I stood in a daze. Ginny Weasley walked through a door and onto a podium. I wasn’t at at Hogwarts or the Burrow, but was I’m in the same room as the youngest Weasley, and I couldn’t contain my excitement. With every word she says, I bounced up and down and cheered.
“It’s amazing how much memory can be locked into an object or a costume,” said Bonnie Wright, who played Ginny Weasley in the Harry Potter films. Ms. Wright had been reunited with her wand, flown in from London that morning. With a light laugh she said, “I should have named her.” I immediately made a mental note to name my own wand, given to me from Ollivander himself at the Wizarding World in Hollywood.
She was here for the same reason I was – the opening of the Fantastic Beasts Exhibit at Warner Bros. Studio Tour in Hollywood. Soon, thousands of fans will see the concept art, costumes, and props from all eight Harry Potter films and from Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.
The saying is that all good things come to an end, but seven books (where I cried through the last three and am still upset about Hedwig’s unnecessary demise), eight films (where I bawled loudly enough to get looks from fellow theater-goers), and the Wizarding World in Florida and later in Hollywood (where I wept for joy upon getting my wand), prove that Harry Potter is as immortal as Fawkes the phoenix.
I grew up in what I call the Harry Potter generation. My aunt gave me her used paperback copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone when I was in elementary school. As Harry, Hermione, and Ron aged, so did I. I faced what all muggles my age faced in high school – first loves and heartbreaks, cramming for finals week, and teachers who you looked up to or frowned upon. My friends in the Harry Potter books experienced these too – Harry’s crush on Cho Chang, Hermione’s rush to attend classes with a time-turner, and Ron’s disdain of Snape. But they also encountered more fearsome foes like dementors, bullies like Draco and Lucius Malfoy, and He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. Us Muggles and No-Majs faced dementors in school too, though they weren’t robed in black. They masked themselves as self-doubt, depression, and anxiety. We also had bullies who picked on us because of our hair, our clothes, or our pubescent voices. Even in our non-magical world, we feared Voldemort. But as we read the books, over and over, we learned, as Hermione told Harry in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, that family and friendship were more important than books and cleverness.
Now, J. K. Rowling has gifted us all with a new story for fans old and new, Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, featured in the Warner Bros. Studio Tour exhibit in Hollywood. Here, fans can see the magic of the movies up close and personal.
The story, Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them was first published in 2001 by Newt Scamander with the help of J. K. Rowling. Harry Potter’s notes danced in the margins. I picked up the book, along with Quidditch Through the Ages at my local bookstore. I read the slim book twice that day, thrilled to have one of Hogwarts own textbooks in my small hands.
Needless to say, I felt like a kid in a candy store as the tour guide escorted me and other journalists up a flight of stairs. The moment I walked in, I felt my eyes watering from happiness. I was transported onto the set of the first film. An owl peculiarly perched on the street sign for Privet Drive, copies of J. K. Rowling’s books were encased in glass to my left, and directly in front of me, dozens of letters hung suspended in mid-flight inside the Dursley fireplace.
The Harry Potter exhibit was closed and redesigned to welcome the Fantastic Beasts exhibit. “We gave it a reimagining,” said a tour guide. “The Harry Potter exhibit was redone to where you can actually go through the exhibit chronologically, starting off with preproduction and taking you all the way to the last movie, Deathly Hallows Part II. Following that, you get into the Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them part of the display.” The exhibit will cast a spell fans old and young with its concept art, costumes, and props from the Harry Potter films.
“For fans, you know these costumes and props were such a big part of their experience watching Harry Potter… This will be really exciting for people, they get to see those details that maybe they weren’t exposed to in the film,” said Bonnie Wright.
Between the Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts exhibits, was the sorting hat. I marveled at the costumes of the Hogwarts professors – Flitwick, McGonagall, Dumbledore, Snape, and Hagrid. I pointed to the sorting hat and squealed when a tour guide said I could sit on the stool. I sat, knees knocking together with anticipation, and held my breath as he placed the hat above me. Please be Hufflepuff, please be Hufflepuff, I chanted. And then I heard it – the booming voice of the sorting hat radiating throughout the room, “better be… HUFFLEPUFF!”
I was then transported to 1920s New York in the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them exhibit. Though one film, the Fantastic Beasts exhibit boasts dozens of concept art, costumes, and props, including the very case Newt Scamander hid his niffler. I skiped through the exhibit, wanting to see Queenie’s costumes and Jacob’s baked goods.
Part way through the Fantastic Beasts exhibit, I saw a luggage toppled over at the N. Y. Port Authority. I dashed toward it and couldn’t believe it – I could actually touch the luggage that was in the film. A woman asked if I wanted my picture taken, and I squealed in response.
“My great grandfather was a baker, and I found that out because I did this movie. I wouldn’t have known that. I got the part, and my dad was like, you know, your great grandfather was a baker. I know he’s looking down and smiling about all this,” said Dan Fogler, who plays Jacob Kowalski in the film.
The Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts exhibit opens at Warner Bros. Studio Tour in Hollywood December 9, 2016. Tickets can be purchased at the Warner Bros. Studio Tour website.