Harry Potter: The Exhibition – Sydney, Australia
by Jenna Pres
The Exhibition was hosted at the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney Australia, from November 19, 2011, to April 9, 2012. This was its first Oceanian stop and sixth stop overall.
After some confusion as to where the “temporary entrance” to the museum was, I found the main entrance and was told to head up to Level Three. There I found representatives from a few other fansites, such as SnitchSeeker, DanRadcliffe.co.uk, Feltbeats, Magical Menagerie, and the Daily Snitcher. I knew none of them personally, but as with the beauty of Harry Potter fans, we instantly became friends, due to our common love for the boy wizard. We talked for a while, until we were called into a media room downstairs, where we would meet Eddie Newquist, Robin Stapley, James Phelps, and Oliver Phelps. While waiting for James and Oliver to arrive, we had a small chat with Eddie and Robin. We all asked various questions, to which Eddie and Robin gave fairly brief answers, so they could save their full answers for when the twins came in. However, we did find out that the exhibit will be continuing on after Sydney, but they just have not released exactly where. We also discovered that, logistically, it was quite a trek to get all the props down to Australia. This involved 23 ship containers of things, which took 40 days to get from LA down to Australia. They felt lucky to have Warner Bros.’ support for their collection, who were willing to help them in anything they needed. Robin talked of how they used the Great Hall in Leavesden Studios to go through all the props they had to choose from. This was quite a difficult task for them to do, it appears, as there are so many various props, and a lot of care and dedication has been put into making each and every one of them. They were also quite lucky, in that they walked around Leavesden studios, and were asking “Oohh! Can we have that?” to which the producers and directors would mostly say “Yes, of course!” For example, there are many chandeliers found in some of the sets, so you will notice one of them in the exhibit. As well as the common room door to Gryffindor Tower. Here, we are starting to get an idea of the amount of work and dedication put into this exhibit. However, we had no idea before entering, just how much attention to detail was put into not only picking and choosing the props to be used in the exhibit but also the detail of said props as well. I encourage you to look closely at each and every prop, as they are all so incredibly detailed, that you really do feel as if it is all real. Anyway, I am getting ahead of myself here.
So Eddie and Robin are still answering questions while we wait for the Twins to arrive. We have also found out about how some of the other Harry Potter cast and crew have walked through the exhibit, and have commented that it feels like they are back on the set of the films. Finally, the Twins walked in. The atmosphere of the room changed, as we shivered with excitement. Now the interviewing had REALLY begun. Among other things, we found out: Quidditch: Most of the brooms were the same, except Harry’s, being the Nimbus 2000 or Firebolt. They would make three different types of brooms: a hard one, a soft one, and a foam one, depending on what they were going to use it for. What I also found interesting, is the fact that when you see the students doing Hogwarts’ work in the Great Hall, the actors are actually doing their own school work. We find out that some of the sweets and food we see on set, were originally real food for the actors to eat, but of course, the food would start to smell, or the young, hungry teenagers would eat all of them! We find out that James broke three of the wands he used, and he was not even given a wand until The Order of The Phoenix! He did a perfect reenactment of sitting on his wand the first time. I think the story of how Fred and George came to be is a tale worth telling: James and Oliver had 6 weeks of auditioning, and then it got time for the read-through [which is when all the cast and producers get together in a large room, and “read through” the whole film in its entirety] and they still had no idea who was who! So they asked the casting director, very politely, “Who are we?” After the initial shock of having two actors not aware of who they were going to play, she then went over to David Heyman [executive producer], Chris Columbus [director], and J.K. Rowling. After a chat, she came back and simply said, “Right, Oliver you’re George, James you’re Fred.” We also find out that James got so into his character, during the rehearsal for when we see Fred “as he ends up,” that he actually fell asleep. He thought he was having an out-of-body experience when he woke up and everyone had gone to lunch.
This MuggleNet reporter finally got to ask a question of her own: How has the exhibit changed since it first started in Chicago, Illinois, two years ago? Well, as previously mentioned, they have collected all the Horcruxes in one place [apart from Harry, although Oliver suggested they could take Dan and lock him in a cabinet…], as well as the Deathly Hallows. However, the exhibit has not changed its overall layout and content. And those are the highlights of their interview, so now let’s move along to the exhibit itself! We had some time to take a few photos with the twins, and some lucky people even managed to get some autographs. However, time is precious, and despite my time-turner I happened to be wearing, we had to eventually enter the exhibit. I’m sorry, we were finally allowed into the exhibition, escorted by Eddie and Robin. But before we could move, we needed to be sorted into our Hogwarts Houses! This MuggleNet reporter was sorted into her own house – Hufflepuff – as the Sorting Hat will always take into consideration your choice.
After the Sorting, we were taken into a dark room, with posters of all eight films along the walls. Suddenly, these posters changed to a video, which went through all the various events of all the films. After this, we could hear the Hogwarts Express, and suddenly a side wall lifted, and a woman greeted us with a lamp, and the Hogwarts Express could be seen through the smoke and the light of the lampshade. We were then invited to walk through to the entrance of the Exhibition. We were first greeted with various moving portraits. Now we had entered the Exhibition, with Robin doing most of the talking through of each prop and object seen, it becomes clear how much of this was taken directly from the sets of Harry Potter in Leavesden Studios. We find that most, if not all, of the objects you will see in the Exhibition, have been taken straight from the films themselves. Now, this may seem quite normal, for things such as the various costumes of our favorite characters, and perhaps a few school books here and there. But surely, SURELY, things like the four-poster beds, some doors, and an Animatronic Buckbeak are all copies? No, you would be mistaken there. The Hippogriff you see, which is apparently standing still, has in fact got many wires and pipes within its body, ready to move as it did on set for Prisoner of Azkaban. Furthermore, the Phoenix you will see in the Exhibition – Fawkes, of course – is also the original Animatronic Fawkes used on set. It is incredible that they were allowed to take these delicate items all the way to Australia, really! So do please appreciate these particular props, as there is more to them than meets the eye.
I feel it appropriate to mirror Eric Scull’s approach to retelling my experience in the Exhibition, and that is to recount my personal favorite pieces I saw within. This of course includes what I have already mentioned. If it is not already obvious, my favorite thing about this Exhibition is the astounding amount of originals we are lucky enough to see, such as the four-poster beds and even the Trunks of Ron and Harry! We were first greeted with various costumes and props from the subjects offered in Hogwarts, such as Potions, Defence Against the Dark Arts, and Herbology. In each subject, we are given a few objects from the classrooms we see in the film, such as the many portraits and pairings of Gilderoy Lockhart. His section was particularly impressive, as you may remember in the film that massive painting of Gilderoy drawing a painting of himself? You only realize how large it is, and how much detail has been put into it when you see it up close in the Exhibition. It could easily be about 8 feet tall, perhaps taller, and 3 feet wide. Frankly, the paintwork is worthy of the Louvre itself in Paris! That could be the biased fangirl in me speaking, but it really is incredibly huge, and people simply do no realize how much work is put into these things that usually only appear on screen for seconds. Another revelation was made, when another fan site representative pointed out that Snape’s robes are, in fact, Navy. Yes, you read that right. Navy. If you are lucky to visit this Exhibition, look closely at Snape’s robes, and you will see that they are definitely not black.
What we are also forgetting to mention is the interactive side of this Exhibition. As the books are still considered to be children’s books, the creators have taken into account the fact that there will be quite a lot of children wanting to interact with the props. So you are more than welcome to pull out your own mandrake and re-live your favorite moments from Chamber of Secrets when Harry, Ron, and Hermione all pulled out their first mandrakes. You are also invited to pick up a Quaffle and attempt to throw them through any one of the three hoops before you. Within Hagrid’s Hut, we are given the opportunity to sit down in his chair, while admiring the interior of his hut, and there’s something about to crack open on the table there…! Moving on, or rather jumping around the various parts of the Exhibition, we are greeted with the various meet-ins with Voldemort Harry has over the years. This includes his very first meeting with Professor Quirrell, underneath Hogwarts. We do not see the Mirror of Erised, but we do see some Chess pieces. We also see the statue to which Harry was bound to in Goblet of Fire, as well as one of the many Spiders that Harry and Ron encountered in Chamber of Secrets.
As previously stated, I thoroughly encourage you to look closely at the detail put into each prop you see within the Exhibition. For example, it is necessary that you look closely at some of Dolores Umbridge’s Decrees put outside the entrance to the Great Hall. Let me just say that those people in the props department have a good sense of humor, or can perhaps be lazy. The perspective is entirely your own. Speaking of the Great Hall, I was amazed to discover that the entrance to the Great Hall you will get, with the door frame, is an actual mold taken from the Great Hall entrance in Leavesden Studios. If you were to walk into the Great Hall in Leavesden Studios, you would be confronted with the same door as you see in this Exhibition, as they are identical in size and shape, and detail. Also, Hagrid’s Hut is its own section within the Exhibition, and again, the creators of this Exhibition have gone out of their way to make this as close to the real thing as possible. The dimensions of the hut, including the size and much of the interior, are identical to that of the ‘real’ hut found in the films. [Although, if we are honest with ourselves, Hagrid’s Hut appears to change shape, size, and location with each film, so I am not sure which Hut is being replicated here].
What us Australians will get as an extra treat, is the collection of all the Horcruxes [save Harry himself, Nagini the snake, and of course what is left of Voldemort’s soul in himself]. This is the first time the Exhibition has contained all the Horcruxes in one place. Indeed, it is the first time anyone has ever seen all the Horcruxes together, including those who worked on the films. What we also see, are the Deathly Hallows themselves. This is the first time they have all been united in one place so that small space behind the glass is officially The True Master of Death! We have also been given a few new costumes from both Deathly Hallows films, such as that lovely red dress Hermione wore to the wedding of Bill and Fleur, as well as Ron, Harry, Luna, and Xenophilius’ outfits. One of the most exciting outfits for me, however, was Neville Longbottom’s sweater he wore to kill Nagini. In fact, the creators quite agree that this costume is special, so they put Godric Gryffindor’s sword right next to Neville’s costume, as they “felt it was appropriate.” We were also treated to seeing various Death Eater costumes, which we were given permission to take photographs of, and this includes the various wands of each Death Eater.
One last thing I would like to emphasize is how much detail goes unappreciated in the films. For example, you may see a Quidditch board game on display, and may think to yourself, “Now where was that in the films again?” Well, it simply wasn’t in the films. It was made, in incredible detail, then they eventually decided not to use it in the films. This, I feel, is why it was such an amazing idea to have an exhibition – for the fans, and the general public, to really appreciate how much care and dedication was put into creating the magic we see on screen. What I have mentioned here does not come close to properly covering everything I saw in the Exhibition, as there is so much more to see.
So I would like to finish with the simple fact that Harry Potter has given us all some incredible magic within our lives, and it is wonderful when we can all unite in our love for the series for such incredible events as this one.