Welcome, Harry, to Diagon Alley.– Rubeus Hagrid
Diagon Alley is a special place in the world of Harry Potter. This shopping street gives the reader or viewer the opportunity to see more of the everyday life of witches and wizards. Moreover, shopping is one of the significant elements of everyday life and it seems that wizards don’t differ too much from muggles in this regard. The designers of the 75978 Diagon Alley set faced a difficult task—to create a set of bricks that would be faithful to the film. They were also aware of the scale of this project. On the last pages of the instructions, the designers shared their impressions of working on the set, which is unusual. Both in the book and in the film, Diagon Alley appears as very colorful, rich and magical. Did the creators of this set manage to put this magic into bricks? Let’s find out!
I have to admit that for me, as a toy photographer, the aesthetic value of this set is the most important. Anyway, I have the impression that it is the most important in any set with buildings. Therefore, during construction, I did not pay too much attention to design solutions or the selection of elements [although the construction process itself was very satisfying]. I focused on the final effect—in this case all four buildings and eight locations.
The film vision of Diagon Alley delighted me. I myself am a fan of narrow, charming streets and alleys [probably after reading HP Lovecraft works] therefore, somehow contrary to the instructions, I didn’t assemble the buildings into an impressive meter-long row. In order to to reveal the photographic potential of this set, I put them facing each other instead.
I hadn’t even managed to pick my camera from its bag, when magic began to seep from between the shops’ windows. It had to be captured with my lens! Hence, my review, written from the photographer’s point of view, will be more a collection of impressions and an attempt to capture the unique mood of this set, rather than an exhaustive description of individual buildings and interiors. Anyway, Diagon Alley has already been described up and down, so my review will be diagonally.
Here’s where you’ll get your quills and your ink. And over there, all your bits and bobs for doing your wizardry.– Rubeus Hagrid
As Diagon Alley is a magical street from a magical world, the set goes diagonally through time and space, and magically connects several of the Harry Potter books and movies. It is especially visible in the selection of figures, which we’ll discuss later.
Ollivander’s Wand Shop
Three of the four buildings included in this set actually consist of two buildings—a larger and smaller one. So each of these buildings has additional rooms. Thanks to that, the frontage is more varied, too.
The Ollivander store, a wand maker since 382 BC, is impressive, mainly due to its tall, semi-circular glass windows. We first get to know this shop during a truly magical scene about choosing a wand in Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone—at the very beginning of the saga about the boy who lived. The brick version of the Ollivander store is not as tight as the original, but it still looks great, and building the shelves for the wand boxes was very satisfying. It is worth paying attention to a completely new element, which is the wand box. It was designed specifically for this set. This shop comes with a detailed minifigure of Garrick Ollivander, one of the four sellers in this set.
Compared to the Ollivander store, the modest, much smaller interior of the stationery store, Scribbulus, does not make a great impression, though the scroll in the display window looks quite impressive.
The small room above the store makes a much better impression. An old, very cleverly designed sofa makes the interior cozier, while a jar with a red liquid and a skull are pretty mysterious.
Quality Quidditch Supplies
This two-level shop is heaven for fans of the most popular sport in the Wizarding World: Quidditch. The shop’s front window is already impressive—heavily glazed, leaning forward with characteristic balls, bludgers and a beautiful golden snitch above the entrance. It is a real ornament for this building! Inside, the mannequins proudly present the costumes for this game [here in the colors of the Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw houses].
Costumes are also neatly stacked on the shelves. Of course, the most important places are occupied by brooms—after all, Quidditch can’t exist without them. Small, cleverly added details make a common accessory such as the LEGO broom into a truly competitive means of magical transport. Bludgers and bats are also displayed; these are other essential components of the Quidditch game.
When I was building this part of the set, for the first time I felt that they were buildings from some completely different world, and this is due to the colors: both the maroon, where the shop window is kept, and the crazy pink second floor.
Right next to Quidditch Shop, there is an inconspicuous entrance to the editorial office of the Daily Prophet—the most widely read newspaper in the Wizarding World. The richly decorated portal and the door is marked with a sign [see the header picture], however, it leads only to a high-ceilinged but short and dark corridor in which there is only a box filled with newspapers, and the wall is covered with posters and announcements.
So we won’t actually see the editorial office, but on the top floor we find a tiny room with windows covered by newspapers [great idea!], which might a kind of storage for the Daily Prophet’s editions. It is possible this is also a darkroom for a photojournalist—if film exists in the Wizarding World and photos are developed, probably in their own magical way].
Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlor
This part of Diagon Alley seems quite “normal,” which means it might as well be in a Muggle part of London. Seemingly, it’s a typical little cafe, with a table and chairs set on the pavement, a charming awning, checkered floor and delicious desserts with such common flavors as chocolate with peanut butter, black beer and raisin or bat juice and earwig …wait a minute, What? Bat juice and earwig? It is possible that the goblins from Gringotts Bank also like to drop by Florian for ice cream—I see no other explanation for such taste. Interestingly, the name of Fortescue is clearly displayed on the menu, although in the books it reads “Florean Fortescue.”
Someone calculated that Florean spent the entire 0.02 seconds on the screen in the movie Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, so the constant presence of his minifigure in the set should make up for this inconvenience. Especially since the minifigure is just as nicely designed as Ollivander. These Diagon Alley vendors know fashion!
Flourish and Blotts
The Flourish and Blotts bookstore also appears in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. This is my second favorite building in the Diagon Alley set. Constructing piles of books and bookshelves again brought me a lot of joy and fun. Thanks to the colors, I again felt these interiors belonged to a different reality. The charm of this building comes from its slightly oriental architecture, large windows and outdoor book racks. Inside, the atmosphere is built by two signs, showing the way to the sections on Dragons and Alchemy.
The bookstore’s equipment is complemented by a stylish desk with a pile of books and a minifigure of Gilderoy Lockhart—a celebrity of the Wizarding World, author of Magical Me, the book whose copies were signed at the bookstore when Harry and his friends showed up there. So you can play a scene in which Lockhart uses the boy and his fame as a marketing tool to help sell his books. It is in this scene that the photojournalist of the Daily Prophet also appears, so it can be assumed that these two minifigures are assigned to the bookstore.
Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes
Last but not least, we have the Weasley Brothers Magic Shop, the largest and most bombastic building in this set. Its color scheme is already striking—the luscious orange of the main façade is paired with the lilac of the upper story. Of course, there are also magnificent, semicircular glass windows and a huge figure of a wizard greeting customers with a hat. Thanks to this building, we move to Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, so the Fred and George minifigures appear as an adult and serious businessmen.
Okay, not serious. Shelves and cabinets with various magical and practical joke objects line three stories of the business, so it is rich and colorful inside. This building also contains quite a few of the 109 stickers that come with the set.
Skulkin’ around Knockturn Alley, I dunno—dodgy place, Harry—don’ want no one ter see yeh down there.– Rubeus Hagrid
Perhaps by contrast, a fragment of Knockturn Alley is included in this, boasting Weasley’s store, which is bombastic by comparison. It includes a portal with a grotesquely twisted window above. I would love to see what’s behind this portal, but maybe this will be shown in another set, who knows? Here we have only a suggestion of the Knockturn Alley—an area ruled by dark forces and dark magic. So, for the photo, I had to use my meager building skills and create the illusion of a dark, narrow street following the arch. Fortunately, Knockturn Alley is a dark corner, so it’s shrouded in mysterious fumes that hid my “exploits.”
I took at least a dozen walks on Diagon Alley and I admit that each of the 5,544 elements that make up this set has been thoroughly soaked in magic. The buildings are beautifully designed and the interiors are filled with neat details. I have heard accusations that the interiors are just too shallow, but this fact doesn’t bother me, and I have no problems with lighting the rooms.
The mood of the Harry Potter movies is very well presented, and with a little imagination, you can use these buildings for photos not necessarily related to the Wizarding World. The price may be a major obstacle here and you may have doubts, but the set itself is also large and comprises four smaller sets. The choice is yours of course, but I highly recommend this set!
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