On our first morning in London, we had prepared a visit for 12 of our students who wanted to go to Warner Brothers’ studio where the Harry Potter books were made into movies. This was one of those optional trips that students could choose but had to pay extra for. I went to London early on Thursday to confirm travel plans for the visit since we had to leave early the next morning in order to make our appointed 9:30 a.m. time.
When you’re traveling with a group and trying to save money where you can, you don’t take the easiest and most expensive travel options to get to a location. Thus, we took the London Underground to Wembley Central train station and then a train to Watford Junction before loading onto a bus that took us to the studio. I had all the tickets in hand (three different ones), and I set the time to leave at 7:15 a.m. You know the students are excited about a visit when they get up at the crack of dawn in order to get there. In spite of leaving early, we arrived at 9:32; fortunately, they let us in anyway! It is amazing how long it takes to travel on public transportation with a fairly large group.
I am not a part of the Harry Potter generation. My children certainly love Harry Potter, and they grew up reading the books and watching the movies. As a parent, I remember the debates about whether or not Christian parents should allow their children to read Harry Potter. It had “evil” characters, some argued, and it dealt with wizardry and the occult. Ruth and I never bought into those views. After all, the Narnian series has witches and stark evil characters, and it deals with dangerous themes of death and sacrifice. This is to say nothing of The Lord of the Rings, which is quite dark with Mordor, Orcs, et al.
Warner Brothers has done an excellent job of recreating the film series in the studio. They have most of the sets in place, a mock-up of King’s Cross railway station, and an excellent engineering section showing just how they created the creatures of Potter’s world. The students clearly enjoyed their time, and it was obvious that the books and films had captured their imaginations.
Whatever one thinks about the Potter series, I think it actually fit right in with many of the experiences we had on our trip. I had been to the studio before, so I was able to just sit back and watch the students experience the site. As you know, our students are part of the mobile, Internet generation. They are always on their phones, and social media is a constant aspect of their lives. Nevertheless, what I found encouraging is that they are drawn to a traditional book series that is grounded in “old” ideas. The story is essentially a story of the battle between good and evil. The story is complex, but Voldemort is clearly a villain who seeks not only control over the world but the elimination of the “muggles” (you have to read the books). Many of the characters are complex, but the struggle between good and evil is always present. The good are led and encouraged by the great wizard Albus Dumbledore (not unlike the figure of Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings.). The story espouses “old values,” honors the past, and features heroes and heroines.
As I watched I was quite encouraged that the “Internet generation” of students is still drawn to old stories and values. Their imaginations are still stirred by the struggles that have characterized the human story over the ages, and they still find hope in character and in the pursuit of the good. I think we all enjoyed our day!