Archives for posts with tag: Harry Potter
thunderbird

The Thunderbird, ©JK Rowling and ©Warner Bros Pictures

Newt Scamander is on a mission. The central character of JK Rowling’s new film, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, is passionate about protecting rare and special creatures that are threatened because of their magical powers. He has created a sanctuary for a collection of amazing animals, ranging from the enormous Thunderbird and the galumphing Erumpent to the tiny, leafy Bowtruckle that lives in his breast pocket.

These creatures have qualities of many animals we recognise.  The first creature we see, a Niffler, is very like a platypus with soft fur and a duck-like beak. It has magpie tendencies as it can’t resist shiny things and collects them in its pouch. The Demiguise is a grey, long-haired ape similar to the Japanese macaque. The Erumpent is like a glowing, inflated rhinoceros. There are blue, snake-like creatures and something that looks like a cross between a lion and a blowfish.

beast-guide

A guide to some of the beasts, ©www.telegraph.co.uk

Newt is determined to save as many of these creatures as he can, and he gathers detailed  information about their characteristics, behaviour and habitats to put in his book, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Above all, he wants to protect them from being destroyed by thoughtless and sometimes cruel humans who mistakenly believe they are dangerous.

Does this sound familiar? Here in the real world we have all sorts of beautiful and amazing creatures that are being threatened in the same way. Compared to humans they have incredible powers: of flight, super strength, powerful vision, amazing agility and speed. They have adapted perfectly to their environments, and are often portrayed by humans as posing a terrible threat to us. In reality, we are the ones who threaten their existence, and now an ever-lengthening list of these fantastic beasts is endangered.

wwf-white-rhino

Photo @www.worldwildlife.org

Like the Erumpent, the black rhino in Africa is critically endangered as a result of habitat loss and poaching. They and other species of rhino are being protected in sanctuaries in Africa and Asia, but there are still very few that live in the wild. Organisations such as the World Wildlife Fund have worked for decades to raise awareness of endangered animals.

wwf-giant-panda

Photo ©www.worldwildlife.org

Despite their universal appeal and worldwide fame, giant pandas are very rare. These were the first animals to be protected by the World Wildlife Fund since its inception in 1961. Happily, the giant panda has moved from being ‘endangered’ to ‘vulnerable’ as numbers of the animals in the wild increase.

There are so many endangered animals that we take for granted. Most of us only ever see such amazing creatures in zoos or on television, but without some effort being made to save them, we may not have gorillas, tigers, orang-utans or elephants for future generations of humans to learn about and appreciate. I hope the passion and determination of Newt Scamander will inspire fans of all fantastic beasts to look after them while we still can.

Potter flying car

Recently my children went with friends to see The Making of Harry Potter in a giant studio space in northwest London (near Watford Junction). Visitors can wander around the original film sets of JK Rowling’s brilliant Harry Potter series, and look at spectacular props, models and costumes worn by the real actors!

The flying car greets you at the entrance, along with giant images of some of the main characters from the films (can you spot Draco Malfoy behind the car with his Slytherin badge?) At the beginning of the tour, a film is shown on a giant screen about what you will see inside. The final image of the film shows the huge doors leading to the Great Hall. Suddenly the screen rises to reveal those very same doors for you to walk through!

Great Hall entrance

As the doors slowly open you enter a huge dining hall lined with refectory tables set with copper plates and golden goblets. Statues line the walls and tall windows rise at each end of the room. This is where Harry and his friends ate their meals, while at the Head Table the Headmaster Dumbledore and all the teachers sat surveying the pupils.

dining hall

At the top of the Great Hall stand figures wearing the costumes of Mad-Eye Moody, Sybil Trelawney, Minerva McGonagall, Albus Dumbledore and Rubeus Hagrid, among others.

Great Hall top table

From the Great Hall you can wander through other sets at Hogwarts, including the potions classroom where a figure of Severus Snape stands menacingly before an array of bottles, jars and cauldrons. (Snape was always my favourite character, so I would have loved to see this room!)

Snape's potions class Other sets from Hogwarts School of Wizardry include Dumbledore’s study, with its walls filled with books and stone columns bathed in an eerie blue light.

Dumbledore's studyIn contrast, the Gryffindor Common Room where Harry, Ron and Hermione spent many hours has a warm atmosphere with its giant hearth, luxurious Medieval tapestry and soft furnishings in orange and red.

Gryffindor common room  Another exhibit of costumes shows what Harry, Ron and Hermione wore, including the Invisibility Cloak with its green-screen lining for special effects!

invisibility cloak

Elsewhere in the Hogwarts section lies the Sword of Gryffindor in a glass case. There are also cases showing different models of broomstick and a wide range of magic wands.

sword of gryffindor

Children under 15 who take the tour are given a special Harry Potter passport, in which they can get stamps for the different areas they visit. They can also get free badges to show they’ve been on the tour.

Harry Potter passport

Visitors can also see The Burrow, where the Weasley family live. The low ceilings and earthy colours give it a cosy and somewhat chaotic feeling, a bit like a rabbit warren.

The Weasleys' burrow

The style of Dolores Umbridge’s office in the Ministry of Magic couldn’t be more different! You can see her taste for pink and very ornate furnishings. If you look very closely you can see the painted plates with images of kittens hanging on the walls.

Ministry of Magic office

One part of the tour has a full street scene where Diagon Alley is recreated. You can see all the shops where Harry and his fellow pupils would have got all their school supplies, including a wand at Olivander’s, quidditch equipment at the sports shop and magical instruments at Wiseacre’s Wizarding Equipment.

Diagon Alley

I’m sure I would have spent hours window shopping in Diagon Alley! Look at all the wonderful instruments in Wiseacre’s window…

Wiseacre's shop

But the best shop in Diagon Alley has to be Fred and George Weasley’s magical emporium, Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes. You can see it above – the red shop with a giant man sticking out of the window! I’m sure you remember all the amazing sweets and other clever things available there, including Weasley’s Puking Pastilles and Sticky Trainers.

puking pastilles

sticky trainersElsewhere you can see how Harry and Hagrid rode into the air on their special motorbike-and-sidecar. The actors sat on a model which rose up on a hydraulic lift, and the green screen behind allowed the filmmakers to create an image of clouds and trees far below them.

motorbike greenscreenOne of the most impressive things you can see on this tour is a giant model of Hogwarts, which is built to look like a Medieval castle in the middle of the Scottish highlands. The model stands surrounded by craggy hills and fir trees, and in the film it appears both at night and in daylight as the pupils arrive at the school at the beginning of each new year.

Hogwarts modelIt’s amazing to think that all the images of this fantastic building in the Harry Potter films were made using this scaled-down model. My kids had a great time on the tour, and their three hours positively flew by! Maybe one day I’ll get a chance to go there and see it all for myself…

If you want to explore the world of Harry Potter even further you can visit Pottermore, JK Rowling’s website where you can become a student of wizardry at Hogwarts, get sorted by the Sorting Hat and lots more!