I solemnly swear that I am up to no good

Reagan Villet 6/10/16

As a kid, I always loved to read; anything from the newspaper with my dad, to fairytales with my mom, to recipe books with my grandma. My favorite thing to read, however, was books and stories about magic. There is something about the mystery and whim in a good magical story that always drew me in.

In first grade, I picked up my very first Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (or Philosopher’s Stone in the British version). I was instantly in love with the magical world created by J.K. Rowling, where spells, flying broomsticks, and dragons existed in a world alongside modern day London.

Fast forward to this past year of college, when I first looked into the Mass Media in the U.K. and Ireland study abroad trip. When reading the initial itinerary after I was accepted into the program, I saw the Harry Potter experience trip on the calendar and knew that this was the trip for me. Yes, I came on this trip for the cultural and educational experience, but why not have some fun exploring my absolute favorite book and film series EVER along the way?!

Experiencing the Making of Harry Potter studio tour and private interview session with Warner Brothers U.K. President Josh Berger absolutely exceeded any preconceived expectations. Even just pulling up to the studio (on a bus playing the Harry Potter soundtrack, which yes, I do have preloaded on my phone already) made me emotional. That may sound silly, to get emotional over a book/film series, but it was my childhood. I grew up waiting for the next book release and the next midnight film premiere.

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Harry Potter Studio Tour entrance (6/10/16)
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Sign announcing the 15th Anniversary of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (6/10/16)
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Real chess pieces from The Sorcerer’s (Philospher’s) Stone (6/10/16)
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Harry Potter Studio Tour passport (6/10/16)

So before I get too ahead of myself talking about the amazing tour, I’ll first discuss the beginning of our day, the interview session with WB President Josh Berger. When he walked in the room, you could feel a different energy; all of the other employees stood up to welcome him, and the whole room had a different electrical charge. Troy (our professor) asked a few preliminary questions, so that we could get to know Mr. Berger a little better. He grew up in Los Angeles, and was lucky enough to grow up with family in and around the entertainment industry. Because of this, he knew the entertainment industry was where he too wanted to be, so I was very surprised to hear that he did not study media or entertainment in college. He told us that he chose to study everything else, because you gain the most knowledge about your job in the field, so he became more well rounded by studying other topics at the very prestigious Harvard.

The one thing that stood out the most to me was the advice Josh gave to us for our future endeavors. He told us that 1) connections are very important, and 2) you need to make yourself stand out. While these may seem very obvious, they also need to be remembered. While we don’t all start out with connections like Josh did, we can make them, through internships or interviews like the one I am speaking about. The interview with Josh made me very excited for the future, as I would love to work in his position one day.

After the session with Josh, we headed over for the studio tour. I was brimming with excitement just standing in line (I was also brimming with tears…). We watched a preliminary film before the tour began, which recapped the history of the films, and gave us a little background information on what the tour would be like before we actually went in. We then walked through the Hogwart’s entrance doors, and walked into the Great Hall. I was blown away; it is absolutely amazing to stand in the actual set of something I have seen on the screen probably a thousand times.

The tour involved many pieces of the set, and gave really great information on the building of the sets, the writing of the screenplays, the music scores, and so many other aspects that went in to the making of the eight film series.

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Set construction information (6/10/16)
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Gryffindor’s boys dorm (6/10/16)
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Gryffindor common room (6/10/16)
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Hagrid’s hut (6/10/16)
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The Weasley’s Burrow (6/10/16)
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The Potion’s classroom (6/10/16)

Seeing the way the costumes were made and tailored to fit the characters as well as their respective actors was really cool. The tour really gave a lot of background information on this area, teaching us about how they distress the outfits for fight scenes, or how the wigs and makeup are done for each character.

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Costume design information (6/10/16)
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Hair and makeup information (6/10/16)

One of my favorite parts of the our was seeing the characters that weren’t real, and how they were created. For instance, Buckbeak was an animatronic character, and also CGI’d for many scenes. Dobby also had a “real” version made, but was mostly CGI’D for his scenes in the films.

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The weak Voldemort prop (6/10/16)
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Animatronic Buckbeak (6/10/16)
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Creature shop information (6/10/16)

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A model of a mermaid (6/10/16)

This tour also allowed me to accomplish one of my bucket list goals, try a butterbeer! It was definitely not something I would drink every day, but I really liked it! The whipped, foamy topping was sweet and delicious, and definitely my favorite part. It was also such a nice day that I got to sit outside and enjoy the nice cold drink.

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Butterbeer (6/10/16)

 

Seeing pieces of the set, and actually being able to touch some of them made me a little faint. Knowing that my feminist ICON, Emma Watson aka Hermione, was standing in the very same place as me was crazy, and I’m honestly surprised I didn’t kiss the ground…

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Daniel, Rupert, and Emma’s handprints (6/10/16)

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The real Knight Bus (6/10/16)

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Diagon Alley (6/10/16)
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Harry’s house on Privet Drive (6/10/16)
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The acceptance letter scene (6/10/16)
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Harry’s room under the staircase (6/10/16)

As I have said numerous times, this tour was absolutely fantastic. However, the most amazing part was seeing the actual Hogwart’s castle. It was so detailed and beautiful that it honestly took my breath away. Even the small “White-card models” were so incredibly detailed that I really couldn’t imagine how someone made them.

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White-card models information (6/10/16)
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Hogwarts white-card model (6/10/16)
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The Whomping Willow white-card model (6/10/16)
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The ACTUAL HOGWARTS CASTLE!!! (6/10/16)
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Still can’t get over the ACTUAL CASTLE (6/10/16)

The tour ended with Ollivander’s wand shop, where over 4,000 wand boxes were inscribed with the name of workers from the films. It was a really magical tribute to the cast and crew.

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Ollivander’s Wand Shop information (6/10/16)
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Ollivander’s Wand Shop (6/10/16)

So all in all, my childhood dreams came true in just one (too-short) day. I got to experience things that I have literally dreamed about since I was a little girl. I learned new things, saw incredible sets, and got to do really cheesy, touristy things that I literally died over.

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Casting a little magic (6/10/16)
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My actual childhood (6/10/16)
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Costumes from the final scene (6/10/16)

Hey Josh Berger, if you need an actress or extra for Fantastic Beasts (the new Harry Potter world film!!!), I’m available any time.

 

 

 

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