*Update* Hogwarts at Christmas, Extended until 2nd February…
Christmas plays an enormous role in each of the Harry Potter novels; this time of year is filled with a sense of excitement and anticipation which adds a little magic to the air for young and old. J.K. Rowling understood this feeling and used it as the perfect backdrop for many key parts in her magical books, painting perfect images of Christmas at Hogwarts in the mind. The Great Hall is decorated for the occasion, lined with twelve huge decorated trees in preparation for an enormous Christmas feast whilst the dorms are cosy and a perfect sprinkling of snow lays outside.
When it came to making the films the props, effects and other departments went to work to re-create exactly the same feeling of festivity that J.K. Rowling described. The Great Hall decorated for it’s feast was one of the things I most looked forward to seeing on-screen and it didn’t disappoint; so when the invite arrived from Warner Bros Studio – The Making of Harry Potter to visit Hogwarts in the Snow to say I was excited would be an understatement. The only thing that concerned me a little after visiting and writing about the tour during their Summer Spells event was how much more I’d have to say about it – oh I needn’t have worried!
Walking into the studios to be greeted by a giant sparkling tree, air scented with mince pies and mulled wine there was no way not to feel thoroughly festive. It was clear that Warner Bros were going to sprinkle even more magic into the season with something spectacular and waiting in the queue you could feel the anticipation, thick in the air – like waiting for Santa on Christmas Eve.
When the doors for the Great Hall were finally revealed decorated with enormous wreathes, they opened onto the ultimate image of Christmas. The huge tables along the edge were laid with a feast to make your mouth water, even though it wasn’t actually edible this time. Crackers were personalised for each house and the twelve trees were as amazing as it’s possible to imagine, whilst outside the windows snow was falling! For a few moments it was easy to forget this is a set and allow your senses to get lost in the magical scene before you.
It amazes me how the whole attraction manages to do this because although it reveals the secrets that should remove the mystery the whole place still feels utterly magical. The books that appealed to young have left their magic all around as wonderful words on paper meet with talented artists and experts of every element of film-making to give you an entirely new feeling of admiration and wonder. Even having visited before there was so much more to see, new stories to hear and Hubby who had borrowed a digital guide even got to see a clip of Daniel Radcliffe’s first audition.
For Hogwarts in the snow we got a chance to see and feel each type of snow that was used to create snowy scenes, including a demonstration of the ‘magic snow’ which will make you go – ‘oooooohhh’!
Thinking we were now snow experts we headed outside where it was snowing – or was it? As we sipped Butterbeer in the backlot, flakes of snow floated down around us. It was impossible to tell where the very English snow that wasn’t settling was coming from but it created a perfect scene which tempted me to dance in it in the style of Winona Ryder in Edward Scissorhands.
One of the most wonderful things about the tour is the ‘interractors’; these Warner Bros staff are all around the attraction ready to help, answer questions or tell you a new bit of information about every part of the film. They are absolutely amazing and I really don’t think there’s much they couldn’t answer, Master E tested them with the most random questions on our first visit always to receive a satisfactory answer and this time was no different. We met Martyn, who knowing several of our party had been before went out his way to show us something we wouldn’t have seen last time. He succeeded of course, not only surprising us but his colleague too – if they’re still finding new things, just imagine how many times you could visit before seeing everything!
In the final wand room we met Steven – a real magician of the Harry Potter Tour! Having worked on the films and met many of the people he is like a real life Olivander. Just as he remembers each wand he sells to wizards, Steven remembers the stories behind almost every name on the wand boxes. If he doesn’t then he has a book listing details but he was able to tell us a huge number of facts without opening it once. In the same way as all of the tour’s interractors Steven shared his knowledge with excitement and enthusiasm as if it were the first telling. At the late hour we were leaving I’d expect some to look like they’d had their fill of Harry for the day but not one did.
It’s clear that every visitor is feeling the same wonder as you look around at happy, smiling and excited faces laughing as they ride brooms and practice spells, as Ruth from Rock n Roller Baby says ‘you don’t just feel like you’re looking at the workings of the film – you feel like a part of it‘!
I challenge anyone not to gasp at the sight of the huge model of Hogwarts Castle it’s incredible and covered in a sprinkling of snow utterly stunning…
You can experience Hogwarts in the Snow from Friday 15th December – Sunday 12th January (Extended to Sunday 2nd Feb).
Don’t forget tours must be booked in advance; if you’re looking to surprise someone with a visit this Christmas, gift tickets can be purchased which allow them to book their own time up to a year after receipt. Full ticket and tour details are all available on the Warner Bros Studios Website.