By Morgan Lauer
I would like to admit that leading up to the Harry Potter tour at Warner Brothers Studios, I was not excited one bit. I am one of the few who have only seen the first two movies in the series and was never interested or understood what all the hype was about. Don’t get me wrong, I think the concept and ideas are incredible and creatively genius, but it just wasn’t my thing. To be honest, the other day I tried to watch the second one again and got ten minutes into the movie before I lost interest and switched to a different movie. But after today I guess you could say my views were changed, because now I want to binge watch the series as soon as I get back home.
The one part of the day I was looking forward to was meeting with Josh Berger, the president and managing director of Warner Brothers United Kingdom, Ireland and Spain. From growing up watching Looney Tunes, romantic comedies, horror movies and everything in between by Warner Bros, It felt dreamlike to behaving a casual Q and A session with the person who runs the show. He was extremely down do earth and spoke to us about the journey to his current position with some tips and advice for us too. Berger grew up in Los Angeles and became interested in the entertainment industry from being around it all the time and new he wanted to work in it. After high school he did not go on to study it in college though because of a piece of advice he once received; do not go to school to study what you already know, spend your time learning other things. He then attended Harvard University and graduated with a degree in General Studies, later completing the Advanced Management Program at Harvard Business School. Berger has been at warner Brothers since 1989 and began as a sales executive in Paris.
A few things that stood out to me about Berger was the numerous organizations he is involved in, especially The Climate Group and Climate Change Action organization and multiple youth organizations. He also fluently speaks English, French, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese. With a well-rounded person like Berger leading, it makes for a more wholesome and appealing brand. Throughout the entire session with Berger, I was completely fascinated and envious of his job.
After a seemingly short hour with Josh Bergen, we then headed into the Harry Potter tour. We were given VIP access and were able to cut a massive line of elementary school kids (and they multiplied). We entered a theater and were welcomed by Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson (AKA Harry, Ron and Hermione). We then walked through the doors to the great hall. The great hall is a very important set for the movies because from what I’ve seen, it is where a majority of scenes are shot. Following the great hall was an enormous room full of props, costumes, makeup, wigs, and different sets that were used in the actual movies. They also had multiple interactive areas such as green screens, wand choreography, broomstick riding and several places where you could get your picture taken. After a lunch break, we moved along the museum to see more sets, the art room, and at the end a stunning model of Hogwarts. It was lit up and there was beautiful music playing. Seeing as though I caught the feels when I saw this, I could not imagine how the avid fans were feeling.
Throughout the day I couldn’t help but think about the marketing tactics used to make it such a success (partly because I knew I had to write this blog and partly because of the advertising and sales major in me). As soon as we arrived at the train station a bus that was completely Harry Potter themed picked us up. The exterior was painted and inside there was music playing from the movies and a TV that showed some of the cast and even played the trailer for the new movie. Throughout the museum there were several places where you could get your picture taken while recreating scenes or trying out a green screen. Of course to do this it would cost about the same as an average meal, but what extremely excited Harry Potter fan wouldn’t want a picture of themselves recreating a scene on the real set? Then there was the butter beer, a simple cream soda with some whipped cream on top, but to fans, an iconic drink from the movies that you can’t get anywhere else. Even I felt obligated to try one while I was there. The end of the tour led you straight into the massive gift shop (smart play) that was overflowing with any [pricey] Harry Potter souvenir you could possibly think of. From the usual post cards, key chains, t-shirts and magnets to Harry’s glasses, wands, books, underwear and so much more. I, of course, was drawn to the candy section where there were recreations of the unique candy from the movies. I almost bought a chocolate wand, but saw the price and settled for two postcards for my best friend and her sister. These were just some of the strategies they use that inevitably draws fans in.
After going through the Harry Potter experience I can honestly say that I am now stunned by the entire creation. Beside the fact that we were on the actual sets and where the cast spent most of their time for ten years, the amount of creativity, detail, structure, time and effort that brought this from a children’s book to a worldwide sensation for people of all ages blows me away. I now have some understanding to why millions of people are so crazy about the fantasy series, and after I give the movies another try, maybe I’ll even join the bandwagon.