You’d need to have been living in a remote cave, devoid of Internet and any contact with the outside world for at least 12 years not to be aware of Harry Potter. The huge impact it's had on our cultural landscape is fascinating, and the brand has numerous exciting spin-offs, such as films, live theatre productions and even a tour of the studios where the films were made. But how did everything fall into place? That really IS a magical tale…
The inspiration behind the stories
JK Rowling says she first stumbled upon the idea for Harry Potter when she was stuck on a delayed train, leaving Manchester for London King’s Cross. This was back in 1990, which feels like a lifetime ago – and for many fans, it actually is.
Drawing inspiration from a number of sources, including classical texts, folklore and contemporary children’s literature, Rowling spent five years note-making and idea compiling before she started reaching out to literary agents. That’s no easy feat with a new baby daughter in tow.
Rowling finished the first book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, while she was training to be a teacher. But she shelved those plans when Bloomsbury accepted the story for publication in 1997. The rest, as they say, is history.
The evolution of a legend
The evolution of a legend
Who would have guessed that a story about an orphan boy who turned out to be a wizard would be such a global sensation? An instant bestseller, the story was translated into numerous languages, as word spread about the most captivating children’s book to be released in years. And with every new instalment, the Harry Potter juggernaut broke more records.
Having fleshed out the direction that all the books would eventually take, Rowling was able to complete the whole collection, with the final instalment, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows becoming the fastest-selling book of all time, in 2007.
Today, more than 500 million copies of the books have been sold and the stories have been translated into 80 languages, creating an international fellowship of Hogwarts wannabe students and parents that counted down the hours until reading time. The films drew even more fans into the fold as well.
A film franchise with a cult following
With new books still being released while the Harry Potter films were in production, there was always something for the fans to look forward to, but it was the films themselves that brought everyone’s imaginations to life.
Reading the books and imagining Hermione’s wild hair, Ron’s terrible homemade jumpers and Harry’s iconic scar was all very well and good, but once Warner Bros sprinkled their cinematic magic on the stories, something incredible happened. Suddenly, the dorm rooms felt like home, Hogwarts was the school everybody could picture themselves attending and everybody was united in their dislike of Professor Snape – although, as we all know, that would change by the final film.
Fans of the franchise grew up alongside Harry, Ron and Hermione and their friends, and we all invested in them becoming young adults who would, ultimately, save both the wizarding and Muggle worlds. Fans would also have amazing experiences and days out at the the studio tours when filming ended.
The ultimate experience for Potterheads
Gone are the days when loving a series of books meant that you’d eagerly await the next instalment but have nothing else to look forward to. It’s not even a case of hoping that a beloved story might eventually be turned into a television programme or film any more. Now, the biggest hits are turned into extra-special interactive experiences. Harry Potter is, perhaps, the best example.
The Leavesden Studio Tour is an essential day out for all Potterheads, as the films were actually made here. Sets, props, costumes and an ever-growing selection of immersive exhibits are all on offer, as well as themed snack spots and a well-stocked gift shop.
Checking out the history of the studios at www.wbstudiotour.co.uk will give you an amazing insight into all things Harry. For some useful insider tips for your visit, try these:
- fancy dress is encouraged
- leave room for a glass of Butterbeer
- get ‘sorted’ before you go
- don’t forget to book your tickets online before you go
An incredible global sensation, the Harry Potter franchise is more than just a series of books and films; it has created a community of people all connected by a belief in the magic that it contains. To think that it all started on a delayed train is quite something.