Thankfully the real magic of Warner Bros. Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter lay inside its underwhelming exterior.
I was fortunate enough to visit last week with the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA)’s European branch. With the prestigious Thea Awards taking place just 2 days later and the TEA summit starting on the same day, it was only the most glamorous globetrotting members of the TEA community who could do both (David and Lynn Willrich), with the rest of us Muggles missing out on the magic over in LA.
The draw of the Harry Potter attraction was huge and a record number of TEA members – over 80 -attended the event. Skilled professionals in the themed entertainment industry from across the country convened at the Hertfordshire location, eager to see the world of Potter up close and personal. Whilst Nick Farmer was sadly missed (falling off his broomstick on the way down from Leicester), Phil Hartley, Annika Oetken , Bob Simpson, Alan Wilkinson, Simon Egan, Martin Barratt, Leslie Morisetti, Josh Miller, Donna Davidson, Greg Eccles, Ray Hole, Anthony Stubbs and many more were in attendance, all eager to get a look at one of the country’s most hotly anticipated new themed attractions. Two of the creatives behind Universal Orlando’s immensely successful Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Mark Woodbury and Thierry Coup also joined the group.
It was a particularly busy day for Craig Hanna, CEO of the Thinkwell Group which had designed and produced the £100 million attraction. Not only was he hosting the TEA group but he was also welcoming the friends and family of the Thinkwell crew to the attraction. Craig welcomed us all to the attraction and spoke immediately after the pre-show videos. He stressed that Thinkwell had not reinterpreted anything and that they were in fact “custodians” of the Potter world. It was, he said “a truly authentic experience”. A real treat for us was that he had arranged for three heads of department on the films to be on hand to answer questions: John Richardson (special effects), Paul Hayes (Construction) and Nick Dudman (creature effects). Thinkwell’s creatives were also with us, including Michael Finney (lighting and facilities) and Cynthia Blackstone, Project Manager.
The attraction, suffice to say is stunning. With such rich source material and the skilled attention of the Thinkwellians, a truly ground -breaking attraction has been created. A full report will be published in these pages shortly.
Although Electrosonic’s Gemma Fabian subsequently donned an invisibility cloak and disappeared immediately after the tour, many others gathered at the Watford Hilton for a traditional TEA networking/mixer event: disorganised, unstructured and immensely enjoyable.
Images: all except bottom, kind courtesy Alan Wilkinson.