When I recently took my family to Watford to visit the Warner Bros Harry Potter Studio Tour I didn’t realise what I was letting myself in for. We’d read the books and seen the films so I guess you could say we were already Potter fans…but my expectations were exceeded a hundred fold. It was jaw droppingly awe inspiring.
I don’t want to give away all the secrets because part of the awesome nature of the tour was its ability to take your breath away and charge your emotions right from the start. I gasped out loud several times in the hours that followed and was somewhat ridiculously trying not to cry when theatre curtains unexpectedly swished back after a short documentary film to reveal… well you’ll have to go and see it for yourself! It marked the start of the tour and it just kept on getting better.
I have never been to an exhibition or museum as well thought out as that one. It was organised and run meticulously by staff who clearly enjoy being there. Each area on display was set out with enormous care to give the most impact. It was very interactive on all levels. There were screens that explained how everything came together from conception to finished product and it was all put into context by a short clip of how it fitted into one of the films.
The thing that stuck in my mind for weeks afterwards though, was the design element. Art was everywhere. There was concept paintings of characters and buildings, small models of sets and buildings, costume design, a graphics department that made everything from potions labels and sweet packaging to wanted posters and editions of the Scribbler and Daily Prophet.
An animatronics department worked to engineer life from objects such as The Monster Book of Monsters and magical animals such as the Hippogriff, Buckbeak. There was a model-making department that made said creatures and face masks for characters to wear such as the Goblins. Then there were interior designers who put the sets together – all the furniture and wall hangings and oil portraits that were created especially and a sculpture team that made huge pieces of art for the Ministry of Magic foyer and the wizarding chess pieces, which towered above us. A team of architects and builders created Privet Drive and Diagon Alley amongst many other sets all there for you to see. This is on top of the filming, script writing, and acting half of the creative process.
Years of work by thousands of people.
This really hits home at the very end when like the credits rolling in a film you step into Olivander’s wand shop and every single box in a room floor to ceiling with thousands of boxes has the name of someone who worked on the film each individually made by hand. Unbelievable.
None of your senses were left out as the café served Butterbeer and the gift shop sold many of the sweets such as Bertie Bott’s Every Favour Beans (including earwax, boiled cabbage flavours etc. which I can unfortunately testify is truly disgusting.)
When we walked out into the car park and drove home on the dreary motorway I wished people in the real world used their imagination more to design inspiring roadways, streets and houses. It all felt so bland on that journey home. I wanted to come back to a wonky street of medieval wooden structured houses, to pass people in colourful eccentric clothing and to be inspired by everything around me even the most domestic objects. Good design is worth its weight in gold because it lifts our spirits. We should surround ourselves in it.