Harry Potter: The Exhibition – Toronto, Canada

by Shana Toor

From April 9, 2010, to August 22, 2010, Harry Potter: The Exhibition was hosted at the Ontario Science Center in Toronto, Canada. This was its third North American stop and third stop overall.

There was an event with James and Oliver Phelps, who portrayed Fred and George Weasley in the Harry Potter films. Check out this video from the event!



After watching an enthralling, climatic montage of movie clips from the first six Harry Potter films on a row of eight large screens, the group of us knew that experiencing the Harry Potter exhibition first-hand would quickly become one of the most unforgettable events we would ever participate in.

The Harry Potter exhibition media preview started at about 1 pm on Thursday, April 8, 2010, at the Ontario Science Centre. There was also something described as a “photo opportunity inside the exhibition” at 10 am, but unfortunately, I wasn’t able to attend that event. Around 1 pm, we were taken down to the actual exhibition as a group. The people attending ranged from representatives from other HP fansites, representatives from several blogs, and reporters from local newspapers. The exhibition began with a sorting hat ceremony, and two people from our group actually got sorted into Gryffindor and Ravenclaw, respectively. After this, we passed through into a room where there were eight screens in front of us. They each played the same four to five-minute compilation of movie clips. At the climax, there was a shrill train whistle preceding the wall to our left being lifted and revealing a replica of the Hogwarts Express and the beginning of the exhibition with video-animated portraits along the wall. The sorting hat ceremony and the montage were considered the “pre-show” and it was a really great experience, especially since it set the mood for the rest of the exhibition. We were led in the walk-through mainly by Eddie Newquist, who is the Executive Vice President and Chief Creative Officer of the exhibition, and Robin Stapley, who is the Vice President of Creative Studio of the exhibition.

There were seven main settings in the exhibition: the Gryffindor Common Room, Hogwarts classrooms, Quidditch, Hagrid’s Hut, the Forbidden Forest, Dark Forces, and the Great Hall. All of the sections in the exhibit were amazingly detailed and well designed. My personal favorite section was the Dark Forces, just because of the amount of visual and audio detail that was put into it. I would without a doubt say that all Harry Potter fans that have a chance to go to the exhibition whenever it comes to their area should definitely go; it’s really a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

After a quick tour of the exhibition (we were allowed to go back inside later) we had a short Q&A session with the creators, Eddie Newquist and Robin Stapley. The first thing they mentioned was that it was a “thrill” to bring the exhibition to life. They said that it took about 16 semi-trucks to import everything across the United States border, and although they’ve been compiling props and items for the exhibition for over two years, the only challenge they’ve encountered so far is the large amount of stuff that there is to shift from place to place. When asked why they chose the Ontario Science Centre for the location of the exhibition in Canada, a point that they really emphasized was that “the foundation of science comes from inspiration; and just as Harry Potter has a long history of ideas, science also has a long history of ideas,” so they thought that the Ontario Science Centre was an ideal location. Their favorite items in the exhibition are the creatures, such as Buckbeak and Fawkes. When pressed on why there weren’t more interactive, hands-on things in the Harry Potter exhibit (such as the Quaffle toss and the being able to pull out Mandrakes), they replied by stating that a lot of the artifacts were quite sensitive, and that it’s also nice to have a balance between interactive and non-interactive experiences at an exhibit. They haven’t made any exact attendance estimates, but they said that they roughly expect hundreds of thousands of people to pass through the exhibition overall. They also mentioned that they will eventually “definitely have Deathly Hallows props/costumes,” and that they are “always going to be refreshing and updating” the exhibit as it travels with props/costumes from Deathly Hallows once they’re available. After the Q&A with Eddie Newquist and Robin Stapley, James and Oliver Phelps came in and we got the opportunity to have a short Q&A with them as well.

Of course, one of the first few things they were asked about was the Wizarding World of Harry Potter theme park and Deathly Hallows filming. They stated that they weren’t allowed to disclose much information about either topic, except that they’ve been filming some “cool action sequences” for Deathly Hallows. Their personal favorites from the Exhibition were of course the Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes joke shop items and Buckbeak. James’ specific favorite joke shop item was the Puking Pasties, while Oliver preferred the Nose-Biting Teacups. James’ favorite magical creature was the dragon, and Oliver’s was the phoenix. James’ favorite scene to film in the movies was the Yule Ball scene because of the decoration of the Great Hall and the fact that they had to learn how to waltz. Oliver’s favorite scene to film was their first scene on Platform 9 & 3/4. Their favorite Harry Potter book is Prisoner of Azkaban, and they described how they had read it while on vacation a few weeks before they had their screen test for the movies. When asked about their future plans, they said that they definitely want to continue acting after Harry Potter is over. When they started to talk about Harry Potter fans, they expressed, “Potter fans are great in general.” They commented about their fame after being involved with Harry Potter, and described how “there’s always people saying hello.”

Harry Potter: The Exhibition is open at the Ontario Science Centre in Toronto from April 9 to August 22.

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