Warner Bros. Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter

July 14, 2014

The Harry Potter film series made Leavesden its home for more than ten years. As the books were still being released while the films were being made, the production crew saved many of the iconic sets, props and costumes that were created especially for the films. Now Warner Bros. have opened the doors on two large sound stages crammed packed with all things Harry Potter and anyone with a ticket can visit them.

Being a big fan of the Harry Potter books (yes I know I am a big kid) and even the movies, I have wanted to visit the Harry Potter Studio tour at Leavesden Studios for some time but could never fit it into my schedule on my trips down to London, one reason for this is that tours must be booked in advance (well in advance during busier times). This is done on the tours website www.wbstudiotour.co.uk where you select the time and day of the tour as well as what ticket package you would like. I chose the complete studio tour package which included the tour, a souvenir guidebook and an audio guide. This came to a total of £40.95 a saving of £4.95 compared to purchasing the items individually. If you are just after a standard tour ticket that is currently £31 for adults and £23.50 for children. I booked my tickets over a month in advance and they only had a few time slots available for the day I wanted (Sunday 13th July at 1pm).

Getting to the Studio is simple you can either drive and use their free car parking facilities or get the train, I chose the latter and it was a quick 20 minute journey from London Euston to Watford Junction. At Watford Junction you leave the station, turn left and at Bus Stop no. 4 there should be a Double Decker Bus with Harry Potter graphics all over it, this will take you directly to the studios for a reasonable fee (£1.50 single or £2 return). The journey takes about ten minutes.

Once you arrive at the Studios you are greeted by the two sound stages J and K (can you see what they did there JK!). After you leave the bus if you have an email confirmation you must go to the ticket window or automated ticket machines to the right had side of the main door to pick up your entry tickets. You then walk into the reception area. The Reception area contains large canvases of the principle actors above your head with the entry queue in front of you, café to the left and cloakroom, digital guide pick up and shop to the right (save the shop till last as not surprisingly that is where the tour ends).

As I mentioned I had the complete studio tour package which included a digital guide (standalone cost £4.95) so I picked up that from here along with the souvenir guidebook. I joined the queue at 12.30 and after waiting for about 15 minutes where at one point you pass past the cupboard under the stairs I entered the tour. The first room was just a holding area that contained a number of foreign language posters on the wall and the guide introduces you to what you are about to experience. The next room is a small cinema where Daniel Ratcliff, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint talk about the studio before the curtains raise to be greeted by the entrance doors to Hogwarts.

These doors open and you enter the world of Harry Potter beginning with the Great Hall. The Great Hall was built for Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in 2000 and was used as a key set for the other films. It is surprising that the floor is made of real stone, usually on film sets it is a lot less substantial material. The Great Hall includes the costumes of students from each Hogwarts house plus two large tables which are set for dinner; at the top of the room is the teachers’ table where the Hogwarts Professors sat and statues featuring their costumes can be seen there. Iconic scenes such as the Yule Ball and the Battle of Hogwarts were filmed here. You are given about 15 minutes in here before you had to move on to make room for the group behind you.

The Interior sets area houses so many iconic pieces such as Dumbledore’s Office, Gryffindor Common Room, Hagrid’s Hut, the Potions Classroom, Mrs. Umbridge’s Office and the very impressive Ministry of Magic fire places. The number of props and wardrobe items are also astounding with some major pieces such as the Goblet of Fire, Deluminator, Time-Turner, Golden Snitch, Philosophers Stone, the Horcruxes and all the major wands as well as many more items.

This is also the area where you can fly on a broom stick in their Quidditch Photo Experience (with the help of some green screen special effects wizardry) but I decided against doing that so not sure how much the resulting DVD’s or photographs are. Upon leaving this area you go outside to the Exterior Sets section and the first thing that greets you is a section of the Hogwarts Bridge (in fact this is the only section that was built, everything else was a special effect). There is also the three-tier knight bus, 4 Privet Drive, Riddle Family Grave, The Potter’s Cottage at Godric’s Hollow, the large chess pieces and a Hagrid motorbike and sidecar and the Ford Anglia you could have your pictures taken in.

There is also a refreshment stop here to get some food and a drink, it is a very limited menu but I had a hotdog and a Butterbeer. The Butterbeer tasted a bit like shortbread and butterscotch, I have had it before at the Wizzarding World of Harry Potter in Islands of Adventure, Florida and have to admit from memory it did taste slightly different. I went for the basic drink for £2.95 that came in a basic cup but you can upgrade to get it in a souvenir mug for £4.99 and £5.99. There were a number of chairs to sit down and eat but tables were lacking which made eating a little bit awkward.

Once I finished eating it was time to move on, I guess I should point out at this stage that this is a one way tour so you can’t double back on yourself and re-enter the previous areas so ensure you have seen everything before moving on. I then entered the Creature Shop, here masks are on shelves around the room, some instantly recognisable ones included the ones belonging to John Cleese and Warwick Davis, and in fact Warwick Davis appears on the large monitor to talk about what goes on in the Creature Shop. Here all the special effect dolls and items are housed; a very realistic unborn Voldermort could be activated by pressing a button causing him to move and slowly get up from his lying position.

Next is Diagon Alley with all its shops such as Ollivanders and the most recognisable Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes a two story building with an animatronics person moving their top hat, in the doorway is also someone who has eaten their Puking Pastels.

After Diagon Alley I walk into the Model Room here all the artwork and concepts can be found taking shape from just sketches to paper models to the grand finale a 1:24 scale model of Hogwarts Castle a truly spectacular site and you can circle it on the walkway first getting an aerial view to finally standing on ground level looking up at it. It is very very impressive.

The final room on the tour looks like the interior set from Ollivanders Wand Shop with 1000’s of wand boxes, every one of these boxes has a name on it. These names are of everybody involved with the production and I think it is a fitting way to end the tour to acknowledge everyone involved in the movies and not just the few well known names such as the actors and directors.

Once the tour ends it lets out into the gift shop, not surprisingly they are so many Harry Potter items I don’t know where to start, after looking around for about five minutes I decide to leave and get the bus back to Watford Junction Station for my train back home.

If you are a fan of the Harry Potter Movies or books or just movie production in general and can get to Leavesden Studios I would highly recommend it. It may be a high cost and if I was to do it again I would probably not go for the complete package as I did not find the audio guide very useful as I was too busy looking at everything and taking photos. But I do think for the price of the standard admission it is worth it, you could easily spend half a day here if you took your time, I felt I went around rather quickly and still spend three and a half hours there. My Full tour at the Warner Bros. Studio Tour – The Harry Potter Experience can be seen below:

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