Thursday 31st Mar 2016
Underneath those long tangles of bushy black hair is the gentle giant Rubeus Hagrid: Harry Potter’s first friend in the wizarding world and loyal to the last. This Easter, we were invited to celebrate him with the Half-Giant Hagrid feature at the Warner Bros. Studio Tour London.
A section of Hagrid’s Hut always graces the tour, but today was not an ordinary day. Today, I was invited along to actually go inside. If I seem casual about this, I was anything but.
This is the larger scale set of Hagrid’s Hut, designed to film characters of regular size. There is another, smaller scale version, replete with scaled-down props to make actor Robbie Coltrane seem so much larger.
‘Play it cool,’ I thought to myself, as I approached. But the fact we had to lift the latch to enter was immediately too much, and I promptly squealed as we stepped inside the Hogwarts gamekeeper’s humble abode.
Once inside, the conundrum of where to look first began; from that big ’ol squishy armchair to the endless hanging baskets, to the dragon egg on the table, to the large keys hooked on to the dresser at the back. The detail is divine.
A silver dragon is engraved on a window pane towards the back – one of the many impossibly intricate facets that this set holds. Most of these details you’d barely be able to notice in the films, but that’s not the point, is it?
The floorboards creaked as I walked from oversized chair to window to fireplace, marvelling at the half-giant costume on display. I half-expected Hagrid himself to come bursting through the door with offers of cups of tea.
This, of course, is the wonder of the Potter films. They brought these wonderful stories to life for the big screen, and you don’t get much bigger than Hagrid.
In reality, Robbie Coltrane is 6’1”, but in the books, Hagrid is described as ‘almost twice as tall as a normal man’. As such, 6’10” England rugby star Martin Bayfield was recruited as Robbie’s stand-in. One fascinating display was the deconstructed version of Hagrid’s costume, with tubes stitched into the fabric and cold water running through it to help keep Martin cool on set. Hagrid wore a lot of moleskin, after all.
With one last, lingering gaze, it was time to step outside of the hut and join the rest of the tour. Immediately I heard an array of accents, from American to Geordie, from French to Spanish, truly displaying how universal Harry Potter is.
The Great Hall, as ever, was decked out gloriously, and an animatronic Fang now joins Hagrid in the displays of the Hogwarts staff.
I wandered back to see Hagrid’s Hut in reverse, from the outside looking in, and was thrilled to see his ‘Happee Birthdae Harry’ cake (in two sizes, of course) on display.
As I marvelled once again at the endless detail, I bumped into a similarly besotted visitor, birthday girl Hannah, who was celebrating turning 23 with her friend Zenobia.
It was Hannah’s third visit, and she explained how she loves noticing something new every time. And with all the Hagrid details, I had to ask what the big guy means to them.
‘He means everything. He’s an amazing man,’ Hannah immediately replied.
Zenobia, a first-timer to the tour, agreed: ‘Everything is amazing and much bigger than I expected.’ (Something we imagine Hagrid hears a lot.)
I moved on to the Creature Effects department, where make-up effects expert Elena Constantinou was delicately cleaning the prosthetics, which had ‘got a little dusty as they’ve been here a while’.
One of Harry’s early encounters with Hagrid is a trip to the Gringotts vaults, and here you can see the team demonstrating techniques used to create the prosthetic masks made for the goblins.
As I drank in the details, I asked two other fans, Abbie and Amy, why Hagrid is special to them. Nineteen year-old Abbie described how she can’t help but feel sorry for him; he takes a lot of blame, yet he’s always a loving father-figure to Harry. Well said.
Diagon Alley was another gasp-out-loud moment. There outside Gringotts was Hagrid in his iconic, moleskin overcoat. As tour guide Arin divulged a few more Hagrid secrets, I wondered if those coat pockets were really filled with bunches of keys, slug pellets, balls of string, mint humbugs, teabags...
Despite asking people all day, it’s clear why we all love Hagrid. So, if you get the chance, come and see him in all his gargantuan glory. After all, when was the last time Hagrid ever let anyone down?