In elementary school, I was a struggling reader. I had very little interest in reading and I had a difficult time comprehending. It wasn’t until my mother introduced me to Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling that my interest in reading peaked. She started reading me a chapter or two before I went to bed, but eventually life got in the way and she stopped reading it to me. Therefore, I took it upon myself to finish it. When the second book came out my mother purchased it for me, knowing how much I liked the first one. And according to her, I read the whole 341 page book by myself in just a couple of days. I remember sitting on my sister’s bed, reading late into the night trying to finish this terrific book. Once I turned the last page a rush of excitement and success came over me. I jumped right out of bed to tell my mother that I had just finished the book. Reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone really boosted my confidence in my ability to read. It opened up a new set of doors to where I believed that there were interesting books out there for me. Harry also taught me that underdogs can overcome their villains. Harry, who had faced many hardships, becomes a courageous hero who overcame every obstacle he faced. I can relate to his story since my obstacle was literacy and I too was able to prevail over them by continuing to read and working through my challenges (Walsh).
I was so fascinated by the Wizarding World that my younger self really wanted to be a part of the Wizarding World. To accomplish this I tried using media to create my own Hogwarts classes for me and my sister to play. I researched, wrote short books and created worksheets about beasts, Quidditch, and potions (Walsh). I knew that Harry Potter was not real, but I tried my hardest to make it as real as I could. Throughout my childhood and into my adolescents other experiences came up where I could live my fantasy. These experiences were critiqued by knowledge of the books and later on the motion picture. I used these experiences plus the media that was provided in front of me to create a better or maybe even different understanding of the Harry Potter Series and experiences.
After the first few books in the series came out it was decided that the books would be turned into movies. Now I could experience my favorite book in a new and completely different media, film. While watching the films I would notice and critique what was similar or different between the films and the books. From reading the stories, sometimes I was disappointed because scenes that I was excited to experience on film were not included. Other times, I would be blown away by how true to the story they were and how much care and detail they went into the special effects to engulf the viewer into the world. Music also added to the experience and admiration. Buckingham states that adolescents and teens notice the aesthetics, appreciating the illusion of reality that television creates, which I definitely did (Buckingham, 44). Also according to Buckingham’s book “Media Education”, the older we get the more we realize what we see, and in this case read, isn’t real (Buckingham, 42-43). I knew the books and the films were not real, but I still dreamt of going to Hogwarts. The music, the visuals, the dialogue in the motion pictures helped encompass what Harry Potter was, trying to make you a part of that world.
As an adult, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter located in Universal Studios, Orlando, Florida was developed giving me yet another media form to experience my favorite series. As you walk into Hogsmead you are magically transported into the world of Harry Potter. It is like you were dropped into one of the movies. Everything from employee costumes, performances, buildings, shops, and window displays were absolutely true to the books and movies. There were shops, restaurants, interactive sights, and of course the rides. One such ride was the Hogwarts Express train. The train was an exact replica of what you see from the movies, inside and out. But while it moved, instead of viewing the back lot of Universal studios they incorporate media to give you a more legitimate Hogwarts Express train ride. Each train booth included a screen where you see familiar scenery, characters, and beasts from the movie while the train transports you either to Hogsmead or King’s Cross Station. You may also see some famous Hogwarts Express passengers, such as Harry, Ron, and Hermione, as well as some Death Eaters looking to suck out any happiness they can find.
Universal also brings the castle to life by including a walk through famous castle rooms again seeing familiar characters (through the use of projection) and décor. Décor incorporated the talking and movie picture frames which they accomplished by the use of screens and even the moving stair cases (for looking only). At the very end of your Hogwarts Castle Walk through, you are boarded onto a “broom stick” ride called Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. This ride “uses a unique ride system with benches mounted on the ends of robot arms (similar to what you’d see on an auto assembly line), that move on a ride track. This allows you bench to rise, dip, sway and twist to simulate a feeling of flight. High definition projection screens, plus physical effects and animatronics, all help bring the Wizarding World of Harry Potter alive on this ride” (Theme Park Insider). Even though it is only a five minute ride it really does immerse you into the world of Harry Potter through these multiple technologies and media.
After reading and falling in love with the Harry Potter Series, by J.K. Rowling, there was a lot of built up expectation when the movies arrived in theaters and when the amusement park opened. I knew that the movies wouldn’t be able to include everything that was written in the books and that there would be some changes. I had learned a lot about Harry Potter just from reading the series and I had critiqued the films and the amusement park based on that. Sometimes I was disappointed. But, I still had an appreciation and enjoy watching them today, still finding new things I haven’t seen before. The amusement park, however, I was not at all disappointed at all! I just wanted more! I think because of the way it was able to include multiple forms of media it created the closest experience I will ever get to become a part of the Harry Potter world.
Buckingham, David. Media Education: Literacy, Learning, and Contemporary Culture. Cambridge, UK: Polity, 2003. Print.
“Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.” Theme Park Insider. Web. 08 Feb. 2016. <http://www.themeparkinsider.com/reviews/universal’s_islands_of_adventure/harry_potter_and_the_forbidden_journey/>.
Walsh, Stephanie. “A Memoir: Media in My Childhood.” Web Blog Post. Stephanie Walsh LSC 530. WordPress.com, 25 May 2015. Web. 8 February 2016. < https://stephaniewalshuri.wordpress.com/2015/05/25/a-memoir-media-in-my-childhood/>.