21 June 2013

You're a Wizard, Harry (Studio Tour SPOILERS)

Similarly to my birthday present, i really struggled with what i wanted to do on my 21st birthday. I'm not your average clubbing-all-night-long-kinda-gal and i knew i wanted to do something special. I'd been looking at doing the Warner Bros. Studio Tour London - The Making of Harry Potter for a long time and had been originally looking to buy tickets for Father's Day last year but never got 'round to it, especially as they are a little pricey. So this seemed like the perfect opportunity to go as i was dying to do it and i knew that my parents were interested too. What better way to spend my birthday than doing something we all love?

The Warner Bros. Studio Tour London - The Making of Harry Potter claims to provide "an amazing new opportunity to explore the magic of the Harry Potter films." It's simply a one-of-a-kind walking tour crammed with Harry Potter memorabilia, and that's an understatement. "It showcases a huge array of beautiful sets, costumes and props. It also reveals some closely guarded secrets, including facts about the special effects and animatronics that make these films so hugely popular all over the world." (wbstudiotour.co.uk/en/tour/tour, 

We set off fairly early as we had a ten o'clock slot; when you book your tickets online you choose a time to enter the tour, just so the entry is staggered and there isn't too many people joining at one time. In theory this is a good idea, but on the day there was actually so many people that they were having a problem with people queueing too early for their slots, etc. So just be aware that at busy times you may be waiting a little extra time, but it worked out that we went in almost on time - thank goodness! When buying our tickets we'd opted for the audio tour too, so when you arrive you're directed to pick up your audio guide from guest relations inside. The audio guide is just basically an iphone in a plastic shell, for protection, so it's very easy to use and navigate. 

As we're discussing it, i may as well fill you in on the audio guide option now, as you can just buy tickets without this and just choose to wander around yourself. The guide is narrated by Tom Felton who, if you didn't know, plays Draco Malfoy in the Harry Potter films. As you're going from room to room along the tour you can choose each point and listen to Tom tell you a little about what you're looking at, stories about filming there and anything you might not have already known. When he's finished there's the option to watch some short film clips from perhaps the director, head of costume or another actor who can give you even greater detail about what's in front of you. There's also sometimes a gallery of images from filming too. It's often quite touching listening to Tom talk so fondly of their time at the studios, so in my opinion the extra cash on getting one is totally worth it.

The waiting area of the tour, nestled between the entrance, the cafe and the gift shop, is choca-block with things to excite you. You can't miss the giant Warner Bros logo mosaic-ed into the floor as you walk through the big, sliding doors. Once you're inside it's like Harry Potter brain overload. The perimeter of the room is full of pictures of the Harry Potter cast, past and present, including an adorable shot of Rupert Grint as a wee youngun from the first film. Towards the side of the room, roaring over the guest relations is the Ford Anglia that's driven by Ron and Harry after they miss the all important Hogwarts Express. It's the first taste of seeing a little bit of HP history. Once you're in the queue to enter the tour, it's like waiting for Christmas Day but getting a little closer to the entrance you're teased with one of the most memorable filming locations in all of the Harry Potter films... The cupboard under the stairs. There are no words. It's. AWESOME.

You begin your tour with a little introduction from the guys themselves; Emma Watson, Rupert Grint and, of course, Daniel Radcliffe. They tell you all about their time at the studios and what you can expect next, and at last they invite you into the great hall and the infamous doors appear from behind a screen. Magic. The Great Hall is one of the largest sets created for the films, however it certainly doesn't feel as big as it looks on screen. You can just picture the tables ladened with chocolates and desserts, full of kids chatting and eating and of course the Weasley family owl, Errol, flying straight into a bowl of crisps to deliver Ron's infamous Howler. Alongside the super long Great Hall tables are a selection of costumes worn by some of Hogwarts' most famous residence. Lining the side of the room are some of the uniforms worn by the likes of Neville Longbottom and Seamus Finnigan. At the head of the Hall are some of your favourite teachers; you can see Minerva MaGonagall, Rubeus Hagrid, Severus Snape and, of course, Albus Dumbledore. It's interesting to learn that actually Robbie Coltrane isn't actually a half giant...! 

After exiting the great hall you walk onto what seems like the props cupboard. Here, you can see everything from outfits worn for the Yule ball to chocolate props used for the great chocolate feast. You'll also get a sneak peek into the magical floating candles that cover the roof of the Great Hall.

After passing through the props box, you come across one of my favourite sections of the tour: the wigs and cosmetics department. It was amazing looking at all the hair up close and personal, and it was really interesting to learn that even some of the actors that have a full head of hair, or similar hair to their role, wear a wig too - like all of the main three! My absolute favourites were Bellatrix's wig and also Luna Lovegood's because, honestly, combine the curls of Bellatrix and the colour, and length, of Luna and you've got my dream locks. The attention to detail that's taken through the Harry Potter films is amazing, everything from Bellatrix's teeth to Harry's scar bring personality to the characters.

Moving on, you walk into the wardrobe department. Here you can spot Luna's sunshine yellow ball dress, the Beaubaton Academy uniform and multiple jeans and jacket combos for Harry's stunt scenes. It's so crazy to see these outfits up close, a lot of the cast are far smaller in size, and in weight, than they seem on the big screen. Maybe the camera really does add ten pounds?! Next to here is Professer Dolores Umbridge's infamous educational decrees running up the wall, all the way to the ceiling. You can almost picture Filch getting further up his rickety ladder, hammering another rule into the brickwork. And of course, you can't pass up the chance to get a glimpse of the real Leaky Cauldron! 

One of the coolest sets available to see on the tour is probably the boy's dormitory. There were so many memories made in this space, and it's such a personal set to the male cast. Up close, the beds are actually incredibly small, as they were built for the 11 year old boys that they were in the first film. Unfortunately, these beds couldn't grow with them so to imply that the beds were actually full size in the final films, the cast had to sleep curled up or scenes had to be filmed with them sitting up or on the side of the bed to make it seem like the beds were actually the perfect size. There is so much great memorabilia on this set: Ron's multicoloured knit throw, Harry & Ron's initialed suitcases and the boys' favourite Quidditch teams. Make sure you take a really good look around here, there are so many details to notice.

Along your journey, don't forget to check out every inch of the room so you don't miss any details. The Mirror of Erised is on show! Make sure you go and take a look into it, who knows what you'll see? Maybe it'll be interesting to see what your heart's most deepest, desperate desire is. I have to say that the inviability cloak really does show the wear and tear it's taken throughout the films, it's beginning to look a little tatty! The Fat Lady is also on show, perhaps try whispering one of the many passwords used throughout the years and maybe, just maybe, she'll allow you into the Gryffindor tower.

You get to experience something very special on this journey: You get to enter the Gryffindor Common Room even if that's not your sorted House. I, as a Hufflepuff, found it fascinating getting a sneak peek into their Common Room. It's really hard to believe that such iconic scenes and such loved actors played their parts right in the very set you see before you. Remember, nothing on this tour is a replica - if it's available to see it was used in the Harry Potter films. Also don't forget to check all the cabinets and glass boxes for smaller props, but not less in importance. The Triwizard Cup is on display for you to eyeball, along side the Golden dragon's egg which was the prize for the first Triwizard task.

Next up is Dumbledore's office and one of the most iconic props you'll remember from here is his giant golden eagle that, when spoken the right password, uncurls to reveal the entrance to his office. Perhaps try whispering Sherbert Lemon and see what happens?

Everything here has a warm atmosphere for me; in the books, and the films, Dumbledore's office was always construed as a safe haven for Harry. He learnt things here that probably saved his life and here he was treated more as an equal than a student. You can take a look into the Pensieve and decipher your inner most thoughts, noticing patterns and interesting facts you perhaps didn't even realise yourself. Displayed in a revolving, golden, glass cabinet are the memories Dumbledore treasured for all that time. Maybe you'll even find a spot of Liquid Luck to sneak home with you, i think we could all do with a bit of that sometimes. One of my favourite things displayed here is the original Sorting Hat. It looks just as wise and worn as it does in the films, and you can just imagine what it's thinking gazing down at all the people milling about in the office from his shelf on high. Everything here looks just like you expect it too, Dumbledore's robes are displayed here from both actors who have been lucky enough to portray this wonderful character.

As i said before, do not bypass the glass cabinets because although they house the smallest props of the tour, more often than not they are the most intriguing. I don't know about you but i spend most of my life wishing i had a Time Turner (I'm actually lucky enough to now own one thanks to the Studio Tour, so i really do get far more done now.) It looks so heavy and luxurious on display and you can really imagine Hermione spinning it around her neck in The Prisoner of Azkaban. Now, i don't know about you but i've always wanted to see a Golden Snitch and for me it definitely didn't disappoint. It looked just like i imagined it, heavy and shimmery something only the very best gets to touch. The wings look almost like feathers against the heavy golden body of the ball. It's beautiful, and i'd like one to display upon a shelf or throw around my room so i can chase it on my broom. There's little to say about the fact i spotted Skele-Grow amongst the mound of props in the middle of the room. The bottle is just brilliant, the detail is amazing and it brings up a LOT of gross memories about broken wrists. Ew. Now, don't get too close but the infamous Tom Riddle's Diary is also on display. Despite it being stabbed in the heart by a Basilisk tooth. One of a number of Horcruxes, for me this is probably the most significant. I feel this was the start of a very long battle.

There's another very large set on display at the studios and that would be the potions lab. Here, the space is jam packed with glass cylinders, bottles and tubes, as well as cauldrons, test tubes, tins, and even a pestle and mortar. The table tops are stained with various chemicals and goodness knows what, but i looks like a very fun science lesson if you ask me. If you stand there long enough, you may even witness a mysteriously stirred cauldron where the spoon moves all by itself. Now, that's magic. Take the time to read some of the labels on the jars lining the walls, and get an insight into what sort of ingredients are used in day to day concoctions.

Something i wasn't as interested in was the special effects, this kind of ruins it for me although i'm quite aware that nothing is real, i just like to keep some things unknown. However, on show is Hagrid's motorcycle that debuted in the first film and the snake lock door from the Chamber of Secrets. Talking of Hagrid, don't forget to take a peek into his little, or not so little, home. They actually had two sets for this house, a very large version to make Harry, Ron and Hermione like very small and a small one to make Robbie Coltrane actually seem like a half giant. This set was also airlifted all the way to Scotland for some filming too. Frankly, it looks like Hagrid could do with a course in cleaning.

Next? My favourite. If i had the opportunity to be apart of any other family, by choice i would choose to be a Weasley. Not only because of their amazing sense of warmth and community but also because of their beautiful home. One of my favourite scenes in all of the films is when they return to the Burrow from rescuing Harry from the Dursleys and the Burrow is a scene is one of calm and serenity. The dishes are being washed, the knitting is being done, the vegetables chopped and it's all magic. It's just so homely with it's mismatched crockery and checkered tablecloth. Here you can create the magic yourself simply by the touch of a button you can do any of the above activities as well as set the iron off. 

Be sure to sneak a peek into Dolores Umbridge's office; it's just as pink as you'd expect and you can take a gander at her wonderful kitty plates mounted on the walls. This set is left from when her office was raided for clues. Beside here are some of her infamous pink outfits. Did you know her getups got pinker and more outlandish as she gained more power? Neither did i, such attention to detail.

I think one of the coolest displays on the tour is the glass graphics case, it is absolutely full of film details. Pictured below are two of my personal favourites: The infamous howler Ron received from his mother after he and Harry took an adventure in the flying Ford Anglia after they missed the Hogwarts Express and dozens of the letters that we sent to Harry's address in Little Whinging admitting him to Hogwarts. I just love all that sort of thing; the fonts and the layouts, as well as the attention to detail. Moving outside you're faced with the giant purple vehicle that is the Knight Bus. It really is huge, and very purple. Over in the corner, where they seem a little overlooked are some of the chess pieces Harry used while playing Wizard's Chess in the Philosopher's Stone.

Also outside are some very special models; first being number four Privet Drive, the home of Harry Potter and his under-the-stairs home. You can go right up to it and touch the very door that Harry went in and out of for years. You can also stand outside of the place where Harry was born, The Potter's Cottage in Godric's Hollow. They're just very special places and it's amazing to be able to stand where you've watched all the way through your childhood.

Once going back inside you're lead into the cosmetic and prosthetic department. Here you'll be talked to by Warick Davis where he explains a little about what you're looking at. You'll see plenty of heads that you recognise, for example: Gringott's Goblins, Merpeople from the Triwizard Tournament and Mandrakes, the screaming plants. You'll also see plenty of models of the cast that were used for many different scenes in the movies. One of my favourites is Dobby the House Elf. What's not to love? He's just adorable and Dobby's death scene gets me every time. Damn you Bellatrix.

Following on we see many of the animals featured in the films with the main being Aragog, Hagrid's spider from the Forbidden Forest. My goodness that thing is huge and it's suspended from the ceiling making it look incredibly creepy. You can even see all the little hairs on it's legs, up close. Ew. My favourite was certainly Buckbeak, the Hippogriff. It really is a sight to be seen, now i know it's not real but it was beautiful, peaceful and so serene. It gently moves it's head and neck, and bows to you to show it's approval. Amazing.

Now for what most people have probably been waiting for, Diagon Alley. Make sure to pronounce it correctly so you don't make your way down into Knockturn Alley. It's far, far smaller than you would ever expect but it's just as amazing. Everything is there: Flourish and Blotts, Olivanders and Eeylops Owl Emporium. The windows are full of exciting products for sale, and as usual the attention to detail is outstanding. Of course, my favourite is probably Weasley's Wizard Wheezes. It's the most outlandish store on Diagon Alley and you really can't miss it with it's large advertisement for Puking Pastelles, a puking child!

After here you go through a section showing you some sketches for original designs and some small, intricate paper models used to design sets. But this is all totally overshadowed by the amazing finale to this tour.

Welcome to Hogwarts!

You're greeted with the original and only model used for Hogwarts during all the films. Whenever you see an outside shot of the castle, this is what you're looking at. For a model, it's absolutely huge but for Hogwarts itself, it's tiny. Going back to the audio tour, here is where i got emotional. Tom Felton gives a very heartfelt speech about their time filming and how much they grew up at these studios, and it's just amazing. This model is everything that stands for the Harry Potter films and to see it in real life is definitely something to tick off the bucket list. I won't say too much more because i want everyone to have their own experience with this finale but it's honestly worth everything.

We spent a good three or four hours on this tour and i loved every minute of it. It's expensive but honestly so worth it. if you love Harry Potter or are just interested in film sets and everything that goes along with that you'll love this.


1 comment:

  1. This is such an amazing post Kat! I want to go so so so so so badly, gonna have to save my pennies for a bit longer though :P I've been reading all of the books from the start since I finished Uni and I'm totally loving them again :D
    Love Holly x

    h-c-style.blogspot.co.uk // h-c-beauty.blogspot.co.uk


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