The Making of Harry Potter
Earlier this year Warner Brothers opened this major tourist attraction on stages J and K (J K Rowling?) at their film studios in Leavesden. As a gift for my recent 65th Birthday my partner Vivien treated me to a weekend away and it included this tour of the sets used for the Harry Potter films. Having thoroughly enjoyed the experience I consider it a must for every magician, so let’s see if I can whet your appetite for a visit.
First of all please remember you cannot just turn up and enter as all tickets are timed and must be booked in advance. This has been very sensibly worked out as there are a fixed number of people who can attend the beginning of each tour.
On admission there is a short welcome from the host telling a little about your visit and then you are escorted into a cinema with the most comfortable seats I have ever sat in. On the big screen there are a few clips of some of the most dramatic moments from the films and then the action freezes with a still, depicting the main front doors to Hogwarts College. The screen then lifts and the college is there for real. You are invited to come forward and the doors open and you are in the Great Hall complete with authentic York stone floor. The hall is set for dinner and many of the costumes are on show. Your guide explains a number of interesting facts and then you wander at your own pace through the studios on a fixed route.
On your way through you see the sets of Dumbledore’s office, Gryffindor dormitory, Gryffindor common room, Hagrid’s Hut, Potion’s classroom (with self- stirring cauldron) and a host of others that Harry Potter fans will be familiar with.
Near the ‘Magic is Might’ statue you will have the opportunity of having your photo taken wearing a gown and flying on a besom over Hogwart’s College (like I did! - photo) or past Tower Bridge. What a great souvenir.
On the outside lot you will see the purple triple decker bus – full size, the Hogwart’s bridge and another full size replica being that of 4 Privet Drive where it all started (Harry’s home).
Moving on you come to the special effects department before entering Diagon Alley where you walk passed the shop fronts of the likes of Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes and Eelops Owl Emporium.
The tour progresses with models of the sets you have just seen, then a very large-scale model of Hogwarts. This alone is truly breathtaking. A trip through the wand shop interior brings you eventually to the souvenir area to purchase something reminiscent of this wonderful day out. It is recommended to allow three hours for this tour but I would suggest a little longer if you want a flying photograph as, at peak hours, the queue here can take up to 45 minutes. There have been eight Harry Potter films produced over a ten year period; claimed to be “the most successful film series of all time.” I think they’re probably right!
© Geoffrey Newton, August 2012
Photos reproduced courtesy of Warner Brothers