Warning! This is not a spoiler free review + is photo heavy
So Saturday afternoon my family and I bundled in our car and headed off for a little road trip. Our destination? Leavesdon Studios. Home to Warner Bros. The Making of Harry Potter Studio Tour (such a mouthful WB!). This trip, though part of my little sister’s birthday present, had been a long time coming. I remember hearing about the tour online and gawked over the concept art. The whole idea was so simple. Convert the studio – where the most successful film franchise of all time filmed the majority of it work, the place that turned then amateur actors Dan, Emma and Rupert into superstars and the studios that brought arguably the most beloved book series in history to life – into a walking tour museum, complete with sets, props, costumes and so much more. Sounds like my kind of place…and it was…
1.The actual Great Hall set used throughout all 8 films, including the flagstone floor which all of the cast have walked on!
2.Deatheaters wandered around the tour as part of the experience’s ‘Dark Arts Week’.
3.Luna Lovegood’s shoes and handmade jewellery – which was designed by actress Evannah Lynch.
4.A view of a small scale model of the Great Hall.
5.Dumbledore’s office and Michael Gambon’s costume.
6.A array of props from Dumbledore’s Deluminator to Rita Skeeter’s Quick Quotes Quill
7.A fashionable shop front in Diagon Alley.
8.Diagon Alley itself.
9.Amusing signs in front of the magical menagerie, something hardly seen in the films.
10.The famous swinging pendulum featured in films 3 through to 8.
11.A dozen or so Goblin masks made for the 7th film.
12.Small scale paper model of Hogsmede Village.
13.A giant scale model Hogwarts, used to film aerial shots in the film.
14.Quote from J.K.Rowling at the start of the tour – something every writer should heed.
This is just a small selection of the 100 photos I took on the tour and they really don’t do the experience justice. From start to finish you’re engulfed in the whole wonderful-ness that is the world of Harry Potter and most of all you appreciate the hard work and sheer talent of everyone behind the scenes of the film.
Before heading into the main part of the tour, you’re put through a guided experience – which I definitely won’t spoil, that part’s something to be seen for yourselves. After that you’re free to roam and there’s certainly plenty to see. You get to see a good handful of the most memorable ‘stages’ used throughout the films, which range from the tiniest corridors (many using optical illusions to make them seem like they go on forever) to the huge potions classroom, Weasley’s kitchen and Dumbledore’s office (where Stephen Fry features as a sleeping portrait). Interspersed between each set are props from every single film. Most you’ll recognise, including all of the Horcruxes (which are oddly beautiful in a creepy way) and all of the cast’s wands, but I can bet you’ll never have noticed tiny things like Dean Thomas’ West Ham football scarves and duvet covers in the Gryffindor dormitory, school trophies for the most ridiculous awards and accolades, or even the giant stargazing chair in Dumbledore’s office. As well as props were costumes worn by the actors themselves, many worn out and battered (mostly from the battering they took in movies 7 and 8) and others leaving you wondering…”Wow were the trio really that small?”
The outside lot boasted some of the coolest photo opportunities by 4 Privet Drive and the Potter’s home, which then led you to the second stage of the tour.
This part held creature effects – including a very dead Dobby =( RIP – , make up and prosthetics, animatronics and art! So much art! As a complete film nerd, I was pouring over the tiny scale paper models, set design sketches and concept art. All of which was simply beautiful and would probably never have had the opportunity to be showcased if it weren’t for the tour.
Then the grand finale! A giant scale model of Hogwarts castle itself and the surrounding grounds. It was literally about the size of movie set, as tall as a double-decker bus and just stunning to look at. The last part of the tour showcased a room packed with wand boxes, every one with the name of someone who worked on the film – on screen and off. There were apparently over 4,000 in there…out of which me and my sister managed to spot 15 actors including Dan Radcliffe himself and a certain Mr Pattinson (who’s wand box was, quite amusingly, well out of reach lol).
All in all, I would say the whole experience completely surpassed and exceeded my expectations (there’s a O.W.L’s pun in there somewhere :P), to say that as a die hard Harry Potter fan should definitely be persuasion enough for you to go! With every set are board, placards and mini videos telling trivia about the film. If you do go also take advantage of asking the uniformed guides walking around the museum, they’ll tell you little tidbits about films and some even have props on hand.
The only thing I begrudge would be the gift shop prices – some of the pieces were more expensive than the tickets themselves! – not that this stopped me from buying a t-shirt…and a Ravenclaw scarf…and a replica of Fleur Delacour’s wand…ahem.
If you’re worried about the price of the ticket for the tour itself, I would say it’s so worth it. Our time slot was around 5pm in the evening and we made it round to the end at about 9.30pm…but we definitely could’ve stayed for longer – guide on the tour told us the current record is 11 hours if you fancy beating it!
I’ll be heading back – to stock up for LeakyCon ;) – for sure!
Keep on wishing…