Burbank’s “Chamber of Secrets”


For 166 hours every week, Kimi and I reside in the real world, but on Thursday mornings we briefly step out of Muggle-dom to spend the remaining two hours inside the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry with Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, and Hermione Granger.

That’s because for the past year we have both been docents at the Warner Bros. Museum on the studio lot in Burbank, where the entire second floor is filled with original props and costumes from the first six films in the fantastically successful Harry Potter franchise.

The museum’s first floor has artifacts from WB’s eight-decade history of film and television. Among the many treasures there is the tiny 58-key piano from Casablanca, the original Maltese Falcon (currently out on loan), Heath Ledger’s purple joker outfit from The Dark Knight, a row of Hugo Weaving mannequins from The Matrix, and a shelf of Academy Awards won by the studio going back  to 1928. Last week, some new items from WB’s most recent hit Inception were put on display, including Leonardo DiCaprio’s white suit from the Alpine compound, Cillian Murphy’s passport, the “totem” top, and the stainless-steel “Dream Case,” (which, by the way, is labeled “Halliburton” on the outside).

But the second floor is where the non-Muggle magic resides. That’s where you can find the original Marauder’s Map, Goblet of Fire, Triwizard Cup, Sword of Griffindor, a Nimbus 2000, Tom Riddle’s Diary, a petrified Hermione, Harry’s cupboard under the stairs, and one of the giant spiders from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. There are also dozens of costumes worn by all the principals, including the Triwizard Cup jersey donned by Cedric Diggory (Robert Pattinson), which regularly draws squeals from little (and sometimes notso little) girls.

The centerpiece of the collection is one of the original “sorting hats” used in Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone. Guests line up to be sorted, just like first-year students at Hogwarts. When we place the hat over their heads (the one and only prop that we are allowed to touch in the museum), a disembodied voice places them into one of the four Hogwarts’ houses – Gryffindor (Harry’s house), Slytherin (home of the evil Draco Malfoy), Hufflepuff, and Ravenclaw. The sorting is not random, but is on a continuous loop, and after a year in Hogwarts, we both know when Slytherin is rolling around, and when it does we try to substitute an adult in place of a child, so as not to cause a youngster any permanent mental scarring from thinking they were just “born bad.”

It may sound pathetic for a guy pushing 50 to still get geeked-out by books and movies written for kids, but judging by the thousands of parents who get giddy being sorted into Gryffindor every year, I don’t appear to be alone.

The Warner Bros. Museum is open to everyone who takes the Warner Bros. VIP Studio Tour. (Do yourselves a favor and check out the clips on the Ellen Degeneres Show link.)

For more on the history of Warner Bros., check out my new book, Images of America: Early Warner Bros. Studios (co-authored with Hollywood historian Marc Wanamaker).

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About deadwrite

Freelance writer, film historian, taphophile View all posts by deadwrite

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