The list reads like a menu Heston Blumenthal would wet himself to serve: Fizzing Whizbees (a sweet that make you float when you eat them), chocolate frogs that jump out of the window, Bertie Bott’s Every Favour Beans (a mix of jellybeans which include chocolate, peppermint, tripe and bogeys), Cauldron Cakes, Blood Lollies, butterbeer to sip on and a floating cake for a finale.
It’s details like these magical sweets that make the Harry Potter series of books and films such a joy for fans—when Harry buys his first chocolate frog, only to open it and see it hop out of the train window, was one of the franchise’s best comedic moments.
Fans, then, will be happy to hear that not only can they tour a replica of the studios where the films were made, complete with thousands of original costumes and sets, but this summer they are hosting an exhibition focusing on the magical sweets in the films.
The exhibition is built not just for Potter fans who can spot all the references, but also for both enthusiastic cooks and those interested in the behind-the-scenes trickery which makes a film work, as there will be live demonstrations of jelly snake moulding and sugar skull decorating, as well as technical displays explaining how the team made a cake “float”, and hundreds of drawings from the graphic designers showing the product design for imaginary sweets and cakes, many of which are merely glimpsed in the background of the Honeydukes and Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes shops for seconds. Yet the production team needed to create an entire and believable array of temptations, and this is an opportunity to get a closer look.
Of course, the sweets from the film have been available to buy for a long time, and the studio tour gives ample opportunity for getting your own sugar high. But this exhibition, and the tour as a whole, offers more than this. Green room technology, where the backdrops are totally green in order to be digitally removed later and replaced with another, are demonstrated with the chance for visitors to ride their own broomsticks, and animatronic animals, (a personal favourite), which involve a fascinating blend of puppetry and electronic movements, sometimes enhanced by digital special effects, are also on show.
Although it isn’t based in the same studios as the films were made for practical reasons, the sets, props and costumes are original, and the organisers and curators have put a lot of thought into designing displays that really show how the films were made. It’s brilliant for kids (or adults) who may sigh at the idea of being dragged to a museum, but if you want to know about the movie business beyond what each actress wore on the red carpet, this is a solid alternative.