Harry Potter and the Prisoner of the Selfie Stick

WARNING: This post is written by an *EIM major who went through elementary, middle, and high school reading Harry Potter late into the night. #pottergeneration

*EIM= Experience Industry Management

20150731_172239On July 31st Syd and I did the Warner Bros Harry Potter Studio Tour. If you’re not sure as to why July 31st matters in this context, Google it.

Warner Bros has basically turned the studios where they filmed the Harry Potter films into a museum with a Disneyland-esque tour experience (and price tag). Props to them, I am sure they’re making a killing from it. And they do a really good job.

One of the things I first notice when going to any museum, event, theme park, etc. is how the flow and movement of people is controlled. Warner Bros deals with this very effectively. Your ticket has an assigned entry time (ours was 6:00 to 6:30 p.m.) listed on it. About every 10 minutes groups of about 100 people are lead into a cinema. There you watch a short film about the studios (starring of course, Emma Watson, Daniel Radcliffe, and Rupert Grint). They in a sense welcome you to their “home for 10 years” and at the end of the film, go through the doors to the Great Hall. Then, the the screen lifts up revealing the door to the great hall behind. It’s a pretty cool moment, not going to lie.

20150731_181220Once inside the Great Hall they give some more explanation and then leave you on your own to go through the rest of the exhibit (which, according to their recommendations, takes about 3 hours). What’s nice is that they have a one-way policy; once you leave an area, you’re not allowed to go back. This, coupled with the staggered entrances, keeps people moving smoothly through the exhibit.

The Harry Potter studios don’t allow you touch like anything, but they encourage you take as many pictures as you can (“start snapping away as soon as you can”). Before I go on, let me be clear. I am not against taking pictures of things. Pictures are part of memories; an essential part in providing experiences. Syd and I took plenty of pictures at the studios, but I did make an observation:

I noticed people obsessively taking pictures. A person would run up to an object, snap a pic or selfie with it from ten different angles, and then run to the next thing and repeat the process. And it made me wonder, are you actually looking at what is around you? Are you actually experiencing the place or just planning your next Instagram overload that all your followers will actually hate (one post at a time, people)? I’ve witnessed this all summer. Honestly, I kind of like the places that don’t allow photography because then there’s not this touristic-societal pressure to take pictures of everything (don’t tell me this doesn’t exists, it does!). When I am not focused on getting that perfect picture, I can actually see, look, watch and take in the incredible and beautiful sights around me with my own eyes. So next time you go to an amazing place, don’t look at it through your phone. See it with your own eyes first. Take it in. And then, snap a picture if you like it that much. Try it. See if it changes your experience. It has changed mine this summer.

Ok. Off the soapbox. Back to the magic of Harry Potter, my two favorite things:

The Hogwarts Express

20150731_192000You walk down a hallway that has pictures and videos talking about the train. They call this, “First Shot, Last Shot”. The first
day of filming on Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone featured the train. The last day of filming for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part Two also featured the train. All of this does an excellent job of building up anticipation. You then turn the corner and BOOM. There’s platform 9 and 3/4 with the scarlet Hogwarts Express glistening in the light. Turning that corner was an unforgettable moment (at least, for people like Syd and I, who grew up reading Harry Potter). One that experience designers work hard to create. Like, I may have almost shed a tear. I know, I know….

Hogwarts Castle

The Hogwarts Castle is the second to last thing you come to. Much like the Hogwarts Express, there is a bit of build up, until you walk into the room and there it is. It was a similar experience to that of the train. It was so detailed. We just stood there for a while looking at it. It’s a model, obviously, that is built to 1/24-scale of the actual castle and was used for some filming. The lighting in the room is constantly changing, to simulate daytime and nighttime views.

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Immediately following the castle you walk into a room reminiscent of Ollivander’s Wand shop. Every person who worked on the film has a box with their name it. There’s thousands. Right at the exit is a screen with these words from JK Rowling:

“The stories we love best do live in us forever, so whether you come back by page or by the big screen, Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home.”

Man, I love Harry Potter.

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