'Harry Potter' exhibition opens in NYC

By KAREN BUTLER  |  April 17, 2011 at 3:45 AM
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NEW YORK, April 17 (UPI) -- The magic of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry has been recreated in New York with the arrival of "Harry Potter: The Exhibition" at Discovery Times Square.

Featuring costumes, props and set dressings from the blockbuster film franchise, the traveling show is making its last North American stop in Manhattan. The exhibition runs through Sept. 5.

Visitors to the 14,000-square-foot space are invited to check out Harry Potter and Ron Weasley's dorm room, as well as Hagrid's hut, the Hogwarts Great Hall and even the school's Herbology lab where they can pull their own Mandrakes. Other highlights include the school's moving portraits, a replica of the Hogwarts Express train and a Quidditch practice cage where folks can try their hands at tossing Quaffles through rings.

About a dozen cast members from the "Harry Potter" movies, which were based on J.K. Rowling's best-selling fantasy novels, gathered in the exhibition space earlier this month to discuss the artistry of the items on display as well as Friday's DVD release of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part I."

"It's not just some exhibits in some cases. It transports you to the world that we're used to seeing at Hogwarts," actor Warwick Davis, who plays the characters Professor Flitwick and Griphook, told reporters. "It really is terrific. It's an amazing thing. This is a tribute to the artists and the craftspeople who put all of this together -- the costume makers, the designers. You'll get a chance to appreciate the intricacy and the detail in it. One detail that always struck me as a performer is when you put the costume on, it did make you feel like the character and to open up your robe and see a wand pocket inside, all ready for the wand, it's those little details that make it easy to inhabit the character and, hopefully, you'll appreciate all the work they did. Because you know how great we are already, but it's the people behind the scenes who this exhibition is all about -- them and the work they do."

"One of the things you'll see in the exhibit and one of the things that I love about what [production designer] Stuart [Craig] has done is the attention to detail and you get a sense of it when you watch the films, but what we're all aware of is how much more detail there is than you see in the films," added producer David Heyman. "Out here, in the exhibition, one of the things I like is this thing [the self-absorbed Hogwarts teacher] Lockhart had his students do which is answer questions about Lockhart. … Lockhart had his students answer questions about himself and that is there and you never see that. There are Quidditch programs, which you never see really in the films, but the detail is there. I think it really makes the whole world feel more real and substantial. It's not just green screen."

Actor Robbie Coltrane said he loved seeing his character Rubeus Hagrid's hut reconstructed as part of the exhibition.

"Weird, weird, weird, I have to admit. … I think it's kind of odd," he confessed.

Teased about having a place to stay in expensive Manhattan now, Coltrane replied: "At these prices! [It's] my little New York pad."

Oliver and James Phelps, twins who play George and Fred Weasley in the movies, said they have been touring with the exhibition and enjoyed meeting fans in Toronto and Chicago.

"We take all these things for granted when we're [working on the movies,] James Phelps said. "When you first put the uniform on, you're like, 'This is cool.' But 10 years later, you get used to it. But when we were in Toronto for the exhibit everyone was so keen to go and see Fred and George's tailored suits and wands and I think the wands, especially, we just take for granted. We've got them all the time when we're shooting. It's amazing to see everyone's fascination with these things we've been surrounded with for so long."

"It shows the scope of the whole thing that here we are in New York," Oliver Phelps added. "James and I have been fortunate enough to travel around with the exhibit in Toronto and Chicago and the response has been absolutely fantastic and to be here with everyone else from the cast and to see has been really exciting."

"I loved the phoenix -- the life-sized version of it. It looks like it could be real, even though I know phoenixes aren't real," said actress Evanna Lynch, who plays Luna Lovegood, about her favorite parts of the exhibition. "And Dobby, especially. I love Dobby. He's so cute."

Actress Clemence Poesy, who plays Fleur Delacour, said she feels the exhibition, like the Harry Potter books and movies, helps fire the imaginations of children.

"I think it's really exciting. It's the same idea, obviously, as the theme park [in Orlando, Fla.] but it's a traveling exhibition, so, hopefully, it comes to as many children as local as you can get it and also just to realize how real it is. I think sometimes there's that suspension of disbelief sometimes when you watch films. It's hard to really connect with what's on the screen in front of them. I think now for all the visitors who come here, that is what we wore and, hopefully, they'll stay as artifacts for a long time," Poesy said.

Eddie Newquist, one of the creators of the exhibition, said he had an embarrassment of riches when it came time to pick and choose what objects should be included.

"When we were on set and starting to collect some of the artifacts and starting to meet with the department heads, the only place that was large enough for us to set up all the things we had chosen and looked at was the Great Hall," Newquist said, referring to the dining and assembly hall at Hogwarts where many of the movies' most memorable scenes took place. "So we filmed the Great Hall with all the things you see in the exhibition to make sure we inventoried them correctly and tagged them correctly, so that was very, very special to have all the department heads contribute and really go through the collections for 10 years and really try to find the most amazing things that people would have the most emotional connection to. … It's really a very small percentage."

"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part I" was released Friday on DVD. The second part, which is the series finale, is to be released in 3D in theaters this summer.

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