Warner Bros. Studio Tour // The Harry Potter Studio Tour

November 30, 2012

Literally, no trip to London, or indeed the UK, can be complete for any Harry Potter fan that doesn’t make it along to the Warner Bros Harry Potter Studio Tour. Based in Leavesden, the studio is supposed to be the ultimate Harry Potter experience. I booked my ticket and counted down the days to my visit.

When the big day finally arrived (it was actually my birthday, but that seemed irrelevant knowing I was about to come face to face with Lord Voldemort)! I headed up to Watford Junction train station and then I knew I would be able to get a bus from there to Leavesden, but I didn’t know how I was going to differentiate the regular buses from the one that would take me to the studio. I wondered, hopefully, whether it would be a Knight Bus. And… it was. The day had made a promising start.

A group of people standing in front of a building
From the outside, the studio is oddly unremarkable. It looks like a huge warehouse; strange to imagine the magic that lies beyond the corrugated roof and white brick exterior. Picking up my ticket from the box office and dropping off my bag in the cloakroom, I was struck by the number of Deathly Hallows tattoos on the staff. Clearly these were some dedicated Potter fans. In fact, the hiring process for the tour involves rigorous testing of candidates’ Harry Potter knowledge, and many of the stewards in the tour have worked on the movies as extras or stagehands. The excitement begins before even entering the tour when you are greeted in the foyer by huge posters of all your favourite characters. Not only that but a flying Ford Anglia. If you are taking kids you are given a free stamp book which can be filled out using embossing machines throughout the tour. Even if you are just a child at heart you can for a stamp book anyway. Although officially they are meant for the kids, you’ll only feel left out if you don’t have one yourself.

A lit up city at night
What takes place upon immediately entering the tour is extremely exciting, but I can’t tell you what it is. I don’t want to ruin the surprise, sorry. I will, however, tell you about some of the things you get to see once you’re inside. The largest section of the tour features key sets and props from all seven movies. These include the Gryffindor common room and boys’ dormitory; Snape’s classroom; the offices of Dumbledore and Umbridge; the Ministry of Magic; and the list goes on. Highlights include the Black Family tapestry and the Death Eater masks – all beautifully and carefully crafted. Further into the tour and you get the chance to enjoy a butterbeer on Privet Drive, have your photo taken on Hagrid’s motorbike and visit Tom Riddle’s grave; a minute’s silence for Cedric Diggory may be appropriate here. 

One of the best parts of the tour is the Creature Shop, where you discover how the characters and monsters from the movies are designed and made. These include some really impressive animatronics, and models of Buckbeak the hippogriff, Aragog and a foetal Voldemort from the final movie. All this ties in beautifully with the incredibly detailed building and character plans which you see later, along with artists impressions on which many of the designs were based. 

A group of people performing on stage in front of a building

The main thing you take away from the tour is just how much care and effort was put into creating every aspect of Harry Potter’s world. No corners were cut, and you get a real sense that the filmmakers set out to make their sets and designs as real as possible so that the films would really come to life on screen. 

Not only is this the perfect day out for a Harry Potter fan, but it’s also such a fascinating insight into the making of a high budget, fantasy movie that anyone with an interest in film would get absolutely tonnes from the visit. Which means you can drag along friends or family who are less familiar with the movies and it’ll still be a great day out for everyone.

A few bits for planning your trip – book your tickets well in advance from the Harry Potter Tour website, and if you’re getting the bus from Watford Junction to Leavesden make sure you’ve got a couple of quid on you, as the bus ride is not included in your ticket price. If you want to stay in the area, you’ll be conveniently located between Watford and the rest of London if you aim for Shepherd’s Bush hotels. The main thing though is to have an incredible day and possibly keep a bit of pocket money aside for the cavernous gift shop too

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