The World of Harry Potter & Understanding Movie Production

I recently travelled to London, England with my family for the winter break and had the opportunity to visit Warner Bros Studios where they filmed Harry Potter. I was enamored with the studio tour. We walked through the sets, got to see the costumes, learn about the special effects, and all the people that went into making this epic film anthology.

There are many people who help put films together from the actors to directors, producers, and even film crews. Who are all these people and what do they really do on the set to help produce a film into an award winning movie? One way to help students understand that it takes more than actors to create a great film is to have students research the different careers in film. Directors, Producers, Grips, Editors, Animal Trainers, Make Up and Costuming, Set Design, Special Effects, and location scouts are just a handful of careers that help make movie magic happen. Yet, there are so many more job opportunities out there.

While on tour in London I learned about the team of animal trainer around to help train all the animals. There were six different dogs that played Fang and four different owls for Harry. The head animal trainer, Julie Tottman said the usual average for her is four months, to train an animal for its on-set appearance. But it took Tottman six months to teach the Harry Potter owls to pick up letters. “It was challenging, and I had to work with 15 owls,” said Tottman, of the mega franchise that had her train owls, dogs, cats, crows, ravens and rats. The dog actors that portray Hagrid’s pet dog, Fang, in Harry Potter were all rescues. 

As for the goblins in Gringotts bank in Diagon Alley were reated by Nick Dudman, Creature and Make-Up Effects Designer, and his team. Each goblin was given a particular personality perceptible in their distinctive ears, chins and noses to ensure they all looked different. To create the scene inside Gringotts Bank in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2, 140 make-up artists from all over Europe were needed to turn 60 actors into goblins in just four hours. Goblin prosthetics could also not be reused after they were removed at the end of the day’s filming and so multiples of every goblin head were created for each day of the shooting schedule.

Everything from the sets, the planning, the costumes, the makeup, the CGI, the models and the butterbeer are displayed in these studios. 

Here are a few more things that you will experience on this Warner Bros Studio Tour:

• You will get to walk down Diagon Alley.
• Taste Butter Beer
• See the iconic Hogwarts Bridge, Knight bus, Privet Drive, Great Hall, Castle and more.
• You will learn about all the behind the scenes work in the production of the film, including exclusive footage!
• See the costumes that were worn by the cast and crew. The props, creature effects, arts, graphics and more.
• See the work of the CGI and how the ‘magic happens.’

The depth and details that go into filmmaking was completely amazing. Everything from the way the cauldrons spin, to how intricate the backdrop details are.

No matter if you’re a lover or a hater of Harry Potter, the Warner Bros Studios are fascinating.

Did you know that Hagrid (you know, the huge, scruffy, big-bearded one) has a life-size robotic body double that doesn’t involve the actor? A huge suite is pumped full of water to create the life-sized character, a person is inside manoeuvring the body, and a robotic Hagrid head is on top to make it appear his size without computer generation. Amazing!

I am still plotting how I can use this material in my classroom and share all the movie magic with students.

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