Fantasy Friday

Fantasy Friday #24: Growing Up With Harry Potter

Fantasy Friday

Fantasy Friday is my own feature, posted every other Friday. It’s pretty self-explanatory: I do a feature on something to do with the genre. Sometimes it will be a book recommendation, sometimes showcasing a book or series I’ve loved and other times it might be a discussion post. You’re more than welcome to join in with this feature, let me know if you make your own Fantasy Friday post!

Today I want to talk about: growing up with Harry Potter.

I am of the opinion that I am part of a very lucky generation, because I got to grow up alongside Harry Potter, watching him change from this young orphan, to a boy wizard, from a hormonal teenager to someone who saved the world. I was seven when the first book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was released, but I don’t think I started reading the series until a year later.

Harry Potter

At that point, I was a little younger than Harry and his friends, my eight to their eleven. However, with the breaks in between books as they got longer and longer, I soon caught up – and the films were perfectly timed. When I went to see the film of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, I was just about to turn eleven, and was eagerly awaiting my own Hogwarts letter. Still waiting for that, by the way…

It was truly magical (pun totally intended) being the same age as these fantastic characters, at this amazing school and being TOTALLY jealous of them. I could identify with so much of what the Golden Trio were going through (you know, encountering three-headed dogs, fighting off a Basilisk, the usual) which made it even more appealing. That year that Harry was super moody and hormonal because, despite being a wizard, he was also a teenager? That was me. I liked that Harry’s first kiss was super awkward and not this amazing life-changing moment that so many books portray it as, because it was realistic. For a series that was about a magical school where teenagers could learn to be witches and wizards, there were so many moments like that, so many realistic moments.

Mmm, so romantic. Yeah.

Mmm, so romantic. Yeah.

Harry Potter is definitely a series that changed my life and had a HUGE effect on my childhood and teenage years – like so many others, I have to thank J.K. Rowling for so much. They are books and films I know I can re-read or re-watch again and again, and I’ll always have those warm fuzzy feelings that come with them. The first shot of Diagon Alley will always be breathtaking, the first sight of Hogwarts makes me feel at home, the loss of Sirius, Dumbledore, Fred, Lupin, Tonks, Snape (ESPECIALLY Snape, ‘The Prince’s Tale’ gets me EVERY time) and so many other characters makes me cry, even though I know it’s coming.

Seeing my beloved book characters on the big screen, at times going through what I felt I was going through, was so wonderful. Here was a series that understood what it was to grow up, and it was growing up right alongside me. As the wonderful J.K. Rowling once said:

“Whether you come back by page or by the big screen, Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home.”

Sirius

Recap

My Trip to Hogwarts, Part Two

Last week I shared the first part of my trip to Hogwarts, aka the Warner Bros Studio Tour. Now, as promised, it’s time for part two! Firstly these images which didn’t want to work last time:

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The pendulum was pretty hypnotic… and remember this??

It’s the Riddle gravestone, as featured in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. After spending forever in the first area of the tour, we came to the outside bit – which of course meant Privet Drive, the Knight Bus and BUTTERBEER!

Butterbeer

It was surprisingly tasty – it reminded me of Iron-Bru a little bit.

Privet Drive and the Potters’ house in Godric’s Hollow.

The next section of the tour was to do with ‘movie wizardry’ – anything to do with special effects, animatronics, CGI etc. For example, this selection of goblin heads and mandrake plants…

It was smaller than the first area, but there was once again just so much stuff that you wouldn’t notice on screen. It’s insane how much effort and dedication the people who worked on the films put in, considering that most of their work would barely be noticed. It just goes to show how truly passionate and enthusiastic everyone working on the Harry Potter films was.

Baby Thestral!; you go around the corner and ARAGOG IS HANGING ABOVE YOUR HEAD AAHH

Then it was onto the next part of the tour, another part in which I could have just stayed all day… Diagon Alley. When you watch the films you really don’t see enough of this place. There is so much stuff in EVERY shop window, and once again the set designers and prop creators and everyone else went above and beyond to create this amazing set.

Gringotts; a shop I don’t even remember seeing once in the films but they made the shopfront and filled up the window anyway. Amazing!

Ollivander’s wand shop; Wiseacre’s Wizarding Equipment with Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes in the background.

Florian Fortescue’s to the left, including the table on the roof; Eeylops Owl Emporium, my dream shop.

I WANTED TO GO INTO FLOURISH & BOTT’S SO BADLY; Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes! I never even noticed that the man had a body before…

Fred or George, or both?; this was so cool, the ‘sick’ actually came out of her mouth (that sounds really weird out of context…)

Quality Quidditch Supplies, I don’t like the look of that Beater stick in the bottom left of the window…; loving the mannequins in Madam Malkins.

You too could own a Pygmy Puff or Kneazle!

Then it was onto the last area: concept art and scale models. If you’ve not looked at any Harry Potter concept art, then I strongly advise you to do so; there’s such an amazing array of different styles and interpretations, all of it absolutely stunning.

The architect that designed Hogwarts (does anyone remember seeing this statue in the films??); a paper Burrow!

Now, this next bit – which was also the final part of the tour – made me feel really emotional. It was beautifully set up – you walked into this dimly lit room, and there was a HUGE scale model of Hogwarts, with the main themes from the films playing in the background. It was pretty much the highlight of the experience for me, and brought on this massive rush of nostalgia. I wanted to shed a few tears there and then for this series that has, and always will have, so much meaning for me.

Can I buy a replica of this scale model please? Thanks.

The absolute last part of the tour (before the shop, of course) was the interior of Ollivanders – but each wand box had been individually labelled with the names of the cast and crew. It must have taken forever! It was, combined with the amazing tear-inducing Hogwarts scale model, a perfect way to finish the tour.

As for the shop… well we had every intention of going in and stocking up on some Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans, and maybe another souvenir or two. These plans were scuppered when we saw the price of them – £.7.95 a packet. Um. No. Everything in the shop was hideously expensive, which I suppose shouldn’t have been a surprise, so we actually didn’t buy anything… maybe next time, as we’ll be more prepared. The only disappointing part of an amazing day!

And that’s it for my account of the tour! Have you visited the Warner Bros Studio Tour? Which was your favourite bit? If you haven’t, what would you like to see?

Recap

My Trip to Hogwarts, Part One

Warning: this will be an image heavy post!

All through January and half of February, you may have seen me getting a little bit excited about visiting the Harry Potter Studio Tour on 19th February. Me and my best friend had been meaning to go for a while (well pretty much since they announced it, although we have been prepared for this since the age of nine or ten…), so I said I’d take her as a birthday present. After a LOT of trying to work out when we could both go (we work totally different hours), we finally settled on a date and booked it. Only to realise that it was half term week, arrgh! Meaning that the tour would be full of annoying little kids… And then the other problem – getting to Watford Junction without breaking the bank. Although we live only an hour and a half from central London by train, the prices were suddenly incredibly steep, not to mention the getting from London Paddington to Watford Junction itself. Thank goodness for the National Express, is all I can say.

Giant chess pieces outside the main entrance!

When the day came I had some fears – I thought the tour might be ruined by all the little kids running around, as we’d inadvertently booked during the school holidays, and just the thought of taking THREE coaches to get there left me feeling tired. But luckily, the tour was full of people from all age groups, which was really nice. People like us who’d obviously grown up with the series, younger fans and small children, older fans, families. Basically, everyone there was a huge nerd for the series and it felt like one big Harry Potter fan party, which was pretty awesome.

But now, onto the tour itself!

The main lobby is pretty cool – loads of photos of various characters around the walls, the shop entrance which is SO enticing, and the Ford Anglia! And a Starbucks, which seemed kind of… surreal. We got there a bit early for our slot so were tempted to go into the shop first, but one of the staff members advised us to line up first as we’d end up in the shop anyway – of course. And it was good advice, as the line moved pretty quickly.

The entrance lobby, featuring character photos and the Ford Anglia.

After queuing up, you enter a small room which features posters of the films from all over the world – it was fun trying to spot the different languages and countries. There, one of the guides explains the tour to you (and the rules – no touching of the exhibits, boo!), and then you go on to a little cinema where you watch a film about the creation of the studio tour. Which is in stages J and K, funnily enough! And then… into the Great Hall. I could’ve spent HOURS in that bit alone, but unfortunately that’s the only part where your time is limited. Here are some snaps I took of the Great Hall and various props and costumes within:

Hufflepuff uniforms; the Slytherin table; Slytherin uniforms; Gryffindor uniforms; Hagrid, Fang and Filch; Dumbledore and his owl lectern; wider shot of the Great Hall.

I barely heard what the tour guide was saying when I was in there, I was feeling pretty emotional and just soaking everything in. I’ve quite literally grown up with the Harry Potter series: I read the first book not too long after it came out, when I was eight or nine, and fell in love. The first film came out when I was eleven, meaning that I was the same age as Harry, Ron and Hermione with each film. It’s always been a series that I’ve absolutely loved and followed, the excitement of each book and then film was almost too much every time! So you can imagine how it felt, to be in this place that was so familiar from my childhood – to actually be there. Unfortunately, our time in the Great Hall came to an end, and we were moved on to the main area, which you can walk through at your leisure. Here are some of my favourite bits from the main hall:

The ice sculpture from the Yule Ball, from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

Dumbledore’s office; tapestry from the Gryffindor common room.

The Potions classroom.

The Burrow, home of the Weasley family.

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Amazingly detailed Death Eater mask; the fountain from the Ministry of Magic.

All the Umbridges; AWESOME CASE OF THINGS THAT I WANT AND NEED IN MY LIFE.

Wizard money that you never actually see in the film but they made it anyway (how awesome is that?); book heaven.

I’M SO SORRY I CANNOT STOP WITH THE PHOTOS. It is really difficult narrowing down the things I want to show you all, I took almost 350 photos whilst we were there. I’ve decided to split this post into two parts, meaning I can show off MORE pictures and not have to worry quite as much about loading times. So this is it for now, next week I’ll post about the outside area onwards (which means Butterbeer!) Next week I’ll post the rest, and round up my feelings about the whole thing (SPOILER: IT WAS AMAZING.)

Have you been to the Harry Potter Studio Tour yourself, or would you like to go? What is your favourite thing about the series, or is there something you REALLY want to see from the films – be it a prop, costume or set?

Fantasy Friday

Fantasy Friday #6: Fantasy Soundtracks

Fantasy Friday

Fantasy Friday is my own feature, posted every other Friday. It’s pretty self-explanatory: I do a feature on something to do with the genre. Sometimes it will be a book recommendation, sometimes showcasing a book or series I’ve loved and other times it might be a discussion post. You’re more than welcome to join in with this feature, let me know if you make your own Fantasy Friday post!

Today I want to talk about: my favourite fantasy soundtracks.

Yup, another excuse for a Spotify playlist! As I have discussed many times, I absolutely love film and game soundtracks, and often listen to them when I’m reading. So today I want to share some of my top tracks with you.

  • ‘Alice’s Theme’ by Danny Elfman, from Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland – whilst the film wasn’t really the best of Burton’s work, the soundtrack is pretty stunning. I love the choral part of this theme, which is used through many of the other tracks.
  • ‘A Proper Story’ by Darren Korb, from Bastion – this game is gorgeous on every single level. Visuals, voices, music and gameplay. Even if you’re not a gamer, the soundtrack is definitely worth a listen.
  • ‘The Legend of Zelda Main Theme’ by Koji Kondo, from The Legend of Zelda video game seriesThe Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker is one of my favourite games (cell-shaded graphics <3) and the main theme throughout the games is absolutely wonderful. It's epic, heroic and totally fits in with the theme of the games. It makes me want to pick up a sword and go off on an adventure (donning a little green hat of course).
  • ‘Fenris Theme’ by Inon Zur, from Dragon Age II – although the entire soundtrack is great, this track is a particular favourite. I love the harsh, scratchy violin/stringed instrument (yeah… not sure what it actually is) combined with the rest of the music; it feels as though it is comparing Fenris’ previous life as a slave as the one he has in the game.
  • ‘I Am The One (High Fantasy Version)’ by Inon Zur, from Dragon Age: Origins – because this is the ultimate song of the entire game for me, it’s the ‘defining’ piece (not the actual main theme…). What does it matter that I can’t understand it, it still sounds beautiful!
  • ‘Sovngarde’ by Jeremy Soule, from The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – I’m going to avoid the obvious choice of the main ‘Dragonborn’ theme here, and go for ‘Sovngarde’, which is similar but much more focused on the choral element. It sounds so primal and wonderful and conjures up all these images of Nords singing by a flickering fire in the dead of night.
  • ‘Main Title’ and ‘Mhysa’ by Ramin Djawadi, and ‘The Rains of Castamere’ by the National, from Game Of Thrones – I am never not going to be completely in love with the Game of Thrones title sequence, and ‘Mhysa’ is a more recent version from series three, which is more appropriate for Daenerys. And ‘The Rains of Castamere’, well it’s haunting and… do I have to explain?
  • ‘Obliviate’ by Alexandre Desplat, from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 – BECAUSE OF ALL THE FEELS. Last Harry Potter book, last of the films (kind of). This was the moment that meant the trio were going on their journey, away from Hogwarts. And I’m not going to lie, the first time I saw Hermione obliviate her parents’ memories I may have shed a tear or two.
  • ‘Harry and Hermione’ by Nicholas Hooper, from Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince – I’ve included this one in a previous soundtrack, and all I want to say about it is that I think it is absolutely beautiful and I will never not listen to it.
  • ‘Misty Mountains’ by Howard Shore, from The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – and another one I will never not listen to. How can you not love this song?? Not only the dwarves’ perfect voices, but also Tolkien’s beautiful lyrics.
  • ‘Feast of Starlight’ by Howard Shore, from The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug – there are quite a few similar themes on Shore’s soundtracks for The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, but there’s something really different and quite magical about this track.
  • Literally every song on any of The Lord of the Rings soundtracks, by Howard Shore – don’t ask me to pick. I love absolutely anything to do with LotR perhaps a bit too much.

What are some of your favourite fantasy soundtracks?

Misc.

Horror October: Spooky Soundtrack

Previously, I’ve discussed my love for film and video game soundtracks on the blog. They’re something I love to listen to whilst reading – music with lyrics tends to be distracting, but instrumental music is just perfect. So I’ve decided to put together a ‘spooky soundtrack’ for Horror October, organised by Leanne at Literary Excursion. Songs will be a mix of spooky, creepy and tense! They won’t all be from traditional horror, but will be any that I feel fits the mood well.

Here’s the playlist, it’s also available to add or favourite on Spotify!

Here’s my selection, and why I chose them:

  • Going In by Marc Streitenfeld, from Prometheus – I loooooooved this film, despite its total lack of sense. This track is the one that plays when they first go into the mounds, and it’s really eerie, very foreboding of what is yet to come…
  • The Night’s Watch by Ramin Djawadi, from Game of Thrones – if you watch or read this series, you know what the Night’s Watch are there for. And you know it’s pretty terrifying.
  • Leaving Earth by Clint Mansell, from Mass Effect 3 – maybe not a traditional choice, but the scene to which this is set is truly scary, plus the juxtaposition between the piano score and the sound of the Reapers is great.
  • The Ardat Yakshi by Cris Velasco, from Mass Effect 3 – at a certain point in this game, you meet enemies called Banshees. Enemies which, unsurprisingly, let you know that they’re coming for you by their loud and incredibly terrifying shrieks. This is the song to go with that moment…
  • Bill’s Lament by Nathan Barr, from True Blood – this whole soundtrack is pretty brilliant for a ‘spooky’ soundtrack, but this track in particular is a great low-key creepy one. Nathan Barr uses a lot of cello throughout the entire score, and it works so well.
  • Those We Don’t Speak Of by James Newton Howard, from The Village – even though I knew the ‘spoiler’ for The Village when I watched it, it was still creepy as hell and music like this just increases the atmosphere ten times over.
  • Rising From The Mud by Marco Beltrami, from The Woman In Black – I haven’t seen the film yet, but this song is from the creepiest part of the book (at least for me).
  • Inferi In The Firestorm by Nicholas Hooper, from Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince – those strings! When I saw the film in the cinema with my best friend, we both told each other we’d never jump when the Inferi appeared because we knew it was going to happen. We jumped right out of our seats.
  • Cannibal by Two Steps from Hell – I just discovered this one when deciding on which of their songs fitted best! They apparently have an entire Halloween album with loads of super creepy things on. They do awesome music for film and game trailers, definitely check them out if you get a chance.
  • Possessed Gramophone by Two Steps from Hell – another one from their Halloween album. This kind of freaked me out…
  • Bathilda Bagshot by Alexandre Desplat, from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One – it doesn’t matter if you know she’s about to turn into a giant snake that wants to bite Harry’s head off. This scene is still scary, and I blame this song!
  • Tubular Bells by Mike Oldfield, from The Exorcist – and now for the more traditional stuff. This song sends chills down my spine, even though I’ve never seen the movie and refuse to…
  • Main Theme/Murder by Bernard Herrmann, from Psycho – just one tiny bit of this theme has become synonymous with serial killers and murderers, so it’s got to go on the Horror October playlist (and you know which bit of the theme I mean!)
  • The Omen – Ave Santani by Jerry Goldsmith, from The Omen – don’t worry, I’ve included some Latin chanting to keep away the demons. You’re safe now!
  • Decapitation Variations by Jay Gruska and Christopher Lennertz, from Supernatural – a fun electric guitar variation on a horror theme, from an awesome TV show. Oh, and don’t forget the strings!

What do you think of my playlist? What would you have on your Horror October playlist?