The Making of Harry Potter
- Warner Bros. Studio Tour -
One more place knocked off the bucket list!
In June 2014 I went on a National Holidays* trip to 'The Making of Harry Potter' studio tour, with an overnight stay and a few hours roaming around central London. And for £119 it wasn't bad value either - I live in the North of England so travel alone would have been pretty expensive if I had booked it all independently rather than going on a coach trip.
I was at the right age to read the newly-released Harry Potter books all through my teenage years, and I don't think it's possible for any books to surpass them in my eyes. Let's just say I'm a BIG FAN. The movies are good but the books are where it's at!
Added to this, I have always been very interested in model/prop making and set building (even considering a career in this area), so this tour was definitely emcompassing a few interests of mine :)
Below you will find my review of my weekend trip, in case you are interested in going yourself, and I've chosen photographs from the studio tour which don't give too much away - I hate spoilers!
The trip started off with a 5 hour coach trip down to London (Leavesden to be exact), with a long break at the services on the way. We ended up arriving at the studios a couple of hours before the time on our tickets, but we managed to get in anyway (phew!) and queued next to the 'Cupboard under the Stairs' set. If you would like an audio guide headset, you can purchase these before you join the queue.
After about 20 minutes, we were led into a room to listen to an introductory speech, and then into a cinema room to watch another (short) introduction by Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint. Behind the screen is the entrance to the Great Hall, which is where the tour really begins.
The Great Hall contains 2 of the long house tables, plus various costumes including prominent characters such as Dumbledore, Hagrid and Mad-Eye Moody. We had an enthusiastic tour guide chat about a few different things in here, but after that we were free to wander on our own. There are posters, signs and videos during the remaining areas of the set to act as your guide and offer loads of extra insider knowledge.
The next room was HUGE and you could easily spend over an hour here. It contained thousands of props, many larger sets (such as Umbridge's office, the wall of fireplaces from the Ministry of Magic, and the Gryffindor boys dorm), plus a green screen area. You can queue to practice spell-casting and flying on brooms in front of a green screen if you wish. It looked like fun (although I didn't do it) and the queue wasn't too bad.
There were so many little things in this room but my highlights were:
- A cabinet stuffed full of paper props such as the Marauder's map, letters from Hogwarts, packaging for sweets, and various posters. This would definitely appeal to someone with an interest in graphic design. It was all so intricate and such great quality for things that would likely only appear on screen for seconds of time (or less).
- The 'Magic is Might' statue. This is certainly a statement piece of work, and I find it quite chilling really given what it represents.
- Dumbledore's office, including the pensieve, the sword of Gryffindor, and the various portraits on the walls. Has a great atmosphere in here I think.
- The Gringott's vault door, because it was made up of so many different parts and I imagine the people who made this would have relished it...I know I would!
- The mirror of Erised, the suits of armour, the costumes and wigs...I could go on and on but I'll stop there...
Love the little details on show; if i'm not mistaken, this is a Sophorous bean alongside a silver knife...but can you remember the most effective method for extracting its juice (as recommended by the Half Blood Prince)?
Next is the outdoors area where you can visit number 4 Privet Drive, see Godric's Hollow, walk through the famous Hogwarts bridge, and get in the Ford Anglia. You can also buy food and drink if you wish. I can't remember the options in this area but they were very limited; I had a hot dog (for nearly a fiver!) and some Butterbeer (of course).
You can get your Butterbeer in a choice of 2 souvenir mugs if you like, and I went for the more expensive one which was £7 I think - maybe £8. Expensive for a plastic cup, certainly, but probably the cheapest souvenir I could come away with that day given the prices in the gift shop :)
The following (indoors) area was a very interesting look at the world of prosthetics and animatronics. Little did I know that Hagrid was often played by a tall rugby player wearing a robot Hagrid head! There were all kinds of creepy things in here including life-size models that looked just like Harry, Dumbledore and Hermione, amongst others, plus random character's heads and hands lying around the place.
There was an amusing video playing on the wall, featuring Warwick Davies aka Griphook, which gave some insight and entertainment. I love this kind of thing so I hung around staring at everything for a while. Some of the props were robotic so took their turns to move around - such as Hedwig and a mandrake - and I smiled to myself imagining people walking around with Inferi backpacks on:
Around the corner we entered the iconic Diagon Alley, where there stood all of the famous shop facades: from Florean Fortescue's ice-cream parlour to Madam Malkin's robe shop and of course Weasley's Wizarding Wheezes. This was the biggest complete set in the whole tour, as you might expect, and there were so many details to look at in the shop windows. If only I could have actually gone shopping there...sigh...
A large area of architectural plans and models follows this, and the level of detail that goes into every aspect of the films becomes very apparent. Mind-boggling.
Then the pièce de résistance; Hogwarts castle in its entirety. I would say it's miniature, but it's actually a bit bigger than I thought it would be. The lights change to show it in the day and at night, and it is impressive. This was a cool room, and when you walk in you just seem to get mesmorised by the castle.
The last room before the gift shop and exit is the wand room, where there are just thousands of wand boxes, all labelled with the names of cast and crew. This is fun because you have to try and find the wand box of your favourite character here (and it could take a while!)
Then of course you step into what must be one of the best gift shops around, and the money in your pocket seems to mysteriously vanish and be replaced with pygmy puffs and chocolate frogs. Saying that, I didn't buy a single thing (which very much surprised me), although I was so tempted to buy Luna Lovegood's wand (it was the prettiest), and a Marauder's map (£35, yikes!)
After the tour we went back to the accommodation at Jurys Inn in Watford and got settled in our rooms before heading down to the restaurant for dinner. The rooms were very nice and clean, no complaints, and the dinner was alright...nothing wrong with it, just distinctly average! There were a few options just for our coach trip (fish and chips, a tomato pasta dish and something else I can't remember) and a couple of choices for dessert. They were all served buffet-style and again, no complaints.
The next day we had a very welcome cooked breakfast at the hotel and then were taken into London for about four hours of sightseeing. We were free to roam around on our own, and luckily the weather was perfect (very rare!) with blue skies, heat and sun. We headed through Hyde Park first, walking along the Serpentine and then visiting Princess Diana's memorial fountain.
We did the obligatory Buckingham Palace visit next, before walking along Regent St and Oxford St, and before we knew it, our time was up. However, there was a HUGE protest march going on when we got back to the bus stop to wait for our coach, and the road had been blocked off by the police. With no idea how the coach was going to reach us, and with the roads totally chock-a-block, all we could do was wait.
We waited 1 and a half hours for the coach in fact! Not ideal but at least it was nice weather. London is never dull!
We then made our way all the way home, and that was the end of the trip. Great value and a weekend well spent!
If you'd like to check out some useful travel details for making your way to the Warner Bros. studios yourself (without taking an organised tour), please click here.
Also be sure to check the events page on the official website because there are all sorts of fun spectacles that occur throughout the year, including 'Hogwarts in the Snow' and a Harry Potter group quiz!
Thanks for reading :)
* This is an affiliate link, however my review is not sponsored in any way, and all opinions are my own.