From humble beginnings, Harry Potter has become one of the biggest franchises in history. JK Rowling’s seven books sparked hysteria around the world, and spawned eight blockbuster movies that made over $7.7billion at the box office.
The Making of Harry Potter Warner Brothers studio tour was designed to provide an insight into the movie making process as well as celebrating the magical world of Harry Potter.
Fair warning: read on at your own peril…there are plenty of spoilers about what the tour consists of below!
From the huge atrium of the studio you queue and wait to be led into a room surrounded by posters. A studio worker tells you all about the history of the books and generally gets you excited for what’s about to come. After her 5 mins speech you progress on into a cinema which runs through the key scenes of the saga as well as being narrated by the films three primary stars: Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter), Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley) and Emma Watson (Hermione Granger).
Soon enough the cinema screen scrolls upwards to reveal the doors to Hogwarts’ Great Hall. Someone is chosen from the audience (usually someone celebrating a special occasion) to push the doors wide open and reveal the Great Hall set in all it’s glory. An expansive set, the guide gives a final speech about it before leaving you to browse at your leisure.
The Great Hall is decorated with two long tables containing various items seen in the movies, and at the far end of the hall stands costumes of many of the Hogwarts teachers, including Professor Dumbledore, Professor McGonagall and Professor Snape.
You then move on into a soundstage filled with sets, props, vehicles, costumes and many many many other things seen throughout the Harry Potter saga. There is plenty of information dotted around for you to read, and useful, friendly staff that will assist you in any way possible.
Sets you will find include Hargid’s hut, the potions classroom, the Gryffindor common room and Professor Dumbledore’s office. There are things that you will instantly recognise as well as things that you may not even have noticed in the movies, which gives you a much deeper appreciation of all the hard work that went into bringing the world to life.
There is also a greenscreen section where you can be made to look like you are flying on a broomstick in an intense and high action Quidditch match. Photographs are available to buy.
Next you make your way through to a cafe where you can have a pit-stop if you so desire. Food and drinks are served at a reasonable price, and you can also try some of the famous Butterbeer that is often glugged away in the Harry Potter books and movies.
An unusual experience, it may not be to everyone’s liking. Tasting like cream soda with a strange bubbly, frothy head, you can buy it in a small plastic cup, a souvenir cup or a souvenir tankard.
After you are refreshed you head outside to see some of the outdoor sets used. These include Harry’s house, the Hogwarts bridge and the triple-decker Knight Bus. There are several other vehicles and large props dotted around for you to enjoy.
TOP TIP: While you can leave your coat and bags in a cloakroom located in the entrance of the studio, if the weather is cold, rainy or just generally British then it is advisable to maybe keep hold of it for this outdoor part.
Back inside next to the make-up department. There are many different prosthetic heads, hands and various bits and pieces on display, as well as beautifully detailed creature props. This section is narrated on several different screens by Warwick Davis (Griphook/Professor Flitwick) and a prop maker. There is plenty of humour in there as well as detailed information.
There are also surprisingly ominous full size models of several characters stood in glass cases. They were used during key scenes in the movies (i.e. then they were petrified by the Basilisk or held underwater during the submerged Tri-Wizard Tournament task). So detailed and life-like are the models that you half expect their eyes to pop open and for them to step out of their transparent coffins!
Onwards (past Aragog the giant spider and Buckbeak the hippogriff) you come to a beautiful full size set of Diagon Alley: the wizarding shopping heaven. The shops look realistic and open and the attention to detail that went into creating several pieces that were seen on-screen for a nano-second is astonishing.
The feather in the cap of the set however is the Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes joke shop, shining brightly at the end of the ominously lit set. Many of the products you will recognise from the books and movies are displayed prominently in the windows.
Through to the art and model department now where many concept art paintings, schematics, miniature mock-up models and (of course) props are on display. A multimedia screen has an artist that designed for the movies explaining how the process works and how the designs get from words to paper to the big screen.
The final, big showpiece is a giant model of the Hogwarts castle and its grounds. Meticulously detailed and beautifully designed, it sprawls across a vast room twinkling with lights. The stunningly monumental model was created to be so life-like in order for it to stand up to filming – even close up. This is the real ‘headline act’ of the tour!
You finally exit out into the gift show, where you can pick up anything and everything Harry Potter related. Wands, chocolates, clothes…everything an aspiring wizard or witch would need!
The week that I attended the studio tour was also Animal Actors week, where various members of the animal cast were dotted around the tour, including Harry’s owl Hedwig, Hagrid’s trusty pooch Fang, Hermione’s temperamental cat Crookshanks as well as various ‘extra’ animals.
This was a fantastic trip, and a must for lovers of the Harry Potter franchise as well as lovers of the whole movie-making process in general. It is insightful and fun, and a fantastic day out for a very reasonable price! You can take as many photos as you like (apart from in the greenscreen area and of any of the multimedia displays), and you can spend as long as you like just wondering around and immersing yourself in the whole thing.
And as you cant physically take everything in, I’ll definitely be heading back again at some point in the future!
Be sure to head over to the official website to find out even more about the fantastic attraction and buy tickets to experience the wizarding world of Harry Potter for yourself!