The Making of Harry Potter (aka Warner Bros Studio Tour) is based in Hertfordshire, in the very studios where all eight of the movies were filmed and using all original sets, props and costumes. It’s a pretty darned good day out for us muggles at any time of the year.
The Christmas period is particularly spellbinding, when many of the sets are decked out in festive finery – ‘Hogwarts in the Snow’ is on now until end of January. After all, some of the best scenes in the film are when the young wizard and friends enjoy Christmas feasts in the Great Hall decked out with Christmas trees, flaming puddings, floating candles and tables groaning with food, before snuggling up on the sofas of Gryffindor Common Room in front of a blazing fire.
Master and Miss Gallivant, along with many of their generation, are big fans of this attraction. We have been a few times now and they never seem to tire of it. Even adults and those that are not diehard fans can still have a great time, as the experience provides a fascinating insight into the whole film making process – including a look at how many of the intricate special effects are created.
What’s on offer?
* Sets – As well as the Great Hall, these include Dumbledore’s office, the potions classroom, Harry’s dormitory and the Gryffindor Common Room
* Diagon Alley – its cobbled streets are lined with a jumble of shops selling robes, wands, spell books and cauldrons.
* The Backlot – this outdoor section of the tour includes the Knight Bus and the set of No 4 Privet Drive
* Hogwarts Express – Climb aboard and then pose with a luggage trolley disappearing into Platform 9¾.
* The Creature Effects workshop – learn how animatronics, prosthetics and make up were used to create realistic goblins, monsters and more. Particularly eerie are the lifesize wax models of Harry, Hermione and Dumbledore with their eyes closed. They are sooo realistic.
* Hogwarts Castle – this miniature 1:24 scale model of the school for wizards is what you see in all the exterior shots in the films – they use greenscreen technology to provide different backdrops (day/night/sun/rain etc). At Christmas it looks particularly magical, with its dusting of snow and twinkling lights. I defy anyone not to say ‘wow’ when they see it.
Plus, you’ll pick up fascinating information along the way about how the films were produced and directed – taking them from artwork and scale models up to the final cut.
My top tips
- Book early doors tickets. You are given an allotted time but, because you can walk through the studios at your own pace, queues tend to get longer as the day goes on. Reckon on spending at least three hours here – even we spend that long and we are an impatient lot!
- Don’t forget your camera as you can use it in most areas. There’s also wi-fi if you feel compelled to tell your friends about it instantly on social media. The only places you can’t use your camera are in the spots where they charge for pictures. There’s the option to have an image of you on a broomstick, for example (my kids decided I should do this one, of course) or behind the wheel of a flying Ford Anglia. Both use green screen technology and are a fun souvenir – although you’ll obviously pay dearly for the pleasure.
- Which brings me to the giftshop. If you want to come out unscathed you’re going to have to hurry them through quicker than they can say ‘Exspelliarmus’. It is expensive but there’s an amazing choice – anything from a Hufflepuff crested iPhone cover (not sure we saw any of those in the films!) to Lord Voldemort’s wand or a cuddly Fang the Boarhound. Miss Gallivant, on our last visit, set her heart of course on a recreation of the ballgown worn by Hermione Granger. The cost? Over £200 Needless to say, she didn’t get it, despite the pleas and promises that she’d give me her pocket money for ever more (hah – she doesn’t even get pocket money!). Instead she had to console herself with a packet of Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans. Vomit or earwax flavour anyone?
Tickets can only be bought in advance online and cost from £33 per adult (16+) and from £25.50 per child (5-15). Children aged 4 and under free. Family ticket (2 adults + 2 children or 1 adult + 3 children) from £101.
Warner Bros Studio Tour is in Leavesden, Hertfordshire. You can drive, take the train to Watford Junction and pick up a shuttle bus to the studios or there’s a special bus service from central London straight to the door. For more information visit www.wbstudiotour.co.uk