Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Warner Bros. Studio Tour Tokyo

Today was exciting because we were headed back to Tokyo after our fun times in steamy Kyoto.

We apparently spent a lot of time lounging in bed this morning.

Ernie got a second chance to wear his Swallows jersey after that tragic blowout incident.

We drove past Nijo Castle in the Uber. The drivers have all been very nice and understanding about the large amount of crap we have for luggage and the extra time it takes to get the car seat situated.

We were taking another shinkansen back north. Bullet time!

I got major nostalgia from all of the yatsuhashi being sold at Kyoto Station. It's sort of like a sheet of mochi wrapped around a filling like red bean paste, and it's a popular regional treat to buy as a gift.

We had some time to kill at the station so we visited Mister Donut to see what he was up to.

Turns out he was up to donuts.

Kyoto Station had a cool 
Japanese-style location of its own.

We got some more fancy packaged bento box things for our train journey.

Part of what makes bullet trains fast is you have about 3 minutes to board before it's gone. With Ernie and his mountain of equipment this is kind of a stressful process.

We had some delicious mochi donuts of various flavors.


Our room at Hilton Tokyo Bay had a fun fainting couch thing which was lucky because I was very tired. You may recall that this trip was booked at the last minute, due to the last minute nature of ANA releasing its fancy business and first class tickets. Well this was an instance of poor planning which I definitely caused. We were staying in a hotel room right next door to Tokyo Disney but then booked tickets to Warner Bros. Studio Tour Tokyo which was like 2 hours away by public transportation.

In preparation Lydia attempted to draw a lightning bolt on Ernie's head. It did not go well.

We were so deep in Disney territory that the first step to escaping was taking the train with Mickey shaped windows: the Disney Resort Monorail.

We arrived in Nerima City so late that we were near certain that they wouldn't let us in at all.

Luckily they were kind and let us in after much discussion amongst themselves.

Our punishment for being late though was that they took us through the service entrance and dumped us partway through the exhibits. They were right because we were jogging by the end to see everything before the place closed as it was, but there's still a healthy enough chunk of stuff that we missed that I think I would need to come back.

I'm not really sure what happened to me.  I used to be only a casual fan of Harry Potter, haven't even read the books, and now I'm force marching my family across Tokyo and packing my robes just to see the rare official Harry Potter location I haven't yet experienced. Very strange indeed.

The original studio tour thing is in the London outskirts, so it's unclear how much of the stuff here is actually authentic movie props and how much was created for our benefit. I guess I can't really tell the difference and don't ultimately care. There's a ton of cool stuff here, though.

The Forbidden Forest area was nice and gloomy.

"The entrance gates to Hogwarts feature a pair of winged boards based on 'Il Porcellino', a bronze boar sculpture in Florence, Italy, thought by many to have a lucky snout. Students may need that luck should they venture beyond the safety of Hogwarts into locations such as the Forbidden Forest, home to numerous magical creatures and dark secrets.

Production designer Stuart Craig always considered the Forbidden Forest to be not only a location but a character in itself. The forest was first shot on location in Black Park in Buckinghamshire, United Kingdom, for Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, and was then built on the backlot and inside soundstages for later films. To assemble a forest in a soundstage, the Construction Department carved massive tree trunks that were suspended from the ceiling grid above. Once those were in place, the gnarled roots were carved from the ground up and seamlessly connected to the hanging trunks. The Forest sets were enormous. Some of the trees measured up to 4.2 metres (14 feet) in diameter."

"Hagrid's Hut

This is the quaint home of Rubeus Hagrid, the Keeper of the Keys and Grounds at Hogwarts.

To create the illusion of Hagrid's giant size, this set was built in two different scales. The larger-scale was used to correctly depict human characters. A smaller-scale set with smaller-sized props was also built to make Hagrid (played by Robbie Coltrane) seem much larger. In the films, scenes featuring these two scales were edited together seamlessly.

Over the ten years of production, Hagrid's Hut went through some dramatic changes. The production team dismantled and rebuilt the set multiple times, and completely burned it to the ground-twice!"

This place is hard to quantify. It's not quite a museum, and it's not quite a theme park. The cafe was also an unexpected curveball. They could have easily phoned this in and still made money but the food was actually decent tasting and was very imaginative. That Hedwig's Cake presentation was so fun on the menu I had to buy it out of principle.

I was really impressive with how cool the cafeteria seating was themed.

Had to go to a separate area to snag a couple butterbeers. It was not as good as Universal Studios' rendition of butterbeer but was still decent.

Ernie cast a spell or two with my wand.

"The Hogwarts Bridge

Though it was never in the original novel or script, director Alfonso Cuaron invented the Hogwarts Bridge for Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban to make Harry and Hermione's journey more exciting. Only one section of the Bridge was ever built - the Visual Effects Department created the remaining sections using computer-generated effects in post production.

I think the only Ernie that I'm aware of in the Harry Potter universe is the driver of the Knight Bus, so I was extra excited for him to see it in its triple-decker glory.

"The Knight Bus

Appearing in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, the Knight Bus is a wizarding mode of transportation that can magically speed along city streets, start and stop in an instant and shape-shift as necessary to maneuver around Muggle traffic.

The seven-metre (23-foot) Knight Bus was created from pieces of three vintage London double-deckers. Two versions of the bus were built - one that was motorized and could be driven, and a second 'stunt' version that could be spun around on a turntable to create the illusion that it is spinning out of control in the middle of a road (though this effect was later cut from the film). The interior of the Knight Bus was a completely separate set, built at a Leavesden soundstage and shot in front of blue screen backings that the Visual Effects Department digitally replaced with views of London streets."

I was impressed by the size of the Hogwarts Express and the station containing it. This whole place was really impressive. It could have been half the size and I would have been satisfied.

The Ministry of Magic area was really well done.

They had a cool thing where they would make it look like you traveled to the Ministry of Magic through one of the floo powder chimneys.

The gift shops were really well done as well. They had their own "wand chooses you" mechanic to help you pick a stick.

What a magical place. I would like to come back and see all the stuff I missed someday.

They pimped out the real train station that lead to the town.

It was by now past Ernie's bed time and he was happy to communicate that to us.

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