On the 29th of January 2015, after three long years I finally went to the Warner Bros. Studio Tour – The Making of Harry Potter. A big thanks to my students union, who organised the trip for free otherwise it would have cost an arm and a leg for me to go to the studio. Now before I jump into talking about the tour of the studio itself I must provide some background information about my love for Harry Potter.
I was very young when my dad began reading the first Harry Potter book to me and my brother; he also read us the second book . I remember reading the third book but due to my parents divorcing and moving several houses, I lost the book and subsequently forgot about Harry Potter and the world of magic. I picked up Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince some years later but I was completely lost. I saw most of the films but missed Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, so when I saw the Half-Blood Prince in the cinema I was once again lost. At this point, other books had entered my life and I fell in love with reading again. For my seventeenth birthday, I asked for all the Harry Potter books, I received them all as hard backs (thanks Nanna, you are the best!) and I treasure them to this day. Just under a month I managed to reread all seven books (many of my friends and family doubted I would do it); this helped due to travelling to London for a school trip (I saw people queuing for the Harry Potter premier while in London) and reading during my lunch breaks at work. I finished the Deathly Hallows on the morning of the day that I was going to see the final film. After that night my love for the books and the films reignited and it has been an emotional ride ever since.
When I arrived at the studio, I was ecstatic to say the least and as soon as we could, I joined the queue for the tour. The tour quickly to underway and it must say that you only have a guide for a small part of the tour, the rest you do yourself. You start in the Great Hall, which was Christmas themed, as when I went on the tour it was still ‘Hogwarts in the Snow’. The Great Hall appeared to be much smaller than what I thought it would look like but the guide explained that the Great Hall had been moved and scaled from one of the two soundstage to its current area. After the Great Hall you are free to walk about the next two areas on your own, however, it is a one way system so once you have gone through somewhere you cannot go back.
I am not going to go into every detail of the tour because;
1) I do not want to spoil it for anyone who may go
2) There is so much to see, like a lot.
The tour takes an average of three and half hours but some of the group I went with flew through it. The tour is set over two soundstages, J & K and J appears to be the bigger one of the two. In J, you will find some of the sets, lots of props and costumes. It is also where you can get your Quidditch experience photo taken (I did), the queuing time while vary depending on how many booths are open. There are many videos and signs to read about the various sets and props and I could have spent a lot more time in there. Some of my favourite sections included Dumbledore’s office, the Dark Arts sections and the Gryffindor common room. The attention to detail to the props really blows you away, major kudos to the departments involved, it has truly made me appreciate the films so much more.
After Hall J you enter the Backlot where you get to see some of the buildings and objects used in the films, most notable Privet Drive. You can also try Butterbeer! Which I must warn is somewhat sickly after the first few sips. When I reached the Backlot it was snowing and freezing, so we rushed through this section. I got a picture at Privet Drive and even used the knocker on the door! I would have stayed in the area much longer but I was incredibly cold at this point, I had to retreat indoors.
Soundstage K is smaller but none the less still fascinating, a large section is dedicated to the creature effects and prosthetics which there are loads of. You get to see scale models of the actors in certain films and see key creatures such as Aragog, Buckbeak and Fawkes. By far one of my favourite models was the Thestrals, despite their appearance I feel a strong connection to them. Buckbeak was visually stunning but I expected nothing less from a Hippogriff.
After this section Diagon Alley is next and it is truly magical, once again the attention to detail leaves you amazed. The street is cobbled and the shops are designs are truly magical (no pun intended). In Flourish and Blotts in the window there is a ton of Gilderoy Lockhart books, which you only just seen in the films for a few minutes (if that) but they all look ready to read.
After some amazing concept art, which given the chance I would buy without a second thought you finally get to see the model of the castle. I was already emotional by this point, so when I turned the corner and heard the soundtrack from the Goblet of Fire (Harry in Winter), I nearly cried. The model is much bigger than expected and it just astounds you. It was great to see the whole school and all its little nooks and crannies. With the snow dusted over the castle it made the whole experience feel even more magical than before. I am so glad the castle is last because it reminds of what J.K Rowling said at the final premier.
“Whether you come back by page or by the big screen, Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home.”
I would truly recommend the tour, even if you are a small fan of the films because you will come out with a whole new appreciation for the films. I would go again? For sure, but maybe after the extension in March because who doesn’t want to go on the Hogwarts Express?!