Harry Potter Comes to Edmonton | By Graeme Archibald

When you first enter Harry Potter: The Exhibition at the TELUS World of Science, you know that you’re about to experience something magical. At the exhibit’s entrance, you are sorted into your respective Hogwarts house, immediately followed by a montage of various clips from the eight Harry Potter movies. As the curtain rises, you see the Hogwarts Express, seemingly waiting to whisk you on a nostalgic journey through the world of Harry Potter.

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The sight of this should be rage-inducing to any Harry Potter fan

Harry Potter: The Exhibition is the ultimate experience for those of us who have grown up and loved the boy wizard and his adventures. Featuring hundreds of actual props and costumes from the movies, it is the closest that many fans will come to living in Harry’s world. As you make your way through the exhibit, you’ll pass through a number of areas filled with items and activities that will fascinate Potter fans and non-fans alike. There’s the Gryffindor common room, where you’ll see the robes worn by Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson. You’ll see the nauseatingly pink office of the contempible Dolores Umbridge. There’s the Potions classroom, the Quidditch Pitch and the cozy Hagrid’s Hut, where you’ll have the opportunity to pull the shrieking Mandrake from its pot or throw a Quaffle. The dark Forbidden Forest reveals the darker side of magic, where you can see everything from Voldemort’s robes to the

Philosopher’s Stone. To finish off the exhibit, you find yourself in the exquisite Great Hall of Hogwarts, featuring a variety of items, from the cast’s outfits from the Yule Ball in Goblet of Fire to the Deathly Hallows themselves. If it was in the movies, chances are you’ll find it here.

Harry, Ron, and Hermione's outfits from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Harry, Ron, and Hermione’s outfits from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

What becomes clear as you make your way through the exhibition is just how much detail the filmmakers put into the blockbuster adaptions. Costumes are one thing, but you’ll also find all of the books written by Gilderoy Lockhart, advertisements for the Quidditch World Cup, and wizard coinage – props that would have, at most, a few minutes of screentime, yet are just as detailed as the big ticket items that fill the exhibit. Even for those who are not fans of Harry Potter, the attention to detail is something not to be missed. The exhibition is supplemented by the instantly recognizable music of Harry Potter and a wide array of sound effects depending on the room you are in, providing an enchanting ambience.

I had the opportunity to briefly chat with none other than James and Oliver Phelps, who portrayed Fred and George Weasley in the Potter films. The Phelps twins have spent the last few days in Alberta on a media blitz, and will officially open the exhibition to the public at the midnight launch tonight. As a fan who has grown up with the series, I found the exhibition to be a very nostalgic experience simply as a viewer of the series – for the twins, who spent the better part of a decade working day in and day out in the world of Harry Potter, the exhibition is “a bit like walking through memory lane when we do this”, reminding them of “what went on behind the scenes” and that “[there are] a lot of good memories here”.

The Brothers Phelps
The Brothers Phelps

Specifically? “The Skiving Snackboxes”, Oliver told me, one of the many items featured in the Great Hall area. “It takes me right back to when we were in the joke shop [in the Half-Blood Prince]”, referring to Fred and George’s consummate achievement of Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes, “to me, it was the best set of all of them.”

The exhibition has already been wildly popular in Edmonton, with tickets quickly selling out. “It shows how close [Harry Potter] is to people’s hearts”, the Phelps brothers told me, “the final film came out 2.5 years ago now, but here we are”. The wild and continued popularity of the Harry Potter franchise is a “testament to the fan base, but also to the filmmakers”.

Fun fact: James and Oliver Phelps only found out who was playing Fred and George until they asked on the day of the first table read. “The casting director went away and came back and said James, you’re Fred, and Oliver, you’re George”, James explained “I like to think there [was] a huge big meeting in California with all the big wigs.”

Unfortunately, the Phelps twins first trip to Edmonton coincided with perhaps the coldest and snowiest November we’ve seen a long time, but they told me that they’re getting used to it. They noted how everyone in Edmonton “seems to be so into the whole Potter exhibit…there seems to be a whole buzz around the city”. As no trip to Edmonton is complete without seeing an Oilers game, the Phelps brothers went to last night’s game against the Florida Panthers. “[The Oilers] seem to be more of a religion than a sports teamin these parts” Oliver said. Can’t argue with that.

I spoke briefly with Mike Steger, the VP Marketing and Communications at TELUS World of Science Edmonton, about how TWoS managed to land Harry Potter: The Exhibition as the only Western Canadian stop on a tour that has included New York City, Chicago, and Tokyo. “It dates back to 2008 when we hosted the original Body Worlds,” he said, “we had a tremendous turnout, and that really put us on the map in the world of these feature exhibitions”. Since then, the team at the World of Science has been hard to work to bring Edmontonians the biggest and best travelling exhibitions that the world has to offer, with the mass attendance of Edmontonians being a major draw for such exhibitions – “people in Edmonton like to get out and do things, and it works to all of our advantage”.

Another key factor is the brand new exhibition space that was recently constructed at the World of Science. “In the world of feature exhibits like this, you need at least 10,000 square feet…we’ve got about 12,000 square feet. That really opened the doors in terms of what we can look bring to Edmonton.” Mr. Steger explained. The new exhibit hall is just the first phase of the science centre’s ambitious “Vision 2020” plans that will see the centre nearly triple in size — improving what is already one of Edmonton’s best attractions. Need something to look forward to after Harry Potter? Indiana Jones Adventures in Archeology, next fall. As long as Edmontonians continue to support these exhibitions as they have, we will continue to see world-class exhibitions like Star Wars: Identities, Body Worlds, and Harry Potter.

Harry Potter: The Exhibition is an amazing exhibit, and a must-see for Harry Potter fans. You’ll relive your fondest moments of the series, and you will walk out with a desire to watch the movies again. As Oliver Phelps told me, “its amazing how when you see something, you can very quickly [go back to] a memory that you had many years ago”. For those of us who grew up reading and watching the boy wizard with the lightning bolt scar, this exhibition will certainly bring back those memories.

Harry Potter: The Exhibition opens Saturday, November 23, and runs until March 9, 2014. The exhibition is a timed-entry experience and is open daily. Tickets be purchased online at www.telusworldofscienceedmonton.com, by phone at 780-451-3344, or at the box office.

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