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The Making of Harry Potter Studio Tour has sets appeal Part 3

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.

Note Isabelle hanging onto the door knocker!

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.

VERDICT

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!

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The Making of Harry Potter Studio Tour has sets appeal Part 2

In this second part of our visit to the Harry Potter Warner Bros Studio Tour, join us as we go behind the scenes of the magical movies and see how they were brought to life…

As the door opened we were let into a room where you see a montage of Harry Potter posters from across the world greet you to remind you that the world of Harry Potter practically took over our one, we are then treated to how the transition was made from books to film so this very much serves as our prologue.

It very much reminded me of seeing the likes of seeing Terminator 2 3D at Universal, the excitement just builds and builds and if you weren’t excited before then shame on you, but you now feel a step closer, to what we aren’t sure, but its progress.

The doors swoosh open to reveal a small cinema, we take our seats, the light darken and the screen comes to life showing us a highlights package the Harry Potter films, until we meet some familiar faces; Daniel, Emma and Rupert. It’s great to see them and for them to be part of the introduction of this experience, something which at the end of the day has also been such a  big part of their lives as well and in many ways where they grew up as people and not just as characters.

At the end of the short film the threesome disappear behind a familiar large door that takes them into the Great Hall. They bid us a fond farewell and exit through a giant door and then the cinema screen is majestically raised to reveal THAT actual giant door…for some it’s almost like the reveal of King Kong in the theatre and you can hear an audible gasp and certainly it was with the group we were with initially, these were grown adults, we aren’t talking kids here! They gasped; for this door is an entrance into Hogwarts, but it is more than that it is an entrance into the great hall…the first ‘this is what we are here for’ moment on the tour. To be honest they just keep coming after that, a bit like a child who has too many Christmas presents and just doesn’t know what to play with first.

And so we entered into the great hall of Hogwarts…

It’s perhaps the most iconic and widely recognised sets from all the Potter films and for many who have made this pilgrimage it is their filmic Mecca as in this very ‘room’ so much so significant, so memorable has happened through each of the books and subsequent films…this is where Harry history was quite literally made.

As a set it is impressive and all that is seemingly missing is a bank of floating candles (and a roof to the build, to complete it. Although still large, as with many actual sets it is smaller than perhaps you might imagine it, not that this takes away from any of the magic of being there, from seeing the fireplace, the never ending house tables and at the end clothed mannequins standing in the very spots where Dumbledore, Snape and Haggrid once ‘stood’.

Even though one part of you is telling you that it is only a set and not actually a great hallway all your other senses, especially underfoot as that is very much real flagstones you are stepping on, tell you that it is and that it is as real as say something like the Tower of London.

We found that there were plenty of photo opportunities here, even if some folk did try and hog(warts) the models for far too long, but we never felt rushed.

From here it was into Studio J, which was a feast for the eyes as pretty much every inch of this Studio was filled with sets and pieces from all of the films. To say it was vast just doesn’t cover it as the horizon just went on and on with its sets and costumes and sets, each one instantly recognisable.

And the great thing about this warehouse of wonder, one is reminded of the vastness of the warehouse from the very end of Raiders of the Lost Ark, this is your Potter playground to discover and uncover things at your leisure as you could spend as much time in that section as you wished. The only rule being that once you left to go to the next section you could never return, which was of course was for handling crowd numbers, but all the same sounded suitably like something Harry and Co would have to adhere to on one of their quests.

As you walk through into the Studio be sure to keep your eyes peeled as if youlook above you you’ll see a golden snitch suspended in mid-air.

Although there were lots of people in the Studio looking round at the menagerie of sets and delights it very rarely seemed that people were stood in your way or that you had to wait anytime to catch a closer glimpse of say the potion room, the Weasley house interior, Hagrid’s Hut, Dumbledore’s Office or one of the Dorm rooms, to name but a few.

The decadent chocolate feast from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire looked, well, good enough to eat but don’t get too excited though as it turns out most of it was painted resin. Mmm, resin, as Homer Simpson might say. The detail is amazing, complete with a pesky trail of sugar mice.

The Hogwarts Gates, from Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, look like something straight out of Hammer Horror, no doubt they would have looked right at home in Radcliffe’s first post-Potter outing, The Woman in Black. Rather than that though it was more a case of The Bloke in the Green Coat when I stood in front of them, I did have my glasses on as well so that must at least count for something!

In the Gryffindor dormitory, inexplicably there seemed to be a distinct lack of an Ordinary Boys single, as featured playing in Harry Potter and, surely the darkest point of all the Harry Potter films . You know, they were ‘famous’ for five minutes when lead singer Preston was in Big Brother.

The Leaky Cauldron, as well as home to the rather large and obvious item that gives the pub its name, in this drinking establishment there was also a great example of forced perspective, made smaller as it goes off into the distance to make it appear much longer than it actually was, an old Hollywood and stage trick that is still as effective today and shows that not everything has to be done in a computer.

One of my favourite pieces has to be the giant stone griffin, almost like a giant maltese falcon, whilst he portraits of Hogwarts saw over 350 hand-painted ‘masterpieces’ showing the wizards and witches of times gone by.

Set designers clearly had to Phink Pink (one for old Pink Panther cartoon fans there) when it came to the set design for Dolores Umbridge’s Ministry of Magic office from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1, it echoed many of those same features and – ahem – styles featured in her Defence Against the Dark Arts Office in Order of the Phoenix.

The Death Eaters and their masks were certainly one of the more sinisterly memorable features from the Potterverse, which no doubt  cropped up in a few nightmares post trip to the cinema, this one giving Iron Man a run for his money.

It was nice to be able to take the time to take in some of these glorious crafted moments, not just in some of the bigger recreated sets but also the smaller objects and the massive amount of care and detail that has been put into everything, even if it only appeared on screen in the background or was a fleeting appearance.

And so onto the next section of the Tour, a section that would see us get hands on with some of the props, a place where we would meet our greatest foes, say hello to some old friends most people decided to exit throught the door, I thought I’d take the more direct route…

The Making of Harry Potter Studio Tour has sets appeal Part 1

In three parts, unlike the eight  films, join us as we experience the Warner Bros Studio Tour London and The Making of Harry Potter…

Friday 13th, unlucky for some and you don’t get much unluckier than Harry Potter whose parents were killed when he was a baby, he then found himself living with the despicable Dursleys and even had his mentor die. The same can’t be said for Daniel Radcliffe of course, whose just been announced to be worth £48 million, lucky chap.

We were lucky though as well, not that lucky, but we did have tickets for the Harry Potter Warner Bros Studio Tour, only two weeks after its official opening.

The Tour is based at Leavesden Studios, Watford, just off junction 20 on the M25 and is the filmic home of the Harry Potter series, so although Florida may have the Wizarding World of Harry Potter this is the place where the magic actually happened, where people actually stood, where the bespeccled boy wizard became a man.

I guess you could call it a pilgrimage of sorts as for me, with tickets bought by my mum and dad for my birthday, it was akin to visiting Universal Studios in LA, and the place just came with a sense of history and following in the footsteps of a multitude of stars. As an added bonus it was also at these studios where Bond was resurrected in the guise of Pierce Brosnan in GoldenEye.

When you first arrive you really get the feeling that you could be in Hollywood as you are greeted by massive images from the Harry Potter films, which really helps set the scene and get you all excited, and that is even before you enter under the WB sign and the familiar Harry Potter insignia

Once inside the lobby giant images of the main characters from Potter look down upon you as you get your bearings, it’s an impressive room with all the hustle and bustle of the Ministry of Magic, with only a Starbucks interrupting the Potterness of it all, I don’t remember those appearing anywhere!

Toilets, initially it wasn’t clear where the baby changing was but we were told at the info desks that it was the far cubicle at the end of both the gents and ladies (bonus), although happy to report that there was no Moaning Myrtle awaiting Sarah and Isabelle

Being a little early, thanks to the lack of traffic and indeed incidents on the road etc, it gave us plenty of time to peruse the shop, which looked impressive to say the least and was home to pretty much everything you could think of, and then some, from the Potterverse. For me, it reminded me of why I missed the Warner Bros stores so much, although I did find it rather odd that there wasn’t one Potter book, audio book, DVD or Bluray in sight.

It was also a surprise to see a distinct lack of mugs, minus those in the shape of Hedwig; I at least expected them with the house crests on. The shop was very expensive (as you would expect you had to pay a little over the odds) but lots of it was high end stuff – such as prints in frames, marauders map in frame (a shame they didn’t do cheaper kid friendly versions as they would have flown off the shelves),  the usual clothes (robes, hats, scarves) and of course broomsticks (nearly £300) and more wands than you could shake a wand shaped stick at (for around £25), which all seemed to be made out of a plastic resin, same with the broomsticks, with the former coming in proper looking wand boxes.

There was a nice assortment of key rings and I did rather like the Prisoner of Azkaban photo frame and we did plumb for an £8.95 box of Bertie Botts every flavour beans, including ear wax, yum!

Of course, Isabelle took a liking to the assortment of cuddly toys and it was a close call between Crookshanks and the three-headed dog, Fluffy, both of which she clung to as long as she could in the store. In the end she went for the moggy, which has hardly left her side since.

Not that the prices put people off, basketsand arms were piled high, and it was no different than if you were visiting Disney or Universal Studios, so people were taking the opportunity whilst they could, especially with many of the items looking to be unique to the Studio Tour.

Queuing for the entrance 30 minutes before our allotted time, as clearly instructed, we slowly shuffled past the cupboard under the stairs where Harry would often find himself shut away during his time at Privet Drive. Finally we found ourselves at the front of the queue…we would be the first people in our group to enter into the world of Harry Potter…