the Great Hall was one of my favorite parts of the tour, there were certainly plenty of other amazing things to see. We saw the Gryffindor common room, Dumbledore’s office complete with phoenix entryway, and the potions lab! There were also a host of props such as the horcruxes, Hogwarts: A History, and all the wands belonging to main characters. Seeing the sets and props was not the only part of the tour that made it fascinating, I also loved learning about how they make the sets and how they use a variety of effects to literally make magic happen. For example, all of the books in Dumbledore’s office and in the library are actually old British phone books, rebound and covered to appear old and important. Also, since the actor who plays Hagrid is not actually a giant, the actor wears a full head mask with eyes and lips that actually look so real you could never tell while watching the films. Clips from the movies play throughout the tour, and I still cannot believe they make every effect and every creation seem so realistic. I have many friends studying film, and I must say that going on this studio tour made the whole industry seem that much more fascinating!

The last stop on the tour was my favorite of all, as it is the massive model of Hogwarts Castle and grounds. Since the castle is a set and not filmed on location, the model which is about 40 feet long and 20 feet tall is used for every far away view of the castle. The whole area around it is simply a green screen, and thus they can create the illusion of the castle being in all kinds of weather at any time, day or night. Additionally, they have tiny lights inside the various towers and walkways that when flashing create the illusion of bodies walking about when filmed at a distance. The whole structure is absolutely breathtaking, and makes the wizarding world seem that much more enchanting! Here is what it looked like:


On the train ride back to London, all four of us agreed that our trip to the studio made for one of the best days spent on our semester abroad. In my opinion, if you ever find yourself anywhere near the UK make sure to plan a trip to the real Wizarding World!

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