At Britain’s newest and biggest attraction, magic is everywhere. And so are golden snitches. It’s our job to find them amongst the detailed sets, props and costumes. Although just outside of London, The Warner Bros. Studios The Making of Harry Potter Tour feels a world away from muggle life as you ride on a broomstick, drink butterbeer and watch the lights go out on Hogwarts. Kirstie Pelling took the family and in today’s guest post she shares their verdict…
I have come to Leavesden on this spring morning with three young Potter fans. But they’re not the first generation of Hogwarts enthusiasts to have been overwhelmed by the Great Hall or bewitched by the charms of Diagon Alley.
Daniel Radcliffe and the child cast of eight commercially successful films stood on these stone flags countless times over ten long years. They were joined by thousands of technicians, artists and film makers who pooled their creative ideas and energy to take this magical plot from page to screen. The Making of Harry Potter Studio Tour celebrates their work, and provides a permanent home for the many highly detailed sets, props and costumes that brought the film to life.
Unless you have a broomstick, it takes three hours to get around studio’s J and K (get it?), but we stayed longer. There’s so much to do and see. You start your tour, fittingly, in the cinema, where a surprise awaits. And from there on it’s a whirlwind walk around bedrooms, studies, common rooms and potion rooms. If you have a favourite prop you’ll find it eventually; just about all of them were stored away after the films in one of five warehouses. You can memorize the 800 potions in Dumbledore’s Memory Cabinet, and spot which of the sleeping headmasters have woken up. You can banish your fears of Voldemort by coming up close to the Horcruxes that held fragments of his soul. You can search for the golden snitch, and mark it off on a Potter passport.
“The wand chooses the wizard, Mr Potter…” Ollivander
The most central prop to this magical story, is of course the wand. There are all sorts of varieties on display here, from the cabinet that holds the individually carved wands of all the main characters, to the 4,000 handmade wand boxes that pack a tribute room to cast and crew, where you can play ‘spot the actor.’ You can also buy your own collectors copy in the gift shop.
“The stories we love best do live in us forever” J.K. Rowling
Like the stories, this is an attraction that will stay in the mind long after the visit is over. It’s an inspirational and emotional ride. In my view it would take a dark heart not to beat faster at the 1:24 scale model of Hogwarts by day and night. And Diagon Alley is a delight for us all as we peer into Ollivanders, Wheezley’s Wizardly Wheezes and the specialist Quidditch store. “Everything in it had to be made from scratch as you can’t exactly pop down to your local Quidditch shop to buy it all,” a guide explains, pointing out the golden snitch revolving above our heads.
My children scatter, finding their way around with the help of tour ‘interactors,’ who have spent months chatting to production staff and immersing themselves in the world of J.K. Rowling. A guide who introduces himself as Daniel tells me he was an extra in the film, “I was a massive Harry Potter fan anyway, but then I got days off school to be part of Slytherin. At the time I didn’t know how lucky I was.” He then points out the tricks for making the normal sized Robbie Coltrane into the giant Hagrid, like sitting him in a bigger chair closer to camera with the other characters further back.
“The sale of unicorn Blood is forbidden. Do not ask.” -sign on Mr Mulpepper’s Apothecary.
Everywhere you look there are intricate vials, dials and strange instruments of magic. Cauldrons stir themselves and animatronic creatures twitch into life. Cameron sits in one of the 17 and a half Ford Anglia’s, while Hannah stands transfixed at the gates of Hogwarts and Matthew steers a broomstick over the Scottish mountains.
Throughout the studio tour the muggle tricks are almost as impressive as the wizard spells in this showcase of creative and artistic talent. It’s great to know that many of the costumes and props that went almost unnoticed in the films are preserved here for eternity in all their glorious detail.
Thousands of people worked their magic on the eight Warner Bros. films and this Potter related attraction. And many, many more will come to tour and adore the real life Hogwarts. I’m glad to be one of them.
And to think it all started in a cupboard under the stairs!
Plan your Trip!
- Tickets: All tickets for the studio tours must be pre-booked at www.wbstudiotour.co.uk or through an approved supplier. No tickets will be available to buy at the attraction.
- Practicalities: There are 30 minute timeslots throughout the day to ensure a regulated flow and the tour takes around three hours. Audio guides are available. There’s a small refreshment stand on site and a studio cafe and coffee cart.
- Times: First tour is at 10am. Last at 4pm, except weekends and school holidays when last tour is 6pm. Allow at least three hours to do it all.
- Prices: Tickets cost £28 for adults and £21 for children. Family tickets cost £83. Check website.
- Getting there: Watford Junction station is 20 minutes by train from London Euston. A special bus will take you to Leavesden from there. You can even catch a film on board. The service runs every 30 minutes. The studio is located 20 miles North West of London, and three miles from the M1.
- Accommodation: There are many hotels to suit all budgets in the locality including in Watford. We stayed at the Park Inn Hotel, Watford, just around the corner from Watford Junction Station and convenient for the studio tour bus.
Kirstie Pelling is co-founder of The Family Adventure Project, a blog and website that aims to inspire families to get out and about, to adventure and have fun together. You can get in touch via Twitter @familyonabike and Facebook.
Kirstie visited The Making of Harry Potter Studio Tour as part of her Twin Theme Park Adventure. If you enjoyed this, you might also like to read about:
Getting up close to Darth Vader – at the new Legoland Star Wars attraction.
Building Bricks for a Family Adventure – checking out the new Legoland Resort Hotel, Windsor.
An unexpected cultural education – stumbling into Vaisakhi in Southall.
Photo credit: Thanks to The Family Adventure Project for providing all the photos in this article.
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