I’m a Harry Potter Fan. I hit up the Elephant House in Edinburgh, visited a few film locations, and I wandered down to see the madness at the final premier. I’ve read all the books, and seen all the movies. And a while ago, I went all the way to Watford Junction (miles and miles away, on the outskirts of London, with the overground down for maintenance) to see The Warner Brothers Studio Tour.
And it was AMAZING. Completely satisfied my inner HP nerd. It’s basically a tour of selected sets across two sound stages and an outside lot. You stand in line (right next to the room under the stairs) and are shown into a little cinema where they talk about the show, and then you’re pretty much let loose. You can wander around at your own pace, and take as many photos as you want. I took far far too many.
This is going to sound stupid, but I was surprised at how many details I recognised. It’s surprising how many details your brain takes in! I was also surprised at how small things were. The Great Hall was quite long, but wasn’t as wide as I thought it was. They built it for durability, so there are heavy flagstones from York embedded in the ground, and the tables are SO skinny. I’m not quite sure how they fit people on both sides, and all the fancy meals we saw on the movies. Magic maybe??
The details were phenomenal, all the way through. I seriously couldn’t believe it, objects that might have had only a few seconds screen time were SUPER detailed, and must have had a ridiculous amount of care, time and effort made in their making. Things like the little boar lid pourers that I don’t even remember from the movie. The Hogwarts Crest carved out of stone behind the fireplace – in all the movies they have a fire blazing so you never see the crest! But it’s there, and it’s awesome.
There was a bit of a ‘smaller than I thought’ theme, too. The Gryffindor boys dormitory is tiny. Apparently the beds were built for the tiny 10 year old versions of the actors, and so are quite short. As the actors grew bigger, the beds didn’t. So by the time they were all fully grown in the last movie, they designed all the shots to look like the beds had grown with the boys. The actors are all curled up to fit, and it looks quite natural. Most bizarre!
Another one is the hallway in the Leaky Cauldron is mostly an optical illusion. They wanted it to look like it was fifty feet long without having to build a fifty foot long hallway. So it gets smaller at one end, and it does look longer than it is! Was a bit of a throwback to some of the illusions they had in lotr!
They shared some of their magic, too. Like how they floated the candles (on little wires), how the invisible cloak worked (the inside is lined a super bright green) and all the models of how they designed things before rockin it in cg. Where possible, they used mechanical little robots, rather than cg. Scabbers was a robot, the baby fawkes was, so was buckbeak. There’s a massive Buckbeak that bows in the second lot, and there’s a story about how a few important people from Asia (excuse my ignorance, I don’t know quite where they were from, I missed that part of the story) knew that you were meant to bow to the Hippogriff, so they bowed. Buckbeak bows back, as is custom, and then the fancy people bowed in return. It became an endless cycle, and one of the aides had to ask them to stop the Hippogriff from bowing, because it was their custom to return a bow with a bow and it would be never ending otherwise!
But seriously, loved it. Loved the Weaselys living room, and the potitions class, and all the random props from the Room of Requirement! Loved loved loved Diagon Alley, and Dumbledore’s Office, with all it’s super details sleeping portraits. Loved the Fat Lady portrait, and letters, and the Knightbus. The giant chess pieces, and the outside of Number 4 Privet Drive. Loved all the robotic insights, the Ministry sections, Umbridges office with kitten plates and the massive, massive and amazingly details model they made of the castle + the castle grounds. So. Very. Amazing!
You know what I didn’t love? Butterbeer.
They have a stand in the outside lot where they sell Butterbeer. Turns out Butterbeer is super sweet, tastes a bit like creaming soda, but with melted ice cream. I tried it, and turns out that actually? It tastes pretty gross. There’s the weird sensation of when it rolls across your tongue for the first time, you’re not sure whether to swallow it or spit it out. It’s sweet, and sickly, and pretty disgusting. But, I recognise that your taste buds might be different to mine, so you should try it out for yourself.
I was much more amused by the chocolate frogs in the gift store. Even more so by Berties Every Flavour Beans, which look just like Jelly Belly’s. According to the sign though, it did include some random flavours (grass, pepper, earwax, earthworm, rotten egg, dirt, soap, vomit, sausage etc etc) Fun, right?
It took as a few hours for us to get round (mostly because I wanted to delight in each fun thing, and I did, and it was awesome), but I had a great time! If you’re a Harry Potter fan, and happen to be out this way, hit it up. You won’t be disappointed.
You can book tickets through the Warner Bros Studio site, which is recommended because they stagger the visitors, only a cinema full at a time to prevent over crowding. Adult tickets are £28.00 each. We got The Complete Studio Tour Package which included a Souvenir Guidebook + a Digital Guide (well worth it, it’s narrated by Tom Felton!) for £37.95. It’s relatively easy to catch the overground (if it’s running) to Watford Junction, and then there’s a bus to the studio just outside for £2 return. Turns out that chocolate frogs are expensive (£7.95) and so are Berties Beans (£8.95). A plastic cup of Butterbeer is £2.95.
Also, I stole some of the photos from Liz, pretty much all the ones with us two in it. Just a creditin’ where appropriate :) You can see Liz’s post about the trip here.