Saturday, 22 August 2015

Warner Bros. Studio Tour London - The Making of Harry Potter

Recently my dad and I visited the Harry Potter Studio Tour, which is located in Leavesden (20 miles north-west of London). It is made up of two sound stages and a backlot that are where the eight original films were made. It features the original sets, props and costumes that were used in the movies; as well as special effect displays. You can find out secrets from the filming, particularly how they used a lot of movie magic! The tour has been open since the 31st March 2012 and on average they get about 5,000 visitors a day!
Before visiting, I re-read all 7 books and watched all 8 films; so I was excited and ready for the tour!

The Entrance & Lobby

The entrance itself looks incredible from the outside, displaying photos from the films (including one of the main characters escaping Gringotts on a dragon). You can even see Wizards' Chess Pieces before you even enter the building!

As you enter, you can see handprints from Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson (who I found out I have the same size hands as), as well as big poster photos of the iconic characters and a few props (including the famous blue Ford Anglia dangling from the ceiling). The queue to get into the tour was fairly long, but it was made bearable and more interesting by including the Cupboard Under the Stairs set and a quote on the wall from J.K. Rowling. 

Emma, Daniel and Rupert's Handprints 
Props in the Entrance
The Cupboard Under the Stairs
A quote from J.K. Rowling

The Cinema Room

The tour itself begins with a short movie that shows you a montage of the Harry Potter films and the Daniel, Emma and Rupert introduce the experience and talk about their 10 years at the studios working on the films. Then the cinema screen rolls up to reveal the doors to the Great Hall; this was an amazing effect. It came out of nowhere and was followed by many oohs and aahs from the audience!

The Great Hall

The studio tour guide says the words that Harry and his classmates heard before they entered the Great Hall, and then the doors are opened for you to explore. The first glimpse of the hall is the most magical, you feel like you are in the film experiencing the Great Hall as a first year, just like Harry Potter himself!

The fireplace with each of the Houses Emblems

Inside the hall there is so much to look at! There are two of the houses' tables and lots of costumes (from each house and some of the teachers). You can even learn how they made Robbie Coltrane (Hagrid) look like a giant! Because we had come during the Sweet Treats Summer (Monday 20th July - Sunday 6th September) there were deserts displayed on one of the tables, which was pretty cool to see!

House tables - Deserts shown on the right hand side picture 
The House Points

The Teacher's Costumes

Professor McGonagall, Dumbledore and Professor Snape
This was the last part of the tour where there is a tour guide showing you around; you also have a limited time to explore and take photos before it is the next groups turn to view the empty Great Hall. However, the rest of the tour you are able to take your time and go at your own pace, without the guides showing you around!

The Big Room

Then you enter the Big Room, which is sectioned off to include the main bulk of the smaller sets, as well and props and costumes. It begins with the costumes and props from the Yule Ball, featured in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Everything from Harry, Hermione, Cho Chang and Viktor Krum's costumes, to the huge ice sculpture and deserts, which look truly yummy!

Ron's Dress Robes
Yule Ball Costumes
Deserts from the Yule Ball
Then you are able to see the wigs that the actors wore in the films, and you find out how they were created. You can also see the Gryffindor common room and the boy's dormitory, which was so cosy looking and exactly how I remembered it from the films.

Wigs worn by the actors
Dean Thomas' bed in the Boys Dormitory
Other sets that are featured in this room are the Potions classroom, Dumbledore's Office, the Burrow, Hagrid's Hut, the Ministry of Magic and much more! This room of the tour definitely has the most in it, there's so much to see! You can even find out so many movie secrets of how the films were made, including how the Quidditch sequences were created!

The Gryffindor Common Room
Potions Class
The Ministry of Magic
Umbridge's Office
The Entrance to the Chamber of Secrets
The Burrow
The Death Eaters

The Entrance to Dumbledore's Office and his Office

Hagrid's Hut

Lastly in this section, you are able to drive the Weasley's car and ride a broomstick using green screen technology (both of which you can purchase photos of). For the broomstick experience you get to borrow a Hogwarts robe and fly over London, water and arrive at Hogwarts! Further on in the experience, you also get the chance to learn how to duel using a wand.

Platform 9 and 3/4 and the Hogwarts Express

The newest attraction to the Harry Potter Studio tour is the Hogwarts Express. It was introduced in March 2015 and was the part of the tour that I was most looking forward to.

Platform 9 and 3/4 and the Hogwarts Express
The first glimpse of the platform is the most magical! It feels like a real platform, with a realistic view of London's railway at one end. It's complete with the real Hogwarts Express creating steam (really called the Olton Hall); I even found out that the locomotive is 78 years old and before the films it was used as a normal train since 1937!

The Platform 9 and 3/4 Sign
The Hogwarts Express 
London's Railway
You are able to pose with a luggage trolley that is halfway through the barrier into platform 9 and 3/4; it makes you look like you are on your way to Hogwarts!

Me going to Hogwarts!
You can also walk through the inside of the narrow feeling train, which is set out with each cabin displaying what it looked like for some of the films. From Dementors to sweets and props in each compartment you feel like you are walking into each and every film. After exiting the train there is a row of empty compartments used for filming. You can sit in one of the compartments and take photos as you ride the Hogwarts Express and watch the scenery (and a couple of scary Dementors) roll past.

Visiting the Hogwarts Express
Harry and Ron's first Hogwarts Express Journey
Ginny, Harry, Ron and Hermione as Adults in the Final Film

The Backlot

Outside, the next section to explore is the Backlot. You first walk through the cafĂ© where you are given the chance to buy and drink Butterbeer (which I'm told is a mix of shortbread and butterscotch made into a drink!). We were told that you can only drink Butterbeer at two other locations around the world (Orlando and Tokyo)! 

The Butterbeer Shop
Then there are lots of the bigger props which include 4 Privet Drive, Wizards' Chess Pieces, the Hogwarts bridge and the Potters' cottage. There are so many photo opportunities in this area without being kept behind barriers. You can even pose on Hagrid's motorbike, sit inside the Weasley's Ford Anglia and ride the 22 foot tall Knight Bus. I found out that the Knight Bus was made from 3 old buses and had to have weights put onto it, so that it doesn't fall over!

The Knight Bus

Hagrid's Motorbike

Wizards' Chess Pieces
The Potters' Cottage
4 Privet Drive

Creature Effects

Next on the tour was the Creature Effects Room, which displayed many of the weird and wonderful creatures that are featured in the Harry Potter films. You can see everything from goblins masks, werewolves, a scale model of Aragog, an animatronic model of Buckbeak the Hippogriff and even Dobby himself! It was amazing to walk around and see how much work had gone into the creatures and learn how they were created. I was amazed; I particularly liked learning how a werewolf was created!

The Creature's Masks
The Animatronic Buckbeak the Hippogriff
More creatures
Diagon Alley

One of the most impressive parts of the Studio Tour was walking into Diagon Alley; it was exactly how I had pictured it, with Gringotts at one end and Weasley's Wizard Wheezes at the other! Even though it was slightly smaller than I had expected, it was crazy how much detail had gone into creating it; the street was even paved with cobbled pave stones!

The Left Hand Side of Diagon Alley
Weasley's Wizard Wheezes
Ice Cream Outside Florean Fortescue's Ice-Cream Parlour
Florean Fortescue's Ice-Cream Parlour

Model Room

Probably the most extraordinary section of the tour was next and was a scale model of Hogwarts. I found out that it took about seven months and forty people to build! The lights in the room constantly changed, giving the effect of Hogwarts during the daytime moving into the night (complete with lights at the castle windows). This was truly spectacular!

The Hogwarts Castle Scale Model

The Gift Shop

As you leave the tour you pass through the gift shop that sells merchandise from clothing and scarves, to wands and even sweets from the books/films. It us fairy expensive to buy the merchandise, but it's good quality and it's not often you get to experience the Harry Potter Studio Tour. I'd say it is worth it to buy items from the gift shop, but you may need to save up beforehand! I personally came away with a Chocolate Frog (complete with a Chocolate Frog Card) and a Box of Fudge Flies. See more about this in my next post on Saturday!

The tour on average lasts for 3 hours but you can go at your own pace; you haven't got a tour guide directing you around which means you can take as long as you like. We did this and took nearly four hours (an hour longer than the recommended three hours). It was amazing to see the attention to detail that had gone into each and every prop, costume and set; it was incredible to see everything that we had experienced while watching the films.

The Harry Potter Studio Tour is a definite must visit for all fans of any ages, but even non-fans will enjoy the experience! It is fantastic value for money (£33 for an adult, and £25.50 for children), especially if you think how long it takes to walk around the experience. It was a perfect day out and I highly recommend it to anyone!

Let me know in the comments if you've ever visited the studio tour, and if not what your favourite Harry Potter film is! Thanks for reading, 

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