I grew up with Harry Potter, the books then the films. I read the first three then waited for the next as they came along. I wasn’t one of those kids who would queue at the bookshop at midnight but I would read them very soon after being published, lapping up every drop from the books. The films were decent even if bits really grated, the bits of the books which were elided or film additions that didn’t fit quite right. The main objective of my recent London trip was to go on the Harry Potter Studio Tour at Leavesden. A train to Watford then a shuttle bus to the studios. A timed slot and off you go. We spent three hours and it was a bit of an overload. All lights, noise, people and stimulation. It was all about overload management and to their credit, WB had thought of that with a quiet space available. I didn’t end up using it thanks to wine gums, sitting in a quiet corner and a well-timed toilet visit a little later.
I love details and what struck me most about the tour was that nothing was missed from the movies. The sets were far more detailed than can be possibly conveyed in two dimensions, the crests of the Hogwarts houses on the cabinets in Dumbledore’s office, the elaborate designs of Gringotts and even platform 9 3/4 with a picture of the actual view from the end of King’s Cross station for added accuracy. Hagrid’s motorbike (really Sirius Black’s motorbike but we won’t quibble) and its sidecar reminded me powerfully of Wallace and Gromit and A Close Shave. One of the best days I’ve had was at Blackpool Pleasure Beach which has a Wallace and Gromit ride with a far better-priced gift shop than at Leavesden. One of my favourite details, if I remember rightly from Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, was an advert for perfume placed in the Muggle railway station where Harry Potter meets Dumbledore. Apparently it was quite an adjustment for the set designers to design something for the Muggle world after all that magic.
Harry Potter is very popular over a decade since the last film came out. The Fantastic Beasts films also occupy that universe plus the books and films keep getting rediscovered. Plus the play. The studio tour was very thorough and impressive and I had a great time despite the overload. It felt like being with kindred spirits, a place with people with shared interests and knowledge. I could just geek out without apology or abandon and that’s never a bad thing.