Being a mass media in the United Kingdom study abroad program, our journey took us to see various parts of the Harry Potter franchise. We were able to visit Warner Brothers studios, places where the films were shot, the cafes where J.K. Rowling wrote the books, and to see the castle and other pieces that served as inspiration for the Harry Potter series.
As a massive Harry Potter fan, this study abroad was a dream come true. I was heartbroken the first time I visited London and was unable to see Warner Brothers studios. So this time, when I finally walked through those doors into the set used in the movies for the Great Hall, I was overwhelmed with happiness and with the thrill of the whole thing.
Having now seen a very diverse collection of cities all over the United Kingdom and Ireland, it comes to me as no surprise that people like J.K. Rowling and J.R.R. Tolkien came up with such amazing fantastical worlds to turn into some of the most beloved stories of all time. In fact, the Harry Potter franchise is worth about 25 billion dollars.
The atmosphere, landscape, art, and architecture in Europe, particularly the United Kingdom, is unlike anywhere else in the world. As a student in the United States, I am impressed by architecture at some of our country’s older universities, but seeing all of the old buildings in the United Kingdom really was breathtaking. So much time and effort went into all of these buildings whereas I often feel as though architecture in the United States is all boxes or skyscrapers. It was amazing to see all of the old castle-like buildings scattered through each of the cities we visited. None of them were dominated by skyscrapers like our cities in the United States.
The United States is a relatively young country, so the fact is, we just don’t have as much history as Europe and the United Kingdom. We are the younger more modern sibling. Europeans want to visit us in the United States because to them we are different and vice versa when it come to Americans visiting European countries. But me, I’ve always preferred history to the modern day, and visiting the United Kingdom gave me just enough of a glimpse to fall in love forever.
Author J.K. Rowling first got inspiration for the Harry Potter series while riding the train from Manchester to King’s Cross Station in London. She began writing the first chapters of the Harry Potter series in Edinburgh, Scotland where we ended our study abroad trip this past week. We were fortunate enough to visit two of the cafes where J.K. Rowling wrote the Harry Potter series in Edinburgh. The first of these cafes was nearby our hotel and was where the first few chapters were written. However, the second cafe, The Elephant House, was where the bulk of the Harry Potter series was written while J.K. Rowling was living in Scotland. In fact, Edinburgh castle can be seen from The Elephant House and served as inspiration for the Hogwarts castle in the books.
It’s easy to see how J.K. Rowling was able to conjure such magical images in her head while surrounded by cobbled streets, castles on hills, and an appreciation for history and the old made new again. Although the creation of such a magical world must not have been easy, at least the written word was all up to interpretation and the imagination. The filmmakers were given at least an equally difficult task in making the impossible in the Harry Potter series come to life.
The expectations for the movies were so high because the books were so beloved by its fans that massive amounts of work and details had to put into the films in order to make it all feel just as real and as magical as the books made its readers feel. Only because of such beautiful landscapes and architecture in the united Kingdom was Harry Potter able to come to life in the best possible fashion.
We were lucky enough to visit Edinburgh Castle, the inspiration for Hogwarts castle, and we were also able to visit Oxford and see where many of the outdoor hallway and courtyard seen were shot. It was amazing to me that the universities in England were all built so long ago and with such care in mind that they were beautiful enough to be used as part of a magical castle in the Harry Potter films. I couldn’t imagine any part of Michigan State University as being fit for those films.
A lot of other work had to go into the design for the Harry Potter movies as well. Every little detail was accounted for when filming the movies down to the letters, posters, and packaging of products in the films. Graphic designers were hired to make all of the paper magic happen for the film. Designers Miraphora and Eduardo came together and created a company called Minalima which is where all of the graphic design for the paper products and props in the Harry Potter film series came from. This way, everything was designed in the same style and kept consistent with the aesthetic of a school of witchcraft and wizardry.
The inspirations for their design were based off of the old script you would find made with quill and parchment before pen and paper was around. They combined this old script style with print and with the idea of the lightning bolt and got an edgy handwritten looking font to use for a lot of pieces in the film. They also took inspiration from an old-fashioned circus to use for another font and for the packaging on many of their products from the joke and candy shops in the movies.
Overall, by being surrounded with such rich history, the makers of the Harry Potter films and J.K. Rowling herself were able to draw inspiration from around them to put together something truly magical and make it seem within the realm of reason.