SPOILER ALERT: Behind the Hogwart’s Magic

Earlier this week, a New York University student posted this on a “PostSecret”-esque Facebook page:

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According to my sources at NYU and research, the page is usually reserved for deep, dark secrets and venting about ex-boyfriends. Harry Potter well-wishers don’t usually grace the page.

This student fulfilled what most 11-year-olds only dream of.

I was more than a little sad when July 1 after my 11th birthday passed with no wax-sealed piece of parchment delivered by Owl.

Or my 12th birthday. Or my 13th.

The real magic of J.K. Rowling’s books is that, no matter how fantastic and unreal they are, she creates such an air of reality about everything that you can’t help but want it all to be real.

The books, movies and fan culture surrounding Harry, Hogwarts and crew further cemented my and ever other American/British/international child’s love for the characters and the magical world created for us.

In the almost two decades since the first edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone hit shelves, Harry’s world seemed to get more real, believable, and tangible to modern audiences. Or maybe just myself.

Countless reprints, translations, new editions, movies, board games, costumes, souvenirs, theme parks and guided tours later, the Boy Who Lived is more real than ever. Every piece of Harry Potter paraphernalia contributes to keeping the reality, wonder and spectacle of Harry Potter alive.

However, nothing is more tangible for today’s audience (especially the children) than the movies. Kids may have been too young to remember staying up until 5 a.m. reading the books after waiting for hours at Border’s, but they are never too young to watch a Harry Potter movie.

Today I had the privilege of visiting Warner Brother’s Studios – Leavesden, where Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint and countless others spent 10 years of their lives recreating the magic of J.K. Rowling’s books.

Of course, the sound stages have been converted into a museum of sorts devoted to the magic – and the reality behind the magic – of Harry Potter.

Outside of what used to be the Warner Bros.'s 'Harry Potter' lot a tourist waits.
Outside of what used to be the Warner Bros.’s ‘Harry Potter’ lot a tourist waits.

Growing up with Harry & Co. since I was about seven years old, stepping on the actual sets used for the films was quite emotional. I was astounded by the level of sheer detail used for each set, prop and costume, and the amount of time and effort put in by hundreds of crew members who will never quite get the recognition which they deserve.

At the beginning of the tour, a short film is shown, which Daniel Radcliffe ends by stating: “I’ve got to warn you, you’ll never look at Quidditch the same way again.”

This “spoiler alert” counteracted the sheer awe experienced on most of the tour. While it was amazing to see how the movies get made, part of their magic is that fans don’t know how they get made, and therefore there is just enough ‘magic’ left to believe it might just be wandwork instead of animatronics.

I’m thankful to see the place as an adult rather than a child. While I know the films are made more with makeup than magic, I couldn’t help but feel a bit disappointed when I learned just how brooms fly and why Hagrid is so tall.

Costumes may be pretty, sets may be detailed, and animatronics may make animals bow. But the ‘creature department’ should’ve been relabeled the ‘no more magic’ department – it took away the wonder of everything from the inferi to the mandrakes, Hagrid, goblins and Buckbeak.

Awe and sadness aren’t usually emotions that run together, but Warner Bros. is able to make that happen.

Despite the “pay attention to the man behind the curtain” aspect, I couldn’t help but feel nostalgic throughout my entire visit. I even teared up a bit at the end, which caused some twelve-year-old schoolkids to laugh at me.

Let them laugh. I’ve memorized the spells for mufflato and levicorpus. The best they can do is prove they’ve seen them on TV.


For a full tour of the studios, please visit www.pondhoppassport.wordpress.com.

 SPOILER ALERT: The following video is a short tour through the Warner Bros.’s Leavesden Studios. If you do not wish to have some of the secrets ‘behind the magic’ revealed, please do not watch it. Similarly, if you plan on visiting Leavesden yourself, I’d advise to wait and experience the amazement for yourself!