ELECTROSHADOW FIELD TRIP NO.2
Editor’s Note: Welcome to the latest instalment of Electroshadow’s Field Trip series! This outing, our lovely contributor Marie B takes a flying car down to Singapore to explore the whimsical, magical world of Harry Potter…
Hello Harry Potter, we meet again.
In 1997 JK Rowling introduced us to a world filled with all-flavoured jelly beans, messenger owls, Quidditch and “Muggles”. It was to be the start of a 7-book, 8-movie phenomenon built around the life and adventures of “the boy who lived”. In 2011, 4 years after the release of the final book, the last Harry Potter film was shown. Possibly one of the longest and most successful franchises in cinema history, the Harry Potter films were a passionate (and lucrative) love affair between fans and Warner Brothers. Neither party could bear to see it end. Well good news. Potter-mania is alive and well, and it has landed in Singapore.
For all of you needing your Potter fix, just hop onto your most convenient form of transportation and make your way down to the Marina Bay Sands ArtScience Museum. Running until 30th September is “Harry Potter The Exhibition”. Now just to make it clear, this is an exhibit dedicated to the movies and not the books. Not that it matters. Because if anything, the movies helped enhance the experience of the books. It gave us a chance to see with our own eyes what we’ve only drawn in our heads. And this exhibit lets you get to see it all up close and personal.
Believe me, there is a lot to see.
Hedwig with your invitation to the exhibit.
The Weasley’s Flying Anglia. You think it flew to Singapore?
Hedwig sports the Gryffindor house colours.
A very young Danielle Radcliffe.
Before entering the hall, you will have the option to avail of an audio guide (at an extra cost). Take it. Seriously. Dip into your pocket and shell out the money. The works of love and passion that you will see on display come with a backstory. Listen to the stories. You get a richer appreciation of the wizarding world when you know what it took to make it.
Like Harry, your adventure begins with the Sorting Ceremony, where you have the once-in-a-lifetime chance of finding out what Hogwarts House you belong to. Wanting very much to be sorted, my hand was in the air the moment the guide said, “GO!” Then I realised that of the three who volunteered, I was the only one above 4ft tall. Not wanting to be a bully, I graciously, though reluctantly, withdrew from the running and let the kids have a go. My kindness was rewarded with the sight of a little boy pumping his fist and going “Yesssss!” when he realised he was in. As the Sorting Hat is placed above the child’s head, its thoughts are broadcast over the speaker system. Using dialogue straight from the film, the boy was promptly placed in his preferred house: Gryffindor. I think I would have chosen to be in Ravenclaw.
From the Sorting Ceremony, we were then ushered into a small holding room. We watch as 8 screens showing the 8 movie posters all begin to “move” as they start showing scenes from the films. Standing there amidst all the visuals and sound is the perfect way to build up excitement for what’s about to happen next. A wall slides back and amidst a burst of light and smoke, I saw the front caboose of the Hogwarts Express.
Welcome to the world of witchcraft and wizardry.
It took great restraint not to start running around the exhibit hall trying to see everything as quickly as I could. No, I decided, there would be no rushing through this. I would savour this experience. I would take my time to drink it all in. Because what lay before me were hundreds and hundreds of props, scale models and costumes that were used in the different Harry Potter films. Anything and everything that the actors touched, saw, used, sat on and wore were on display.
The exhibit is broken up into different sections, each dedicated to a specific theme. Fittingly, it all starts with the Gryffindor Tower, where you are greeted by the Fat Lady, the portrait that guards its entrance. There is a replica of the Tower’s threshold which I got a kick out of crossing, even though it actually led me nowhere. Here it is about everyday school life. If, in your school, you happened to have wands, a Time Turner and a Marauder’s Map. Too bad they weren’t “in working order”. The more ordinary items of Harry and Ron’s robes, Harry’s glasses, their bunk beds and Harry’s acceptance letters to Hogwarts are also on display. Pay particular attention to the Gryffindor bulletin board. The notes you’ll see there are not random scribbles but all carefully thought out, and all legitimate notes in the Potter universe.
Trivia from the Audio Guide: They made over 20, hand-drawn copies of the Marauder’s Map for the 8 films.
Look! It’s the Golden Egg from the Tri-Wizard tournament!
The exhibit then expands into Hogwarts itself, showing you the world of Harry’s teachers. Famous characters like Prof. Snape, Dolores Umbridge and Sybill Trelawney all have areas dedicated to their rooms, their teaching implements and their robes. I loved the one of Gilderoy Lockhart (played by Kenneth Branagh), which, true to his character, was portrait after portrait after portrait of his grinning mug. And make sure you take the time to practice pulling out a Mandrake yourself. They’re a lot heavier than they look, though about as ugly as you’d imagine.
Snape’s initially designed costume was so perfect for him that they made no changes on it throughout the 8 films.
Don’t worry, their cries won’t kill you.
As a tribute to the films, the exhibit does a great job making you realise the effort, commitment and dedication required to do films of its grandness and scale. In the section on the Forbidden Forest and Hagrid’s Hut, you get a glimpse of the really big stuff. The massive screen-filling items that just scream “big budget” and “blockbuster”. There is the model of the Hungarian Horntail dragon that Harry faced in the Tri-Wizard tournament and Buckbeak the hippogriff. Here’s a piece of trivia care of the audio guide: Buckbeak’s feathers were all individually hand-placed and he was such a favourite on set that often the crew would be seen standing around him just stroking his feathers. How cute is that? There is even a very hairy, very creepy, very big model of Aragog, the spider from the Forbidden Forest. It was so realistic that I stared at it, shivered and understood why it frightend the bejeezus out of Ron.
‘Yeh walk towards him, and yeh bow, an’ yeh wait. If he bows back, yeh’re allowed to touch him.’
– Hagrid, “Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban”
But even the smaller items were impressive. These are the ones that help build a scene’s authenticity, but are barely seen onscreen. The display case of Quidditch paraphernalia best illustrates this. Inside this glass compartment is a collection of the goggles, binoculars, programme booklets, tournament posters and even game schedules that were made for the audience to hold during the matches for the Quidditch World Cup. You never really see them when you watch the movie. Not even if you hit the pause button on your blu-ray. Yet each item was exquisitely detailed.
By now you should be at the section dedicated to what, I believe, is one Rowling’s most exciting ideas: Quidditch. Now this is a sport I’d love to see come true. Flying broomsticks! Speeding balls! All with the potential of violence! How could it possibly get better? I admit I was a little disappointed that Harry’s Nimbus 2000, or even the ordinary broom on display didn’t really fly, but I’m gracious enough to forgive such an oversight.
It is also here that the different uniforms of the House teams are on regal display. Like valiant soldiers standing at attention, they are quite an imposing presence. A quick click on your audio guide takes you through the interesting history and inspiration for these uniforms. Though, to be honest, my first thought was how the uniforms showed how much smaller Danielle Radcliffe is compared to Rupert Grint.
But not everything is bright and happy in Hogwarts. As you move deeper into the exhibit, you also move towards the darker side of magic. Bathed in dark blue light and black walls you come face to face with Dementors, Death Eaters and He Who Should Not Be Named. Or at least his costume. It is a stark difference from the other exhibit areas. Deliberately you are made to feel the gloom and misery of this world. There is no warmth here. Even the air was colder and damper than it is outside. And here, loyally keeping his watch with the House of Black is Kreacher, the house elf. He is, I must say, far bigger than I thought house elves would be.
But the exhibit that draws the most people in this area is a little glass case barely 4ft long and maybe 2ft deep. You now stand before the 5 Horcruxes that kept part of Voldermort’s soul: Marvolo Gaunt’s ring, Tom Riddle’s diary (with the accompanying Basilisk fang that ‘killed’ it), Helga Hufflepuff’s cup, Salazar Slytherin’s locket and Rowena Ravenclaw’s diadem. As items so central to the saga’s story and the decider of the fate of Wizardkind I expected them to be a little more… dramatic. But here, carefully encased and artfully arranged they seem small and harmless and… well… ordinary. But I guess that’s why they made great Horcruxes.
Voldermort’s attempt at immortality.
Wanting to get away from the drear, I made my way to the Hogwarts Great Hall. Warm light, bright décor and a central table filled with the delicious delicacies of Hogwarts (non-edible, so please don’t try to eat them), it is festive and welcoming. As the final stop of the tour it becomes the depository of all the things that you want to see, but didn’t have a place in the earlier sections.
On the one side, you will find the wares sold by the Weasley twins, as sold in their joke shop Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes. It is again a testament to the attention to detail the production team had for the smallest of things. Also on display is the Tri-Wizard Cup, along with the torn-out pieces of paper that had the names of the nominated champions scribbled upon them. Just across it are the gowns and dress robes different characters wore for the Yule Ball. And at the end of the hall, prominently displayed, are the three Deathly Hallows: The Cloak of Invisibility, The Elder Wand and the Resurrection Stone. Finally, just by the exit, ready to bid you goodbye, are Fawkes and Gryffindor’s Sword.
3 of the most powerful objects in Wizarding history.
Just like a year ago, watching “The Deathly Hallows – Part 2”, I wasn’t ready for the end. Knowing that once I stepped into the gift shop there would be no returning, I promptly turned around and made my way back to the very beginning: Gryffindor Tower. I needed one final glimpse, one final walk through to imprint it all in my memory. I may never have the chance to literally pass through Harry’s world again, but we’ll always have the movies.
Author’s Note: Harry Potter the Exhibition tickets are SG$24.00 and an additional SG$6.00 (I think, sorry, I no longer remember) for the audio guide. Prices are cheaper for local residents. The organisers manage carefully the number of visitors inside the hall so be prepared to wait before being allowed in. Thank you to Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc for the some of the photos above. Oh, and one more thing, when you get to Hagrid’s Hut, stare at the Dragon’s egg on his table. It moves. Enjoy the exhibit!