Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Harry Potter Studio, Roald Dahl & Live Olympic Football

Hello Readers,
We had a busy weekend this week.  We had a rare double movie weekend to put us going.  All of us went to see Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days on Friday (I liked the middle one better but the other three thought this was the best of the trilogy) while Lori and KK saw The Lorax on Sunday (two thumbs down).  KJ and I saw The Dark Knight Rises on Sunday - KJ really liked it while I was disappointed.  The next movie I am interested in seeing is Brave since it is set in Scotland and we are touring Scotland next week but with our busy August coming up I am not sure we'll have time. 

On Saturday we toured the Warner Brothers Harry Potter studio (link) near London.  We went with the Freys so you can read Steve's blog write up here.  I wasn't sure what to expect although I have heard good things from people who have toured the studio.  Overall I had a really good time - seeing the actual movie props/sets, hearing about the props construction and character back stories, seeing the magic behind the special effects... it was all enthralling to me.  Karl has read all the books and saw all the movies and had a great time.  Kalle hasn't read any of the books and only saw some of the movies and still had a good time, better than she expected going into it.  As for myself, I have seen all of the movies but haven't read any of the books and really enjoyed it.  The audio tour guide was extremely informative and I'll try to add the bits and bobs I remember from the audio tour to the picture commentary.  One note before the picture tour starts - although I have seen the movies I am not well versed in all things Potter so my commentary will be a little lacking this week.  I recognise props, scenes, characters, etc. but don't ask me what movie(s) they were in, how they are related to each other or how to properly spell their names.  Now the pictures.

When the first movie was shot Daniel was 11, Rupert was 12, and Emma was 10.  Because of their ages and education/child labour requirements there was a temporary school on the movie set for all of the child actors. They would film for three hours then have three hours of school a day.

The Great Hall set - this is based off of a hall in Oxford I hope to see this fall/winter.  The school children extras were encouraged to carve in the wooden tables to make them more authentic.

The Fireplace - there is a Hogwarts emblem in the back that is rarely seen in the movie since it is usually blocked by the roaring fire.

Some costumes - Neville's cardigan second from right, Harry's school outfit from the first movie on the far left.  Look how small he was!

The Potions classroom set.

The Horcruxes.

A Quidditch broom and green screen.

Mad-eye Moody's trunk.

A few of the portraits from Hogwarts.  Amazing to me was that all of the portraits from the movies were oil and acrylic paintings done specifically for the movies.  For the movie where the portraits fall asleep (I am sure the Potterites in my reading audience are screaming that movie's name at me right now), all of the portraits were painted in duplicate - one with eyes open and one with eyes closed.  In addition to the paintings all of the notes, newspapers, proclamations, etc. were all hand written in calligraphy (could have been a part time job for you if you lived here then Uncle Rick) for all of the movies.  What an amazing amount of work done by hand - I guess the world still needs computer illiterate artists after all.  You can also see the green board portraits on the wall for the moving CGI portrait scenes.

The Death Eaters set and costumes.

Ministry of Magic sets.  No one popped out of the flames here tho.

Kalle with the main character wands.

The heroes wands.  The kids bought replica wands in the gift shop after our tour.

Fireplace where Sirius Black talked with Harry through the fire.

More props.

The Goblet of Fire.

One of Hagrid huts.  They built two for the movies.  One smaller scale hut for Hagrid's scenes to make him look bigger, one larger scale hut for the kids scenes to make them look smaller.  For the full body scenes with Hagrid and the kids they used a 6'-8" stand in instead of the actor. 

The kids in front of the MoM tower.  The tower is carved from foam and painted.  If I remember correctly this is only a third of the tower.

Black family lineage banner.

Also in the tour was an opportunity for kids young and old to go for a ride in the flying car or on a broom in front of green screens.  Here's all the young kids driving above the Hogwarts Express.  Thanks for scanning the pic and sending it to me Steve.

Halfway through the tour was outdoor props and a Butterbeer stand.  Here's the troop enjoying their Butterbeer in front of the Knight Bus and 4 Privet Drive.  The Butterbeer tasted like sweetened cream soda with a heavy foam on top. 

Steve and Kuk wandering in front of the Hogwarts Bridge.

Hogwarts Bridge trivia.

The chess pieces.

Dementor costume.

Diagon Alley.

Diagon Alley trivia.

There was one room wall papered with set and prop blueprints.  I found this room one of the more interesting on the tour but didn't stay long enough for my satisfaction as the rest of the group was starting to pull away from me.  I think even Kuk was ahead of me at this point.  She is always last because she reads every... single... word... per her family.

Scaled model of the previous picture.

Possibly the crown jewel of the tour was this Hogwarts model.  If I recall correctly from the audio tour guide this model was used for all of the outdoor Hogwarts scenery shots for the first six movies.  By the time the seventh movie was made the CGI technology was advanced enough to use for the scenery shots.

Another shot of the massively brilliant model.

Remember when I said all the writing was done by hand?  That also applies to all of the wand boxes in the wand shop.  Another nugget was that all of the names are from people associated with the movies including the various film crew members.  You can see J.K. Rowling, Emma Watson and Robert Pattinson on the boxes.

After the tour and lunch we jetted over to the disappointing Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre (link).  It was only half an hour away from the studio and kind of towards home so we stopped by Great Missenden to check it out.  The Museum is the house Roald lived in (referred to as Gipsy House) when he wrote most of his books.  He was born in Wales (remember the Cardiff Roald Dahl plaque I posted from our Wales trip?) and moved to Great Missenden after WWII.  I have to admit that until a couple of years ago I didn't know who Roald Dahl was (Wiki link) but had heard of his works (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Fantastic Mr. Fox, The Twits, The BFG, Matilda).  The museum itself was brief but I did learn a few things about him.  He was married to the actress Patricia Neal (she starred in some war films with John Wayne), he wrote the screen play for the James Bond film "You Only Live Twice", and he loved chocolate enough to eat it every single day.  Not only did he eat it, one of his dogs had a daily chocolate treat as well.

Roald Dahl sitting on his writing chair in his writing hut.

The kids by a Wonka Bar door.

This made me laugh.

How exactly did they warm the toilet seats?

Interesting height chart.

His preserved writing desk area.  This actually was part of a little 15' x 15'-ish hut in his back yard that he would write in for two hours in the morning and four hours in the afternoon every day.

The Toby Jug reminded me of the Burton-Upon-Trent museum trip.  The spinal shavings are just plain creepy.

After the museum was the story centre with a few activity stations but it was geared for smaller kids.  Here's Kalle, Alex, and Karl checking out one of the stations.

We also strolled to his grave at the local church cemetery.  You can see The BFG's footprints above the grave leading from the bench. 

Jim Seppanen pic - we saw this tree with the odd trunk in the cemetery. 

On the walk back to the car park we passed a few older houses with short doors.

And now for the August Facial Hair of the Month... The Vegas Elvis!  Elvis died 35 years ago this month so what better way to mark his passing than to give him a facial hair month?  I gave a little Elvis clue last week so he's a short YouTube clip of Vegas Elvis performing All Shook Up for all you Suspicious Minds.

Thank you, thankyouverymuch!

With much sadness we say goodbye to another Indy family this week and third this summer.  The Anderson's assignment is over so a bunch of us met for a going away dinner.  I'm glad we could make it as we missed the Lheureua's going away party due to previous plans.  (Plus it was nice to see some of the worser halves of the Better Halves Club members.)  Not only did we enjoy our get togethers with Sarah and Dave (and cute little Anna) our little club is losing one and a half members.  Cindy Ille and Becky Lheureaua left in June and now Sarah Anderson is leaving us.  All three of them were here when the BHC started so its kind of sad to see them go.  Yuka H and Stephanie U were original members also who have returned already so I guess Lori H and I are the remaining founding members.  Plus we are losing Tracey and adorable Andrew this month but fortunately we have a couple couples starting their assignments and possibly more on the way so our little club is still going strong.  The best part of the club is that we are all talking about getting together in the US when we return so I'm glad that everyone is enjoying the club as much as I am.
The Sarah Anderson pic -  some of the Freys noticed me getting up to take the picture.  The dinner group was us, Freys, Hillstroms (Tim is behind Lori H), Henkles, Schetzels, Andersons (Sarah is hiding behind Kuk in her own pic - unbelievable!) and a quarter of the Kiser clan (hidden behind Dave).

I have been watching a lot of the Olympics so far.  It is nice to see them in real time but I am not able to watch the "unprecedented BBC coverage" which supposedly allows you to watch any live event.  I guess it is because I am watching it on Freeview which is like watching on an antennae at home.  My watching options are BBC One, BBC Three, or channel 301 which seems to be a bonus BBC channel.  I do have three options which is nice but I have to watch what they are broadcasting on the channels.  I'm not complaining though as the coverage is decent plus the Brit announcers have been fair to the US teams.

And finally - ROAD TRIP!  I was watching the end of the GB - Canada women's football match last week and after Canada won the announcers said Canada would be playing the US in Manchester.  Manchester is about 90 minutes from us so I started thinking that maybe I could make the event.  It was on at 7:45 PM our time which wasn't optimal timing for me but worked out really well in the end.  The kids didn't want to go and Lori wasn't real keen on going so I mentioned it to Steve while we were at the Harry Potter tour on Saturday.  He mulled it over for a few minutes and said, okay I'm in.  I ordered the tickets that night which ended up being the last time to get them.  I tried verifying the seating Sunday morning but they had quit selling them!  Whew - what timing.  So I talked to Steve on Sunday, told him we had match tickets and car park tickets but nothing else planned so we were ready.  With a car and event tickets and nothing else it kind of felt like a few of the high school/college road trip I've been on.  

The football match was at historic Old Trafford, home of Manchester United.  The stadium was built in 1910 and was bombed during the war because of its proximity to Manchester's industrial park.  It is the second largest football stadium in England with a capacity of 75,811 (Wembley is number one with 90,000 capacity per Wiki).  Getting there was fine, Steve ditched work early so we managed to beat the rush hour traffic and only had one SatNav adventure when we Chevy Chased our way in a roundabout.  This may not make sense to people who haven't driven over here but I am sure the people who have driven here can relate.  So as we are approaching the wrong car park (lets not put up any parking event signage or even put the correct post code online Brits) I come to a roundabout with traffic lights in the roundabout.  The SatNav tells me to take the second right which I do and come to the next roundabout traffic light.  It quickly refreshes and tells me to take the second right turn which I do when the light changes and... arrive at the same traffic light for the second time.  It refreshes again and tells me to take the second right turn.  At this point Steve and I start laughing as we realise the SatNav is just telling us to do a Chevy Chase in this roundabout.  So we ditched the roundabout without causing an accident, made our way onto the motorway to reset the SatNav, and found the correct car park.  Gotta love the added adventure the SatNavs add to driving over here.    

In front of Old Trafford.  Not only was it great to attend an Olympic event I also was able to wear my USA soccer tee that I bought specifically to wear during the Olympics.

Watching Team USA warm up from our seats - pretty sweet view eh Canada?

I think I am sitting in Tara Schetzel's seat. 

I actually wasn't going to complain this blog and won't list it in my Dan Stine category but you aren't supposed to let the US flag touch the ground.  Not that the Olympic committees care about US flag rules I guess.  The teams above are lining up for the national anthems btw.

Leave it to a couple of Canucks to wear hockey helmets to a soccer event.  The girl on the right was entertaining throughout the match.  She had a 150 decibel voice as she yelled CAN-A-DA throughout the match.  Impressive cheering as she never slowed down, lowered her volume or lost her voice.  The cheeky Sheffield chap on our right was giving her a good natured ribbing which was funny at times - my favourite was "Hey Canada - get off your phone".  She was a good sport tho.

The USA taking the pitch to start the game.  The attendance was announced at 26,4-something which meant about a third full stadium which was just enough people to give the match a live event atmosphere.  Especially during the action packed second half.

Here for you Dana - the Canadians taking the pitch.  The crowd was loud for both teams but louder for Canada.  Not sure if the attending Brits were cheering against the US or for Canada but they were definitely cheering.

Shot on goal but saved.

USA throw in just in front of us.

Canada cross rolling across the goal.

USA's first goal from a corner.  The hidden ball is somewhere behind number 17 crossing the goal line if you follow everyone's eyes.  

Hope Solo blurry action shot.

Another corner action shot.

The teams lining up for the start of the first Extra Time period.  Team USA's legs went dead in the second Extra Time but they survived just long enough.

Horrible, horrible referee but a great match to experience.  The first half was slow, the second half was "WOW" exciting, and the extra time dragged on until the final goal.  The fans were chanting U-S-A or CAN-A-DA throughout the game and took turns yelling at the ref for some really poor calls or questionable no calls.  Especially the delay call on Canada's goalkeeper which ultimately led to Wambach's penalty kick.  Ho-ley Cow Harry Caray, that was a loudly unpopular call.  Canada did a great job exploiting USA's lazy passes and inconsistent defence for their goals while USA had a wicked shot on their second goal to go along with a couple of successful corner kicks and the penalty kick.  I am sure Canada feels a little robbed but that's sports sometimes.  And what a place to experience my first (and possibly only) Olympic event.  Granted it wasn't a Man U match but not to shab of a consolation prize. 

Thanks for listening,


  1. Great photos and write-up Jay. Always interesting to see our different takes on things (and in this case a few inconsistent facts!).

    1. I noticed the same on the facts as well. It is interesting seeing the different things that catch our eyes. Have fun next week.