*Published at Topshelf Magazine HERE
The Warner Brothers Harry Potter Studio Tour opened in April 2012 just outside the city centre of London. It is home to the original props, costumes and sets seen in the film phenomena, Harry Potter.
There are two studios, named J and K (can you guess why?) joined by a small courtyard where Privet Drive, Godrics Hollow and the Potters Cottage come to life. The entrance is circled by portraits of our favourite characters, the Weasley’s enchanted car, a cafe and the souvenir shop. The shop kept me entertained for at least an hour with replica Hogwarts uniforms, wands, chess sets and an assortment of Honeydukes Sweets!
Besides the die-hard fan-fare is the books, films, stuffed animals, toys, brooms and every other Wizarding knick-knack you can think of!
The tour begins in the cinema room where Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint introduced me to the studio and the films, shortly after the screen lifts to reveal the great door of Hogwarts Castle.
While the tour is initially narrated, it is self led and knowledgable staff are stationed throughout the centre ready for questioning, many of them having worked on the films themselves. The sets are spectacular and the attention to detail for every prop is simply gobsmacking, hand-carved masks and lovingly sewn costumes are placed in their respective scenery.
The staff inform me that each set is ‘live’ meaning that it is set up and ready as though it is about to be filmed. There are scale wax models of characters and creatures, most notably Aragog, the giant spider from the Chamber of Secrets.
If Quidditch is more your thing you can pop in and have a photo taken of your flying abilities on a broom in Hogwarts robes against a green screen.
The studio has a few interactive electronic program’s about the place while some scale creature models have been connected to buttons that, when pushed, imitate the movements seen on film. The Weasley’s kitchen set gave me the ability to magically wash pots and pans or chop some carrots with a simple wave of my hand.
A little known fact about the studio tour is that it has a secret pub.
According to the books, our favourite three regularly popped into the Three Broomsticks in Hogsmeade for a pint of Butter beer, and the studio tour is the only place you can taste it! A delicious concoction of a bitter creaming soda topped with a thick, frothy cream that combines to create a heart warming beverage best served cold!
After this refreshing stop I jumped onto the Knight Bus for an obligatory tour photo and climbed across the bridge right into Diagonal Alley where you can visit Ollivanders, Gringotts Bank and the Weasley’s Wizarding Weezes! After traipsing across the cobblestones I found myself in a gallery or sketches and paper recreations of Hogwarts and various sets, creatures and people, brought to life through animation and electronics.
This lovely rendezvous finished with a filmed interview with one of the artists and led me straight into the room that holds the model of Hogwarts Castle. The 1:24 scale building is massive and sits at 50 feet in diameter. The scenery transitions from day to night in front of you, depicting how the the scale was used for the panoramas and zooming in the films. 2,500 tiny fibre optic lights fill the hand crafted windows to look like students movements and as you walk down the ramp encircling the castle you can see the bottom of the terrain leading into the Forbidden Forest.
The tour concludes with a visit to a specially crafted Ollivanders Wand Shop where the franchise had over two thousand individually painted wands made and named to represent each person who worked on the film.
It’s truly an eye-opening experience that takes you inside the film and flabbergasts you with the sheer work and money invested to bring the books to life.
Regardless if you are a long time fan and dedicate reader or a tag-along parent, the studio will have you leave feeling satisfied and in wonderment.
Tickets cost around £25.90 and can only be purchased online at http://www.wbstudiotour.co.uk/.
Take the overground all the way to Watford Junction Station and pop around the corner to the Harry Potter Bus stop. This will cost you £2 for a return ticket, studio to station, and leaves every twenty minutes.
You must be at the studio twenty minutes before your scheduled tour departs. Cameras and photography are welcomed!