Harry Potter: The Exhibition – Utrecht, Netherlands

by Monica Dieleman and Mikaela Renshaw

From February 11, 2017, to September 2, 2017, Harry Potter: The Exhibition was hosted at the CineMec in Utrecht, Netherlands. This was its fifth European stop and 16th stop overall. 

Coming to the Netherlands for the first time, the creators of Harry Potter: The Exhibition have chosen a place that may not be in the direct center of the city of Utrecht but gives all the space the exhibition could possibly need.

“It was a custom-made venue for us. So it’s the first time. So to us, it’s almost absolutely perfect,” exhibition creator Frank Torres told us. “The ceiling heights are just right, the walls are so you feel really immersed – it’s very cozy – and the sound is great because we have so much drapery keeping the sound in each area. So we’re very excited about this facility.”

Everyone who enters the CineMec building is welcomed by the flying Ford Anglia, Mr. Weasley’s infamous car, which is used by Fred, George, and Ron to rescue Harry from the Dursleys. Further in the CineMec, you enter a hall where you can have a Harry Potter-themed picture taken with a choice of different backgrounds, and then you go through the doors to the exhibition itself. There, a lucky few get Sorted into their Hogwarts House by the Sorting Hat.



After the Sorting Ceremony, a member of the school staff takes you through doors, which are reminiscent of the doors of the Great Hall, and suddenly, you are on platform nine and three-quarters, with the Hogwarts Express next to you. With the Hogwarts Express on your left, you enter the Gryffindor common room, filled with props everyone knows, like Ron’s, Harry’s, and Hermione’s wands, the painting of the Fat Lady, and the beds the boys sleep in in the Gryffindor dorm. Past the dorm, you enter a section dedicated to the classes and teachers of Hogwarts, from Umbridge to Trelawney. Make sure you stop by the Herbology section to try your hand at repotting mandrakes. Just take care to cover your ears first.



The next room focuses on a different aspect of wizarding life: Quidditch. The room has props and costumes from the Hogwarts House teams and from the Quidditch World Cup, such as the official uniform of the Irish Quidditch team. You can also get a chance to try out part of the sport yourself, by tossing Quaffles through goalposts.



Once you’ve wandered off the Quidditch pitch, you find yourself coming to Hagrid’s hut. The detail in this room is incredible and really makes you feel like you’ve stumbled onto the grounds of Hogwarts, or at the very least, a film set. If you look at the table, you can even see Norbert’s egg, just on the verge of hatching. You also have the opportunity to sit in Hagrid’s armchair. I should warn you, though; it’s large enough to swallow you.



From there, keep a wary eye out as you make your way into the Forbidden Forest, where you can see creatures like centaurs, an Acromantula, and even a dragon. The baby Thestral can be a bit hard to see in the dark, but if you look closely, you’ll find it. Of course, the Forbidden Forest does hold all the Dark forces of the exhibition. The next room is dedicated to just that. Full of the wanted posters and the clothes of prominent Death Eaters like Bellatrix Lestrange and Fenrir Greyback, this room shows the darker side of J.K. Rowling’s world. And to top it all off, in the center is a case full of Harry Potter’s Darkest magic: the Horcruxes.



Once you’ve made it past that room, you find the props reminiscent of happier events, such as the Skiving Snackboxes and robes worn at the Yule Ball. You can also find Fawkes the phoenix here, settled majestically upon his perch. From there, sadly, you reach the end of the exhibition. But to ensure your ability to keep precious memories and mementos of the event, there is, of course, a small gift shop where you can purchase souvenirs.

Overall, Harry Potter: The Exhibition is a stunning tribute to the wild and fantastical world J.K. Rowling gifted to us. It will remind you why you fell in love with the series in the first place. Thus, it’s a highly recommended must-see for all Harry Potter fans who can make it to Utrecht before the exhibition closes.

Full Transcript with James and Oliver Phelps, Thursday, February 9, 2017

Transcribed by Luna Irazábal and Celia Ludwinski

My first question is about the exhibition. Which prop do you like most and why?

Oliver Phelps: Probably... can I have a look in here and just pick one?

[Everyone laughs]

Yeah, that's possible.

Oliver: Probably my wand because it's an individual wand to me, so I can... but they keep it behind a big glass box so we can't steal it when we're here. I think that's probably my favorite one.

While we're talking about wands, I did hear they were very strict while filming.

Oliver: Very. Yup, yup. I think also... I broke a couple because... you know when you've got a drum kit and you try and... you see drummers spinning it like... I kept trying to do that and I wasn't very good at it. So yeah, I got through two or three wands, I think.

Well, now you are in Holland. Do you know Dutch words?

Oliver: I can't. I've tried my hardest.

James Phelps: We've tried. We can't get our heads around the pronunciation. [makes guttural sound] [There seems to be a lot of that in this language] and we can't quite get it.

So nothing Harry Potter related, also?

James: No. A lot of things are different in Dutch as well, aren't they?


James: We did learn that Hogwarts is [attempts to pronounce Zwijnstein].

"Hogwarts" in Dutch?

James: Yeah.


James: Zwijnstein, that's it.

[Everyone laughs]

Oliver: Totally different.

Did you get anything from filming Harry Potter? Any prop that may be also in this exhibition?

Oliver: The only thing that I've really got [that] is here is one of the little items from the Skiving Snackboxes. So it's only a tiny thing from the...

Oh yeah, from the shop.

Oliver: Yeah. But they've got those here as well, so you can see there is just the detail on those things... which are hardly ever seen on screen, but it just shows the detail that the guys put into them all in the movie.

And of course, it was made by MinaLima. Can you tell [us] a bit more about that?

James: Yeah. So the artwork and everything else that went into it, and the designs, those guys did them. And what's really cool is that we've... I've actually been able to chew their ear on what came up with the ideas for certain things and everything. And it's really interesting to see the color designs, especially for the Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes. They just wanted bright colors and everything.

How would you describe the exhibition?

James: It's a trip down memory lane. It is really for us, especially because when you walk down it you see things and you remember where you were when you were filming a scene or what was going on in your life when you were watching this. And also when you see fans who walk through it, they remember where they were when they went to see the movie or when they were watching the DVD with their family. Do you know what I mean? Things like that. So it's not just you remember the film; you remember [things] about yourself as well.

Are you currently working on any acting stuff?

One of the twins: We are, yeah, yeah, which we are not going to tell you.


One of the twins: But we are. It's really exciting, actually, so it's been nice that we've got a couple of days just to put that there and then come here.

What year can we expect it to come out?

One of the twins: I can't tell you that. Sooner rather than later.

So what is your favorite expo? Because you have one in London, the studios, Brussels...

James: I think the difference between this exhibition and the exhibit in London - the Studio Tour - is that that is a studio tour. So you see a lot of the sets and the making-of, and here is a lot more stuff that you would instantly recognize from when you were watching the films and stuff because this stuff has been traveling with the exhibition since it started ten years ago now. So we've been very lucky to be able to... sorry, not ten years yet. Eight years ago or something... a while. It's been to a lot of places. And this is very much as it was in Brussels, where people who wouldn't necessarily be able to go to London, or to Universal in Orlando, or wherever, can come and see it more on their doorstep. And even the local language is incorporated into the instructions on the... when you go around the different pieces, it's written in English and also in Dutch as well.

Do you think there should also be props from Fantastic Beasts and do you actually like the movie?

One of the twins: I like the movie, and I don't know whether it would work because this is about Harry Potter, so maybe in another thing.

And do you think you would like to see any Weasley ancestors in the next Fantastic Beasts movie, even though it's not that far back in time?

One of the twins: Yeah, maybe. Maybe. I don't know. But it's in a different part of the world though, isn't it? So would there be a Weasley thing in there? You never know.

One of the twins: Some random red-headed family just pop up.

How were you approached about coming and opening the exhibition?

Oliver: We were asked when we were filming if we would like to go out to Chicago many years ago to announce that they were doing the exhibition. And from that, we've been in touch with the guys who run it, the guys [from] GES. Every now and then they'll say, "We've got an opening. Would you like to come to it?" as we've done more and more of them, I think because we know a lot more about what's in the exhibit. The guys like asking us to come along. We love coming to different places around the world to talk about it. It never gets old as well, seeing the fans' reaction when they see it for the first time, how excited they are. It really takes them back to a past in their life when they first saw it or read about this certain costume or...

James: Or even just watching them try to play Quidditch. You normally see a lot of the dads playing Quidditch, trying to throw the Quaffles.

Do you have a favorite location the exhibition has been in?

Oliver: Here? [laughs] Everywhere we've gone has been really cool because the different reactions from the different countries or cities have been just very different, but everyone shares that same love and passion for it, so that's really fun. We were really lucky, actually, yesterday to show a couple of special fans of ours around the exhibition when it was closed, and they were very like, "Wow, this is amazing!" So that was really cool.

How do you hope the Dutch fandom here in the Netherlands will react to the exhibition?

Oliver: I think they'll react like they have for a lot of the other Potter stuff that we've done here before. It's just being very passionate, very loud. I remember that one when we've done some stuff here before. Personally, I just hope they really enjoy it because it isn't literally like they just pick it up and go and it's the same. Because they move some stuff around, but they also translate it into Dutch and English, so it's not like just reading the [unintelligible]. They translated it to make it feel a lot more personal.

You've been to a bunch of Harry Potter exhibitions like Shanghai, Tokyo, [and] Brussels. From all these exhibitions, what is for you the most special memory you have?

Oliver: There is a memory for each one we've been to.

James: That's the cool thing about it. Like Shanghai, my cousin works there and he's never had any of the family out to Shanghai - he always comes home - so it was quite cool being able to bring him along to the opening. He was like, "Oh, I've never seen anything like this," with how many people were there. And then, also, going from that to, say... I don't know. Even here, last night we were able to meet two guys who were going through a bit of a rough time, and just being able to talk to them and show them parts of the exhibit, that's a special memory. See, there'[re] loads from a wide range of different aspects. And also, getting to see not just the exhibit but [also] the surrounding areas. So we get spoiled as well when we go to different places. We learn new things about culture, but no matter what the culture, what the language, you still get the same excitedness [sic] that comes into it from the fan base, which is great for us. It makes our job a lot easier, and we can talk about that all day.

In Brussels, you've visited the Atomium. Are you planning to visit something else here, like Amsterdam, or something in Utrecht?

Oliver: Yeah, we're going to go to the soccer on Sunday.

James: Ajax. And we'll probably have a look around Utrecht today, and probably tomorrow night as well. It's great traveling to places, but it's even better when you're there with someone from there.

Oliver: And it's even better when you're traveling with the company credit cards.

[Everyone laughs]

How does it feel to keep in touch with the Harry Potter world through the exhibition?

Oliver: It's nice. It shows that it wasn't just a flash in the pan, as it were. And it's also fun that when we see certain things that remind you of something, we can send one of the guys... one of the cast members, "Oh, do you remember this?" and they will be like, "Oh, I haven't thought about that in years, but yes." So the best way to describe it is, if you were to have documentation of certain things you did at school, then it could be like a flash in the memory thing. So it's really nice to... although we're doing new stuff now, it's quite nice to be able to just go back and remember other things that we've done.

Are there any props that you wish could have been in the exhibition but aren't?

One of the twins: I mean, I would have loved them to be able to put... because a lot of the stuff is in London.

One of the twins: Or here.

One of the twins: Or here. Maybe the full chess piece, like the full chess...

One of the twins: The whole chess board.

One of the twins: The whole chess board. There'[re] a couple of chess pieces here, and you can see just how tall they actually are, but they'd probably have to use the Amsterdam Arena to hold it all in because it's so big.

Full Transcript with Julie Jentzen, Eddie Newquist, and Frank Torres, Thursday, February 9, 2017

Transcribed by Katy Chapman and Luna Irazábal

So what inspired you to put together the exhibition?

Eddie Newquist: I think a couple of things. I think everybody was reading the books at the time and the first couple of films had come out. We're GES's in the exhibition business, so when we started thinking about what would be fun to do, we knew the films were very popular, we knew the books were a huge success, and I think we felt there's definitely something here and the world is so rich. We also knew that Warner Bros. had thought about it but couldn't really bring it to the front of their minds, and nor could the filmmakers because they were very busy. So the idea was out there for a number of years, but it didn't really quite click, I think, until Warner Bros. and the filmmakers could see some sort of end in sight and say, "Well, what do we do with all these amazing things, and how do we share this in a special way?" So we were already working with Warner Bros. on a number of other things at the time and helping them promote films and do special projects, and so we were in the right place at the right time, and the filmmakers were in the right place, and it all came together from there.

And how did you do the negotiations to get the different props? Which ones did they say, "Oh, you can't have that one. We're keeping that one in London," and so on?

Eddie: Well, that was an interesting process because we're fans, so we wanted things that people would have an emotional connection to because we knew that that would be great for fans and other folks to see. But we also knew they were in the middle of production at the time, and so when we went over and met with David Heyman, David Barron, and Stuart Craig, they were all absolutely terrific, very supportive; they helped with our design and had great ideas. But then we met with the different heads of the departments from costumes to props and other things and we'd say, "Well, maybe we should have that," and they were like, "No. We can't tell you why, but you can't have that."

[Everyone laughs]

Eddie: We said, "Oh, okay. Wink, we get it." So luckily though, there were enough things from the first few films that we knew would be great. And the other thing is, once we opened and they saw the exhibition and experienced it, they realized this is a great way to share things. And so as the films would be released, they would provide things to us to add to the exhibition. So the exhibition has changed and grown quite a bit - everything from the sword of Gryffindor to Horcruxes - and if you remember for a while, people were wondering what shape the Horcruxes were going to take and what they would look like and nobody knew, really, other than the brief description. So that was fun to see that in the films and then to know that we could share that in the exhibition.

Do you each have a favorite prop in the exhibition?

Julie Jentzen: Absolutely, absolutely. I think the phoenix is my favorite. They made a few of them because they were animatronics. They could move - one could cry tears, actually - and they hand-dyed every single feather on that bird. So people got to create a phoenix in real life, which to me is absolutely incredible. And I think one of them... the phoenix was moving around controlled by the animatronics guys, and Richard Harris came up to the bird and was like, "Oh, wow! What a well-trained bird."

[Everyone laughs]

Julie: So they fooled him.

Frank Torres: For me, I think it's not just one - it's the Quidditch stuff. Being a sports fan myself, all those sequences are so exciting to me, and they really did a great job of bringing that fictional game to life in the films. And then seeing the actual props here is fantastic, [as well as] the amount of detail that went into those. So definitely Quidditch.

The exhibition has been to a lot of places like Shanghai, Brussels... Relocating the exhibition to those certain places, did it give any trouble?

Eddie: It's challenging, yeah.

Frank: That's a good question. Every one has its challenges. Every facility is different. Obviously going from one country to the other, you have rules and regulations you have to follow - transportation, sizes of trucks and how you can get them into a city, how you get into a building. For example, in Tokyo we were on the 52nd floor of a building, so...

Eddie: Skyscraper.

Frank: So one piece at a time.

[Everyone laughs]

Frank: So yeah, there's a lot of planning that goes into each one of these venues. It's usually about a six-month process once we identify where we're going. Then I go forward and I'll visit those locations and do a preliminary, "How are we going to get in here? What will we need? What kind of trucks?" and then you just move on from there.

Are you ever going to add some props from the Fantastic Beasts movies?

Eddie: Well, so we did have some Fantastic Beasts costumes in Brussels because that was when the film was coming out. So we were very happy to work with Warner Bros. to include those, and we have dreams and ideas but we can't say anything official right now.

Then I only say, "Keep dreaming."

[Everyone laughs]

Eddie: We will, that's what we do.

Does it surprise you that every time again a lot of fans show up for the exhibition?

Eddie: It's amazing.

Frank: Oh, it really is amazing.

Eddie: They show up, and it's really everybody. Everybody, all generations seem to keep wanting to experience the wizarding world, which is wonderful. But yes, having fans show up in costumes, and it's so rewarding because that's the way we feel every day, but we're so busy working and setting things up and worrying about things, so it's a big reward for us to open the doors and get to share it with people who love it and also educate people who have never seen film costumes or props or even some of the graphics by MinaLima up close. I mean, they're just breathtaking. So it's really rewarding, and it's always fun to go to a new place and share that.

Julie: I will say one of the interesting things about taking this exhibit around the world has been... we work with people from every country and we have people helping install the scenery, the artifacts... the hosts are from the Netherlands also, people in the retail shop. So we get to meet people [from] all over the world, and many of them are very enthusiastic about Harry Potter, and it's just amazing to hear their stories and see the way of life in different countries. We don't just roll in with our whole team - we actually interact with people.

Eddie: We live for a while. Yeah.

Julie: We live for a while. I mean, I don't know anyone else who has been to Utrecht for almost three weeks or so. It's been very cool, actually.

Eddie: Yeah.

Do you know any Dutch translations of any names? Have you learned those?

Eddie: I was looking at the Weasleys, the twins, which was really interesting because we just weren't familiar with them. It's funny, you have all your own names for the characters, which is fun. It's really exciting to learn.

Did anything change after the exhibitions in Tokyo and other places? Is this one different?

Frank: The only changes and [additions] we've added as the films were finished. We did add some of those, but otherwise, it's the same exhibition. The only thing that might happen is instead of turning left when you come out of Hogwarts you might turn right, and that's just based on the facility that we're in. If there are columns, we try to conceal any of those things. What's great about here is that it was a custom-made venue for us.

Eddie: Yeah, it's the first time, actually...

Frank: So it's the first time.

Eddie: ... we've had a custom-made venue.

Frank: So to us, it's almost absolutely perfect. The ceiling heights are just right, the walls are so you feel really immersed - it's very cozy - and the sound is great because we have so much drapery keeping the sound in each area. So we're very excited about this facility.

Were there any props you couldn't use but wished that you could?

Frank: I think we have everything.

Julie: I think we do. Yeah. We even fit the giant chess pieces in the building - which is pretty cool - from the first movie.

Frank: We have the car in the lobby.

Eddie: It's the real Anglia.

Julie: Yeah, sure is. Yeah, it's cool.

[Eddie asks the interviewers about their favorite part of the exhibition.]

Frank: And that's a perfect example of why it is exciting for us, because you all have a different place. And that's what's amazing about Harry Potter, is that everybody walks in with their own favorite, whether it's a film, a character, [or] a prop, and we have these things here for you guys to each enjoy your way. And I think that's what makes the exhibition so special.

Eddie: And I'll tell you a secret about the Quaffle. So if you look closely [at] them, you'll see that it actually has a Hogwarts emblem on the Quaffles because all of those Quaffles were made from the original Quaffles from the movie, but we had to duplicate them because there'[re] so many of them. And it took us about a hundred times to get the right kind of Quaffle that would feel like leather and like an old football and then have it bounce perfectly.

Frank: I remember the first few - they weighed a ton. They were like rocks.

Eddie: Yeah, we'd drop them and [makes explosion noise] oh no!

Frank: And we'd be like, "No! We've destroyed the scenery. We can't use these."

Eddie: Yeah.

Frank: "Go back and start over." And then finally...

Eddie: The production people were very helpful, yeah.

Frank: Did you have a chance to enjoy the audio tour? Because I definitely encourage you to do that.

Eddie: Yeah, you would all like the audio tour.

Frank: Because that's a whole other layer.

Eddie: Yeah, so we wanted the exhibition to be about your adventure through Hogwarts, but on the audio tour, we also wanted the filmmakers, like David Heyman and David Barron - the two producers - or Stuart Craig, who was the production designer on all the films, to tell a little bit about their story and how their feelings were. So on the audio tour, they speak but then we have different department heads, like the costume designer Jany Temime...

Julie: The set dressers...

Eddie: ... Pierre Bohanna...

Julie: ... Stephenie McMillan.

Eddie: ... set dressers, MinaLima, they're all on the audio tour talking about some of their favorite pieces. So it's not too much behind-the-scenes, but it's enough to hear their inspiration, and I think you - especially all of you - will enjoy that.

[Interviewer recalls an anecdote about how production adapted things to help the actors]

Julie: Yeah, that's one of my favorite parts from the movies - but it translates a little bit into our exhibit - is how seriously all of the actors took their roles. For me, it added to the tremendous detail that they put into the movies and the production value, which we showcase here so you can look at the costumes and remember. Alan Rickman's acting choices were phenomenal, and you'll never forget that. You'll look at Snape's costume and you'll just hear his voice. I think they were so incredibly well done.