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Friday, June 1, 2012

Movie Magic: the Harry Potter Studio Tour

Note: I just saw CNA running a story on the Harry Potter Exhibition in the Singapore Art Science Museum. It'll be open to public from 2 June to 30 Sept. I thought it would be nice to draw this post up to the top again. I encourage you to visit as the exhibition really is spell-binding!


The below is a review of the Harry Potter Studio Tour in London.

Britain had much influence on the settings of Harry Potter as well story while London was primarily the filming location for the movie that won millions of international fans.

You can find 10 pound Harry Potter walking tours that'll take you to public places where filming was done. Without the guided tour, you may not know where to go but King Cross, a tube station is easily found! Here is where you'll find the legendary platform where Harry boarded Hogwarts Express.

Unfortunately, i only got to know this from a friend on the last days of my stay. So i didn't get my own picture!
http://www.tubeblogger.net/ has got the best photo!
I LOVE this quote.
 I wasn't much of the Harry Potter fan although i did finish the book in one seating. I still paid 52 pounds for the Warner Brothers studio tour because its the latest thing! It just opened to the public on 31 March 2012. I visited on 12 April, 2012.
I was kinda disappointed with the pick-up bus though. Yes, it was a double decker but i was expecting a replica of the Knight Bus! They should have stuck to theme.

Instead, it was disappointingly plastered with expected visuals.
 I tried to suppress my excitement but i got to admit i was as excited as the kids.
Whetting our appetite, we had to wait 15 mins before doors open for business punctually at 10.30am.

The studio tour runs on schedule. You've to book prior to your visit as tickets are not sold at the door. Book via Visitbritian.com or through travel agents.


There's another wait of about 10 minutes before the crowd is let in. Further whetting our appetite in the waiting area before studio doors open, there's the set of Harry's room under the stairway. It's even smaller than a maid's room!

Every prop, costume, set you see in the studio is the REAL thing. These are used in all 8 films. The 4,000 strong crew who have worked in the films were in the exact same studio awhile back.
Finally we were all ushered into a theatre where we watch an introductory video by the HP talents, i did not expect the curtain to lift after the video to unveil the majestic door which will push into the Hogwarts Great Hall! Very dramatic as everyone's mouth hung open.


That very life-like flame is actually some coloured paper with wind blowing from below. I am definitely ON A MOVIE SET!

Having been on a real set in Caldecott, visiting the Harry Potter set was ALOT more breath-taking.
I guess that's the difference between TV and Movie, Mediacorp and Hollywood.

No detail was spared, there was SO MUCH preparation work. The acting must be the puniest role of all, yet they are often the stars of the show.
Every set was first drawn to perfection then built like art & craft before construction starts.

Each animal character had many stand-ins.

I like their notes!




You would think the movement of the Chamber of Secrets door was a computer-generated effect. In fact, this intricate device was HAND BUILT by the Special Effects Department, based upon sketches provided by the Art Department. The articulated snakes slither along slotted tracks and are powered by an electric motor hidden behind the door.
It was a surprise as you walk around the studio, surprised when what you guessed was computer generated isn't and what you guess wasn't is.

Like the floating candles. They were hung and moved up and down by a mechanism.
Props and costumes were intricate and paid attention to every detail.

Oddly, Harry's scar didn't look very real here.
There were hundreds of wands used, each one HAND MADE.
Each wizard had a different wand according to character.
These resembles a pig's penis though.
Not surprising that alot of green screens were used.
Visitors got to try it out.


There were many tributes of the crew in HP movies. For example, crew were drawn as the moving portraits. There were some hundreds of portraits that were needed.

Forced perspective was also another trick they use in movies (Lord of the Rings too). The Leaky Cauldron hallway appeared to be more than 50 feet long on screen.
But this ancient artistic technique uses optical illusions to make an object appear larger, smaller, farther or closer than it actually is.
That's all that really is!
Dolby, the elf was also NOT computer graphic. It's a machine.
At the studio tour, you get to see real film sets. Most are rather flimsy, visitors are not allowed to touch the sets because it's either not safe or they'll be needing it again for filming. Harry Potter 9, anyone?



Then of course, there's Butter Beer!
 Costing 3 pounds (SGD 6) for a small cup, it actually was very yummy! It tasted like very creamy root beer. There was zero alcohol content, afterall Harry Potter's actors started off as underaged children!

Drink and drive with butter beer!
 Though the studio tour burned a hole in my pocket, it's worthwhile. It could take 3 hours and more if you read and paid attention to every single thing. It's a fixed time for your return if you bought the tour that includes a ride. The studio is not reachable via tube. I'd suggest personal transport so you can spend as much time as you please, it really is a place you easily wile time away.

As a tribute to the 4,000 crew who worked on the films, every crew had a wand named after them.
 There was a guy who worked on the HP music score sheets trying to find his!
 It's amazing the amount of merchandise the HP spun. The store itself is something to blog about.
Mother and daughter a HUGE fan, obviously.
 The tricks and toys inspired by the Weasley brothers were Made In China.
It's attached to a normal sized earphone.

As you throw the yo-yo, it lets out a shrill. 

Yup, that's all it does. The wings flutter. No, it doesn't fly.
 Most items start at 15 pounds, that's SGD 30 for a notebook or magnet.
Choose your side.





I got this badge, i'm sucha sucker.


Wands for sale! It's just a plastic replica, has no powers nor lights.
24.95 pounds.
The MOST breath taking part of the entire studio tour was the last room. There you see the ENTIRE Hogwarts castle. The jewel in the crown of the Art Department, its the intricately detailed, spectacularly constructed model of Hogwarts castle. My heart literally dropped when my eyes sight upon it.

In the first film, many close-up scenes of Hogwarts were shot on location but the script also called for sweeping wide shots of every courtyard, tower and turret. To create those shots, the film's artists build the 1:24 scale model based on Stuart Criag's initial sketches and filmed it against a green screen. 

I caught some footage on this but it doesn't do the constructed model much justice.


The best part is...Harry Potter: The Exhibition is coming to Singapore!

Featuring artifacts in settings inspired by the film sets, go on a journey through the famous wizard's world and be transported to areas of Hogwarts such as the Gryffindor common room, Hagrid's hut and the Great Hall.

So don't envy me! You can see some of these amazing movie magic from 22 June -30 Sept at the Art Science Museum. The Titanic Exhibition was marvelous, i'm sure this would be too!

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