Every person that has ever read or watched Harry Potter wished they received the letter of acceptance into Hogwarts. Am I right? Or am I right? If not, visit Warner Bros. Harry Potter Studios in London and you most definitely will wish you had received that letter!
I am very proud to announce that I am the biggest Harry Potter fan in the whole world. No – I didn’t get to go to school at Hogwarts (I am still going to believe they lost my letter) but I did break the record for the longest amount of time spent at the Warner Brothers Harry Potter Studios in London, saying goodbye to the beautiful place after seven hours. One of my friends that recently went there, told me they mentioned my record when they were welcoming everyone, I must say I am a little proud.
Leavesden, England is home to the biggest film Studio’s in the whole of Europe. Originally used as a local airfield and factory in 1939-1994, the studio was first used for films in 1995. Hangers became sound stages and runways became back lots. Over 100 acres of different terrains has been host to movies such as James Bond: Goldeneye, Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, Star Wars Episode One: The Phantom Menace, Longitude, A Ideal Husband, Sleepy Hollow and many more. It wasn’t until 2000 when the Studio became famous all over the world, after a small production team turned up with a film idea that became one of the most successful films series of all time; Harry Potter.
The Studio then became the home of Harry Potter for a decade, during the time in which all eight films were being filmed there. After the final installment of the Harry Potter films, the Studio were then continued to be used for other Warner Brothers films. Today any production team can rent the stages, production props, offices, back lots and many other facilities that the Studio offers. In memory of the Harry Potter franchise the Studio has now opened up the J and K stages (very ironic) for the public to experience the sensation of the Harry Potter films. This wonderful experience was opened up to all the Potterheads in June, 2012 and since has been a huge success (obvious I know), as it is the only way a fan can really go to Hogwarts.
The Great Hall doors are open to the public 7 days a week from 10am to 6.30pm. The tour of the Warner Bros. Harry Potter Studio can either be self-guided, with a guide (maybe the coolest job in the world) or an hand held audio-visual guide (which I highly recommend). This grand tour costs a total of 28EUR (34.30AUD) for adults, 21EUR (25.73AUD) for under 15 years and under 4 year I free. To have Tom Felton whisper secrets in your ear, hire out the hand held audio-visual guide for 4.95EUR (6.06AUD), which also give you access to many never seen videos, photos and behind the scenes information on the Harry Potter series. As you cannot drive straight into the studio due to the fact they are filming other films during your visit (I heard explosions and saw huge cameras being lifted up on cranes in the distance – although I don’t know what they were filming), you a buy a 2EUR (2.45AUD) return ticket. The ticket will enables you access on a bus (which gave me the feeling of the Night Bus) that brings you straight from Watford Station to the Warner Bros. Harry Potter Studio Tour and whilst on it the bring you excitement to a whole new level by playing videos made by the cast and crew. All photography and videos are allowed on the premise, so bring many camera battery’s as you will need them – I went through six!
With my black wizard cloak bellowing behind me, my Gryffindor scarf flying in the wind, the Harry Potter theme song in my head and my Elder Wand pointed in front of me (yes – I am serious..), I ran towards the Studio. This was it! I was going to Hogwarts! Woooo!!! Hanging off the giant chess pieces posing in front of the Studio, my excitement was not hidden from a soul in sight.
I walked down the path that Daniel, Emma and Rupert walked a numerous amount of times throughout their whole childhood. Then into the building and then throughout the rest of day I think I was more jumping with excitement to each thing rather than walking.
The tour begins at the Cupboard under the stairs – Harry’s room for his childhood, where you could see the little toys he played with and Harry’s first pair of glasses – so tiny! You then proceeded into room filled with 8 screens that displayed a huge montage of photos and videos from the series. As tears started appearing under your black framed circle glasses you were then taken into another room. A huge cinema! The screen then gave you a mix of emotions as it showed a million never seen, behind the scenes videos, as well as some personal messages from Daniel, Emma and Rupert. As the screen then started to raise the cinema started to scream – a scream I relate to as the same scream the crowd had at the Deathly Hallows Part 2 Midnight screening. As that screen was raised, your childhood dreams since opening that first Harry Potter book was revealed – as there straight in front of you stood the Great Hall Doors.
Inside the Great Hall (which is actually really small) you see the tables, chairs, fires, food, cutlery, plates all used throughout all the films. The room is also filled with costumes from all of the teachers and staff as well as a few students from each house. Right in the front behind the Owl podium stands Dumbledore in all his glory – my impulse to run and stand next to him was very strong.
I left the Great Hall very reluctantly – they had the next group coming and I was the only one from my group left in the hall so they made me leave. I walked into the main part off the J Stage, which was full of the main sets throughout the eight films. Now if I continued to explain every set and prop they had in here I would be writing a story longer than Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, so I will just list them. In order of when you walked around the room you got to go deep into the magical world and see the following sets, which had such incredible detail as well as the main costumes worn on that set: The Chocolate Feast, The Yule Ball, Miniature Hogwarts Bridge, Costume Department, Hair and Wig Department, Make Up Department, Floating Candles, Hogwarts Gate, The Three Broom Sticks, Hogs Head, The Leaky Cauldron, The Cloak Tower, portraits wall, Potions Classroom, Dumbledore’s Office, Gryffindor Common Room, Gryffindor Boys Dormitory, Hagrids Hut, The Burrow, The Griffen Stairwell, Gringots Vault Door, Chambour of Secrets door, The Fat Lady, Hogwarts Stairwells, Room of Requirement. Umbridges Office, The Ministry of Magic, Ministry Statue and many more. It also contained props like the Philosophers Stone, all the horcuxes, the Marauders Map, The Triwizard Cup, The Goblet of Fire, The Golden Egg, The Goden Snitch, The Time Turner, The Deluminator, The Quibbler and many more.
Always wanted to try Quidditch? Well now you can. After seeing all the brooms, costumes, etc and props used throughout all the Quidditch games you get to put on a Quidditch Robe and have a go yourself. Put in front of a green screen on a broom you fly around London, Hogwarts and even get to put you hand in the Hogwarts lake like Harry did when riding Buckbeak. That’s not the only green screen magic you get to experience through, you also get a chance to get chased by the Hogwarts Express in the Ford Anglia.
Out into the Back lot you could have a small bite to eat or even try a Butter Beer. To everyone that wants to know what it tastes like, as I definitely did – it is sweet but bitter, creamy but fizzy, bit of ginger, bit of caramel: something truly magical. The Back lot gave you the opportunity to jump on the Night Bus, Hagrid’s Bike and get in the Weasley’s Ford Anglia. It also had the Riddle Grave Stone, Privet Drive 3 and 4, Hogwarts Bridge, giant chess pieces and The Potters Cottage in Godrics Hollow.
After the Back lot it was through to the K Stage. Seriously how could there be more? I had already seen so much!! But no I had only just begun. The first room contained all the creatures, mechanics and so much more. The room contained so many props which again had such incredible detail. You sore Luna’s Lion Hat, Mandrakes, Goblins Masks, Goblin Make Up, Goblin Wigs, Giant Masks, Giant War Paint, Death Eater Masks, Fawkes, Hagrids Chickens, Hagrids Pumpkins, Night Bus Talking Heads, Mermaids, GreyBack’s wig and makeup, Hogs Head Props, George’s Ear, Ghosts, Dementors, Thestrals, Siruis Black as a dog, Hedwig, Baby Voldemort, Hagrids Mechanical Head, Voldemorts Makeup, Dobby, Kreacher, Victor Krum Shark-Human, Dragons, Pixies, Balloon Aunt Marge and many more. The room also contained all of the wax figures of the either dead or petrified people: Dumbledore, Harry, Hermione, Cho Chang, Hagrid, Bathilda Bagshot, Fred, tortured Muggles Studies teacher, Draco Malfoy, Ginny Weasley, Katie Bell and dead Dobby. A smaller blue lit room was home to Buckbeack, Aragog, Hungarian Horntail and the skeleton of the Basilisk.
The first time Harry really steps into the magical world is when he walks down Diagon Alley. No? What? It can’t be? You get to walk down Diagon Alley?? Well yes you most definitely did! With the Harry Potter magical soundtrack bellowing over the street and my cloak flowing behind me I walked down the street, a dream come true! I walked past Gringots, Ollivanders, and that’s right – Weasleys Wizard Wheezes. As well as the many other shops all down the street – everything just glowed with magic and was just beautiful. You truly felt part of the Harry Potter world.
So overwhelmed after walking down the street of Diagon Alley, it was astonishing walk around the artist room. Within that room the wall was covered in hundreds of tiny illustration of the props and sets used throughout the film, every angle and lines used to represent these things were done with such precision. There was also a large collection of digitally made and paintings representing different times throughout Harry Potters life. They were jaw dropping – you could put them in the Louvre amongst all the famous artworks and they wouldn’t look left out. Before they construction crew made the sets, the arts would make a miniature version using literally only paper and match sticks – they had a whole room full of these little models. The models were so cute and even had things like chairs and fireplaces in them.
Now give me a drumroll please… drdrdrdrdrdrDRDRDRDRDRDRRDRRD!!!!!!!
Yes that’s right you walked straight to Hogwarts from the artist room – there stood the Hogwarts Castle. It has the scale of 1:24 and is the most stunning thing you will ever lay your eyes on (if you are a HP fan!!). The team of 86 built the castle in 2000 for the first film and since the same model has been used throughout the rest of the movies – sometime new things being added to it, like the clock tower. The only movie the Hogwarts Model did not appear in was Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows as they didn’t want to blow up this gorgeous castle – I mean why would you? The castle was handmade with such precision and contains little torches and lights, mini trees and boulders, little windows and even all little bricks. As you walk around the castle there are little interactive screens that give you all the information on how they made the Hogwarts Model and how they worked it into the film. Sitting there in front of the little boat house gazing up at the towers whilst wearing my cloak, I was so happy – I had finally come to Hogwarts!
“The stories we love best do live in us forever, so whether you come back by page or by the big screen, Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home.”
As if I wasn’t already emotional enough, the words J.K.Rowling spoke to the world at the Premier of Harry Potter and the Deathy Hallows Part 2 bought tears to my eyes. I can clearly talk about the incredible experience for years although I will have to keep it brief and finish off here. (I know what you’re thinking, “you call that brief? I thought I was going to have many more grey hairs by the time I was finished reading it”, but that really is only a small section of the wonders of this Studio) But to all those fans that stuck with Harry until the end, visit the Warner Bros. Harry Potter Studio Tour where Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home.
p.s – I forgot to warn you that this is actually the 8th Harry Potter book, this may just be my longest story yet.