Do you know what Butterbeer tastes like? Would you like to wander up Diagon Alley or see the cosy Gryffindor common room? Perhaps you fancy practising your wand skills or going for a ride on a broomstick? All this and more wonders await you at the Harry Potter Warner Bros Studio Tour, just outside London.
I wasn’t really sure what to expect but, similarly to my experience at the Hobbiton LOTR film set in New Zealand, I was absolutely blown away by the sheer creativity of it all. From JK Rowling’s fantastical story to the masters of production design and special effects who brought it all to life, I take my hat off to the vision and attention to detail (read obsession with detail) of the thousands of people who worked here at the Warner Bros studios in Leavesden for ten years. It is the most successful film series of all time after all!
I was lucky enough to preview the new attraction at the Harry Potter Studio Tour yesterday. It’s called ‘Bludgers & Broomsticks’ and aims to give an insight into how they created the flight scenes in the Harry Potter films. Visitors get to dress up as a wizard/witch, hop on a broomstick and pretend to go careering through London, sail across the Yorkshire Moors and soar above Hogwarts Castle itself – thanks to a green screen and the magic of cinema.
Bludgers & Broomsticks will be part of the tour from July 18th to September 1st this year. Afterwards you can buy photos or videos of yourself in action.
I was very impressed with the staff who are on hand throughout the tour to answer questions and share Harry-Potter-fan-geek moments with visitors. The attraction has clearly invested in their staff and they were knowledgeable, efficient and were certainly having fun.
After an initial introduction and welcome through the huge doors into the incredible Great Dining Hall of Hogwarts, the tour is self-guided. I wandered through exciting surprise after fabulous set piece. Diagon Alley, the Gryffindor Common Room, Dumbledore’s magnificent study, the glorious pink boudoir of Dolores Umbridge – all life size and built with incredible hand-made care and craft.
Exquisite costumes are on display and many of the thousands of props that were created for the films.
Between the two refurbished sound stage buildings (appropriately J and K) is a courtyard where you can buy refreshments, including the delicious Butterbeer, which is actually more of a dessert than a beer. This is where they have located the purple triple-decker bus, the blue Ford Anglia car, the covered bridge, the Potter’s cottage and Privet Drive.
As the tour continues in the second building, it is time to visit the Creature Shop where hundreds of goblins and other beasties were created by the sculpture and animatronics teams. Watch out for the disconcerting boar’s head on the wall and the Monster Book of Monsters.
Near the end is a recreation of the interior of the wand shop from Diagon Alley. The walls are covered, floor to ceiling, with wand boxes. Each is carefully labelled with a name. In random order you will find the name here of every single person who worked on the Harry Potter films. A real tribute to an army of passionate, creative people.
Then I rounded the final corner and was suddenly confronted with the piece de resistance of the whole Harry Potter Studio Tour – the massive model of Hogwarts Castle. As the music swells and memories flood in, it is hard not to feel emotional at this beautiful sight.
If you have ever read a Harry Potter book or seen a Harry Potter film, or even if you just want to be inspired by the work of creative people, get yourself to the Harry Potter Warner Bros Studio Tour – it’s fab!
By Natasha von Geldern
Many thanks to Veltra and Evan Evans Tours for hosting me on this visit to the Harry Potter Warner Bros. Studio Tour. These tours get quickly booked up over the summer and especially in school holiday periods so make sure you book well in advance. And don’t forget to buy some…