The husband and I are both (late bloomer) Harry Potter fans after watching the entire franchise in one sitting a few years back. So yes, we muggles didn’t let this trip pass without getting in touch with our inner child! On our second day in UK, we were off to Warner Bros. Studio in Leavesden for a Harry Potter studio tour!
Warner Bros. Studio is located northwest of London, some 20 minutes away by train, i.e. if you take the London Midland railway. Apparently, there are two types of trains Watford Junction-bound and we took the one via the Overground that albeit direct, takes almost an hour to reach the station. We ended up getting left by the shuttle bus that will take us to the studio. Worried to miss our scheduled entrance (it’s printed on the ticket), we hailed a cab that set us back some golden pounds.
The cab dropped us on the big parking lot across the imposing beige building. Fans of different ages, some in their favorite character costume gather by the entrance. We hurriedly queued on the ticket machine to claim our passes.
Weeks before our trip, we headed to the Warner Bros studio tour website to buy our tickets. We booked two types: one with the ordinary pass and another bundled with an audio guide (we brought our own earphones so we could share) and a paperback souvenir (win win win!!!) It’s necessary to book ahead because they don’t sell tickets on site, heck, they don’t even allow you pass the gate without showing a reservation voucher. The booking goes by specific time slots and they get filled up fast.
After a thorough bag inspection, we entered the lobby filled with fans like us! There’s a life-size Hagrid in the center and big portraits of the cast plastered on the wall. On the left is the cafeteria while on the right is the audio guide desk, cloak room and a very impressive souvenir shop.
We queued again, this time, to officially start our tour and even though the line took some time to move, it wasn’t a bore since there’s free (fast) wi-fi, this “Cupboard Under the Stairs” (Poor Harry, I wonder how he fitted in there – it was so claustrophobic!) and a short story of how J.K. Rowling’s masterpiece turned out to be a worldwide phenomenon (this part was further explained in the next room)
To further excite everyone, we were ushered to a film viewing room where we were refreshed with clips summarizing the franchise in a few minutes. The last clip in the video was Harry, Ron and Hermione standing behind the doors of the Great Hall. When the screen was blacked out, the tour manager came to the front, welcomed everyone and suddenly, the screen was lifted, revealing the wooden doors of the Great Hall! I couldn’t keep my bewilderment that I uttered a resounding “Wow” together with the kids in the room. :s
Photodump starts here!
The Great Hall
In the films, The Great Hall appeared long and with a high ceiling in the films but this is how the area looks in actual (the ceiling was pure effects magic!)
It’s fascinating to learn about the different aspects of creating a film. It’s not just a story and a set of actors, but there’s more beyond those such as the production, effects, scripts, sets, costumes, etc – it’s a community of talented people! After the set of the Great Hall, we were introduced to the main men behind the film – directors, executive producers, etc, what their roles actually are and a short bio. Some people skip this part but it was pretty interesting.
Gryffindor Common Room
Tapestries, paintings and pieces of furniture in Gryffindor colors adorn the common room. The set next to this one is the cramped boys’ dormitory with beds that the cast have outgrown through the years of filming.
The potions room was so darn awesome filled with bottles of different shapes and sizes, each one labeled. And don’t get me started with that moving stirrer! Pure magic!
The headmaster’s office is filled with so much details – astronomical devices, telescopes, lots of books (made from old British phone books), portraits, etc. Particular highlights are the Sword of Gryffindor and the Memory Cabinet.
The humble abode of the Weasleys has a lot of magic going on. Self-washing frying pan, knife chopping carrots by itself – can I have these at home?
I got super excited seeing a re-creation of Kings Cross Station! We posed for photographs with the half trolleys “piercing” through the walls to Platform 9 3/4.
The next room turned out to be a big dining hall where one could get a real Butterbeer! Of course we had to try it! The famous drink tastes like root beer float (root beer base with a foamy caramel-ish topping). It’s sweet with slight bitterness. The dining hall was brimming with diners that we had to go out to find a free table (despite the rain! and cold!). But we didn’t mind at all coz we had this awesome view of the Backlot.
Back to the building, we entered a room of hundreds of prosthetics, models and moulds of creatures used in the film. Just when I thought everything was digital, well, it turns out they’re not. These all look like real – so impressive! Hats off to the people behind these!
We were off for “shopping” next. Where else, but in the Diagon Alley!
Working Drawings, Concept Art & Models
Being in the construction field, this room filled with floor plans, elevations, etc left us in awe. The hand sketches are incredible! And the Hogwarts scaled model… so brilliantly detailed!
The last section of the tour leads to the super amazing shops selling all sorts of souvenir you could imagine – food, shirts, costumes, books, stuffed toys, key rings, jewelry, wand, sorting hat, broom – everything!
On average, a visitor would spend about 3 to 3.5 hours in the studio but we spent 6! Whew! We didn’t notice how fast time passed. I’m not saying that we are super fans but more than just the film itself, we learned a lot about the backbone of creating a film. This studio tour made us more appreciative of the movies we see because more than just acting and story, there’s a lot, lot more happening behind it. We love how this turned out to be so entertaining and educational at the same time. Next time you find yourself in London, Harry Potter fan or not, make sure not to miss the Harry Potter Studio Tour!