It’s the final part of our Warner Bros Harry Potter Studio Tour experience and there might not be a Potter gold at the end of this trilogy, but there is the gift shop and more behind the scenes magic to be enjoyed…
As we stepped out into the sunshine, we took a few moments to take in the views of full size versions of the Knight bus (which Isabelle was rather obsessed with and was hard to get her off the back of it), the Weasley’s car and Hagrid’s motorbike and side car, all of which you could get in and have your photos taken in or next to…so obviously we did and it of course would have been rude not to.
This was great as back in Studio J there was the opportunity to have photos of yourselves sat on a broomstick whizzing through London or sat in the Ford Anglia car veering out of the way of the Hogwarts Express for the princely sum of £12. We might have done it if the queue time wasn’t an hour and Isabelle wasn’t getting a bit niggly.
Isabelle clearly enjoyed driving the car, with me in the driving seat (most of the time) on Hagrid’s motorbike and side car, trying to evoke more of a feeling of Indiana Jones and Henry Jones Sr from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade than say Wallace and Gromit or (even worse) Olive and Arthur from On the Buses! Isabelle did get a little bit stuck/lost in her seat but was quite comfy all the same!
Before embarking on previous said images outside and indeed inside vehicles (calming gritting teeth to queue jumpers I might add – I nearly gave them a lashing of my parcel tongue but thought better of it save for the rather loud PG comment or two) we enjoyed a cup of Butterbeer between us, which at nearly £3 I’m glad we did share.
It was somewhat disappointing that it came in a plastic cup and not in a small tankard that you could keep for a couple of quid extra, I’m sure it isn’t served as such in Florida’s Wizarding World of Harry potter, the only other place in the world where Butterbeer is served. And the taste, not to be all Jilly Gooldon, but it was one part melted werthers original meets cream soda, something of an acquired taste and rather sweet, even for me, but no doubt everyone who passes through will give it the taste test.
In that same outdoor area you also found a couple of other structures, including the exterior of the Dursley’s Privet Drive, filmed in an actual street for the first film but recreated on set for all instalments after that, the crooked house and part of the great bridge that connects Hogwarts.
Round the edges of this area are some of the memorable chess pieces that formed the battle at the end of the first film that nearly saw poor old Ron meet his maker, it’s a shame they are hid in the shadows and not set up on an actual giant chess board or something.
It was then back inside to the Creature Workshop which showed you some of the models, animatronics and general FX magic that went into creating the menageries of creatures and beings that we encountered along with Harry. It was certainly odd coming face to face (or should that be head to head) with Nearly Headless Nick’s head, which I guess in many ways would actually make him Really Headless Nick!
His head could be found with shelves of others that could have easily looked macabre but for me was one of the highlights of the Tour, having seen such similar things from the makings of everything from Star Wars to Labyrinth and the Stan Winston Creature Workshop, it was great to see some of these creatures up close and personal.
It was also nice to see that even in this world of CGI there was still plenty of room for physical effects and creatures and that it wasn’t all just done inside of a computer and that the world still cried out for giant spiders and snake heads.
I don’t recall seeing the rather intriguing Shark Man (top right corner of the image on the right) before though, who reminded somewhat of that awful Craig T Nelson starring Peter Benchley miniseries, The Creature, about a half man, half shark. As bad as it sounds.
The sheer quality and detail of work on display soon cleared that thought from my mind, with some amazing work, especially the life-size figures of Harry and Dobby, which made it look as if they were in some sort of cryogenic stasis.
It was at this point that Isabelle went exploring on her own and I had to chase her up Dyagon Alley, there’s a phrase you don’t find yourself using every day! We returned with Sarah in tow to see the range of shops and all they had to offer, alas you can only walk past them and they aren’t actually selling goods but this recreation is gift enough.
Passing through the shops I thought that we’d find ourselves back in the Harry Potter shop but to my delight we came across a wonderful display of concept art for creatures and locations, followed by some really rather intricate model work in paper that has to be seen to be believed.
If nothing else, after this tour you can really appreciate why the credits for such films are so long as there are just so many (until now) unsung heroes who are working on each and every single aspect of the film creating plans and drawings for buildings as if they were for real, which after they had weaved their magic, very often were.
Hogwarts is where our tour began, in The Great Hall, and Hogwarts is where our Tour ended, with a model of the castle that the word model doesn’t even come close to doing it justice.
It was a giant of a model that was used in background and really was astounding in its sheer scale, detail and delight it raised in everyone who saw it. Each side as impressive as the next as you walked round it through the changing light of day into night and the end of our adventure at the Warner Bros Harry Potter Studio Tour.
Now, to be honest, it is something of an obvious statement, but, if you don’t like the behind the scenes film making process of films or don’t like Harry Potter (you can be a fan of either or, it helps if you are both, it really doesn’t help if you are neither) then this probably isn’t the place for you, certainly not at those ticket prices. But then, you wouldn’t pay upwards in price of what individual tickets cost to go and see a band if you didn’t like their output would you? I think it is the same here really.
Did we buy the guidebook, yes, did we go for the audio tour, no, because we thought we had spent enough, knew enough about Potter and also those on the audio tour kept t on getting in the ruddy way moving Walking Dead like from one ‘press the next button spot’ to another. I’m sure it was very good and informative but we felt we knew enough without needing to hear the Potter patter.
We paid £28 per adult ticket and Isabelle was under 4 so she was free (I see us going to see so much stuff before she is 4 I can tell you!). All in all, for us, we thought it was great value for money and a magical day out for Muggles everywhere.
We were there for over three hours, which would have been longer if we were on our own but was enough with Isabelle, and talking of which, after her long and exciting day she was soon fast asleep, all hufflepuffed out!