Warner Bros. Studio Tour Event: Feathers and Flight
Warner Bros. Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter’s latest special event is a real treat to behold. Established in time for the British Easter holidays, Feathers and Flight takes you behind the scenes of the series’s delights, and once again, MuggleNet was given the opportunity to take a look around.
The Great Hall, the tour’s grand beginning, has been decked out with a cracking Hogwarts breakfast, laden with toast, jugs of orange juice, and boxes of Cheeri Owls. It is ready for the morning owl post. Across the hall, hovering above a Ravenclaw costume is one of the brooms ridden by the twins during their spectacular escape from the Umbridge regime in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.
Further into Soundstage J is a small feature on Rita Skeeter and her Quick Quotes Quill. The details of this animatronic device, which is perched on a notepad, are explained in a fabulously dated video – judging by Matt Lewis and Tom Felton’s chosen hairstyle. However, it does detail the three-week building process for the device and demonstrates how it was controlled, which is quite similar to a remote control car.
The rest of the soundstage is largely unchanged. However, such is the magic of this exhibition that you are never quite sure if certain items are genuinely new or if you had simply missed them last time. I, for one, am convinced that I have never seen the Inquisitorial Squad badge on Draco Malfoy’s costume before or the intriguing bird skull necklace on the Bellatrix mannequin.
Outside on the backlot, Feathers and Flight truly comes alive as you are introduced to some of the film’s animal actors. Once again, a handsome white owl is perched atop the Privet Drive sign, which is ready for selfies with Hedwig. Sandwiched in between Privet Drive and the Potters’ Godric’s Hollow cottage is a series of flying demos. Taking place every half hour, the demos are worth any time spent waiting.
First up is a large eagle owl, one of the two used in the films. Sixteen years of age and 2 kg in weight, the owl did its best to demonstrate its movie training. The trick, taking a letter in its beak and delivering it to the trainer a few feet away, can take up to six months to teach and a week to forget. This dim-wittedness is in stark comparison to the next featured performer, a raven. These lethal-looking birds can learn the same tricks as an owl in just a week. The raven present appeared to be closer in behavior to a dog than any bird we had previously witnessed. It fetched thrown sticks and even jumped a few inches in the air when commanded. To finish the session, a charming little tawny owl was brought out, dozing gracefully on its trainer’s arm.
Moving into Soundstage K, Potter featherologist Val Jones and her team are on hand to demonstrate the feather-making process. Using real goose feathers, each feather is dyed (yellow for Fawkes, gray for Buckbeak, etc.) before the details are individually painted by hand. The feathers are then trimmed to the appropriate size and sewn onto a stretching fabric, giving the illusion of a living animal, once placed on the animatronic substitute. Given this detailed approach, the creation of these models for the Harry Potter films was a lengthy process: The owls took around a month, three Buckbeaks took eight weeks, and three Fawkes took the better part of five months. They were a spectacular sight when complete. But all too soon, it was time to leave, although not before stocking up on Peppermint Toads from the shop.
Feathers and Flight is a brilliant special event and will be appreciated by new and previous attendees alike. It is also a thrilling reminder of how much care and attention went into making these films, instilling yet more enthusiasm for what is in store with the Fantastic Beasts films.
Feathers and Flight continues until April 27, while Wand Week will run from May 23 to June 2.