Warner Bros. Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter is the ultimate monument to the biggest movie series of all time and a must for every Harry Potter fan. Set in the colossal studios where all eight of the Potter films were shot is an astonishing collection of props, costumes and sets that will amaze even the most apathetic of visitors. Opening in spring 2012, the tour took less than a year to attract a million visitors and the numbers are far from dwindling. Situated just outside of London, the nearest station to the tour is Watford Junction, a 20 minute train ride from London Euston. Prices are fixed throughout the year at £35 for adults and £27 for under 16 year olds, with packages available for families. Tickets must be booked in advance. An audio guide is available to hire, narrated by Draco Malfoy actor, Tom Felton. At the end of the tour is a vast gift shop offering a vast range of merchandise including a number of items exclusive to the tour.
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After this comes the Backlot where you pose with the Ford Anglia, Sirius’ bike, and the Knight Bus before enjoying a refreshing butterbeer from one of the food and drinks stalls available. The next few sections offer a more detailed explanation of the production process including Creature Effects, the Arts Department, and the Model Room, with Diagon Alley sandwiched in between. The piece de resistance is the breathtaking hand sculpted 1:24 scale construction of Hogwarts followed up the thousands of wand boxes, each labeled with a cast or crew member from the film series. It is at this point that you enter the gift shop.
The Studio Tour regularly hosts special events and activities to coincide with public and school holidays. See below for MuggleNet’s exclusive reviews of these features.
Behind the Seams
May 26, 2018–Dec 31, 2019
This experience offers the opportunity to uncover the secrets of the Harry Potter costume department. Tour experts guide visitors through the process that took the 25,000 items of clothing made for the films from sketches to finished outfits.
Behind the Seams takes place in a workshop environment, with visitors able to view costumes never before seen at the Tour up close. Each experience finishes with the exclusive chance to try on Hogwarts robes (in your own House colors) that actually appeared on-screen during the Harry Potter series.
This experience is ticketed. The cost of the ticket included the standard entrance to the Studio Tour, as well as the hour-long Behind the Seams session. Tickets were £65 for adults and £55 for children, though the Tour only recommended the experience to those age 12 or older.
After a popular initial run in May 2018, these sessions now take place every weekend and daily during UK school holidays. For more information on availability and to book tickets, visit the Studio Tour website.
Hogwarts in the Snow
Nov 16, 2019–Jan 26, 2020
Nov 17, 2018–Jan 27, 2019
Nov 18, 2017–Jan 28, 2018
Nov 19, 2016–Jan 29, 2017
Nov 13, 2015–Jan 31, 2016
Nov 14, 2014–Feb 2, 2015
Dec 15, 2013-Feb 2, 2014
The ever-popular Hogwarts in the Snow returns each festive season. The huge scale model of Hogwarts is dusted with “snow” and numerous sets are dressed for Christmas. On-theme costumes like Weasley jumpers and Luna’s dress for Slughorn’s party are put on display.
While every Hogwarts in the Snow has seen a Christmas feast on the Great Hall’s tables and trees lining the walls, since 2017, the stage in the Great Hall has also been decorated as it was for the Yule Ball.
Special effects fire (water vapor + lighting effects) “burn” in fireplaces in the Leaky Cauldron, Great Hall, and other places throughout the Tour. Plus, visitors are able to get their hands on different kinds of fake snow and learn what they’re all used for.
The 2015/16 feature was the first time the Studio Tour had special effects experts rig the Goblet of Fire to emerge from its original jeweled casket and “ignite” with color-changing flames, as seen in the Goblet of Fire.
Christmas Dinner in the Great Hall
Dec 10–12, 2018
Dec 11–13, 2017
Dec 7–8, 2016
Dec 3, 2015
Since 2015, the Studio Tour has been hosting enormously successful Christmas dinners every year.
As part of its Hogwarts in the Snow feature, sets throughout the Tour are decorated for the festive season with Christmas trees, fake snow and more. The first two courses of the meal are eaten by guests in the Great Hall, but dessert is served on platform nine and three-quarters.
As well as the main meal, drinks and canapés are served beforehand and butterbeer can be found at the Backlot Café.
All visitors can explore the Tour while they’re there before ending the night with dancing.
In earlier years, the ticket included the chance to pick a wand to take home.
The event is restricted to those age 18 and above.
Sep 27–Nov 10, 2019
Sep 28–Nov 10, 2018
Oct 1–Nov 12, 2017
Oct 16–Nov 1, 2016
Original opening: Oct 14, 2014
What began as a weeklong event celebrating Halloween each year, now is a feature spread across the whole of October and beyond.
Diagon Alley is plunged into shadows and Death Eaters patrol the Tour, prepared to duel with passing visitors.
In 2017, prop makers who worked on the films created over 100 pumpkins (in place of the CGI ones from the films) and they now “float” over a Halloween feast on the Studio Tour’s Great Hall set during every “Dark Arts” feature.
Death Eater costumes are put on display, while staff run demonstrations of how troll snot, unicorn blood, and Fluffy’s drool were made.
In 2018, on one of the weekends during the feature special evening viewings were held and christened a “Celebration of Costume.” Guests were encouraged to dress as their favourite Harry Potte characters and there were giveaways and exclusive photo opportunities – including sitting at a real Great Hall table laid for a Halloween feast. Visitors received a free digital download of their image to remember the evening.
Hogwarts After Dark
Oct 26–28, 2018
Oct 27–29, 2017
In 2017, following the success of its Christmas- and Valentine’s-themed dinners, the Studio Tour started hosting dinners when the Great Hall set is dressed for Halloween.
On arrival, guests are treated to smoking dry ice cocktails and canapés before dining under the pumpkins that “float” above the Great Hall tables. Guests then take a lantern and venture into the Forbidden Forest in search of dessert.
In 2018, original prop makers who worked on the series attended to explain how they recreated the film’s CGI floating pumpkins as physical props for the Studio Tour.
Throughout the evening, Death Eaters roam the attraction wearing original costumes from the films and Wand Choreographer Paul Harris is on hand to train visitors to engage these servants of the Dark Lord in duels.
The evening finishes with butterbeer in the Backlot Café and a walk through the gloomily lit Diagon Alley.
The event is restricted to those age 18 and above.
Valentine’s Dinner in the Great Hall
Feb 14–16, 2019
Feb 9–10, 2018
Feb 11–12, 2017
Feb 13–14, 2016
Each year, the Studio Tour hosts two or three dinners in the Great Hall for couples celebrating Valentine’s Day.
Guests are welcomed with canapés and drinks – including a “Love Potion” cocktail – before being served a three-course meal. A souvenir photo is taken of every couple and for the first couple of years, the diners found wands waiting for them at their tables.
Everyone is then free to explore the Tour, as well as having the chance to enjoy butterbeer at the Backlot Café and drinks on platform nine and three-quarters. At the close of the evening, tea, coffee, and petit fours are served by the Hogwarts Castle model.
The event is restricted to those age 18 and above.
Introducing the Art Department
Feb 9–25, 2019
Feb 9–19, 2018
A newer feature at the Studio Tour, “Introducing the Art Department” showcases the artistry that went into the Harry Potter films.
Demonstrations of a range of filmmaking techniques are held by some of the original members of the art department, including the team who created thousands of wands during the ten years of filming.
For the inaugural 2018 feature, exclusive videos were recorded with Potter production designer Stuart Craig introducing each area of the art department.
Breakfast at Hogwarts
Aug 20 and 27, 2017
Aug 21 and 28, 2016
Guests to this event got to go into the Studio Tour before it happened to general visitors one day to explore, drink butterbeer on the Backlot, and have breakfast at Hogwarts!
At the first event, drinks and breakfast canapés were served in front of the Hogwarts Castle model, but in 2017 they changed that to being in the Great Hall itself.
Visitors were encouraged to take photos with staff members dressed in Hogwarts robes and in 2016 a group photograph was taken and given to each of them along with a guidebook as a souvenir.
The Great Hall tables were even dressed for the occasion with wizarding breakfast foods like Pixie Puffs and Cheeri Owls.
In 2017, John Richardson (Potter special effects supervisor) attended and demonstrated how he and his colleagues made the door to the Chamber of Secrets. Costume designer Laurent Guinci, who worked on Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Golet of Fire, and Order of the Phoenix, was also there and helped guests step into Professor Slughorn’s armchair suit for a unique photo opportunity
Back to School
Sep 10–20, 2015
Sep 6–26, 2013
In honor of the back-to-school season, the Warner Bros. Studio Tour in London offered special filmmaking workshops! Visitors to the Studio Tour not only enjoyed seeing all of the amazing sets and props from Harry Potter in person, but they were also able to take part in a variety of set design and storyboard workshops. Different opportunities included making white card models, creating storyboards, and learning about the specific camera and post-production techniques used to create the magical world of Harry Potter!
Additionally, the Studio Tour celebrated back-to-school by dressing a section of the Great Hall just as it was during the OWL examinations, as seen in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix! Staff members of the Tour donned authentic robes used in filming, and visitors were able to try on replica robes for themselves.
In 2013, the Studio Tour also gave a select group of 11-year-olds a very special back-to-school gift: the first school assembly to be held in the Great Hall!
Feb 13–25, 2015
Feb 14–24, 2014
May 25–Jun 2, 2013
This event saw animal actors from the films visit the Studio Tour accompanied by Head Animal Trainer Julie Tottman, who helped “create the performances” of more than 250 live creatures throughout all eight Harry Potter films. Visitors had the chance to watch demonstrations and learn more about them and their trainers.
Featured were cats that played Crookshanks and Mrs. Norris, the toad that played Neville Longbottom’s pet Trevor, and an owl that played Hedwig.
There were also demonstrations from animals who, though not in the films, were trained like the animals who had been. For example, rats trained like “Scabbers” and a Neapolitan mastiff trained like those who played Fang.
In 2015, trainers held flight displays with owls on the Backlot and there was a chance to have your photo taken with an owl who’d played Hedwig outside Privet Drive.
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald Screenings (Nov 17, 18, and 19, 2018)
The opening weekend of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald brought with it the chance to attend one of five special screenings of the film at its production home – Leavesden Studios.
Those attending got the chance to see the whole Tour in the opening days of 2018’s Hogwarts in the Snow feature. They were also some of the first to view new displays of costumes and props from Crimes of Grindelwald.
Complimentary hot food and butterbeer were served at the Backlot Café, and there was time to grab a drink and snack just before settling down to watch the hotly anticipated Fantastic Beasts sequel at the end of the Tour.
Each screening was introduced by Pierre Bohanna, who has been the head prop maker on every wizarding world film.
Tickets cost £149.
Harry Potter Quiz Dinner in the Great Hall (Jul 5, 12, and 19, 2018)
The Studio Tour hosted three Harry Potter quiz nights right on the Great Hall set. Competitors were able to explore the full Tour and enjoy a meal (with butterbeer) at the Backlot Café before returning to the Great Hall for a quiz covering, among other things, magical artifacts, Defense Against the Dark Arts, Potions, and Care of Magical Creatures.
Teams competed against each other to win a collection of exclusive Warner Bros. Studio Tour London goodies. The teams were of between six and 12 people. People could book tickets as a team or be allocated to one on the night.
Tickets were £65 per person and were available to those age 16 and above.
Goblet of Fire (Mar 30–Sep 23, 2018)
For five months, the Studio Tour celebrated Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.
The Goblet of Fire prop, which Pierre Bohanna and the prop-making department carved from a single piece of wood, returned to the Great Hall for the first time since it was used in filming. Plus, there were live demonstrations showing the filmmaking magic behind how pieces of parchment were propelled from the Goblet.
Costumes from the film, including those of Barty Crouch, Jr. and the Weasley twins, were also on display.
Wizarding Wardrobes (Jul 21–Sep 27, 2017)
Thousands of costumes were created for the eight Harry Potter films, from Hermione’s gorgeous Yule Ball gown to the intricate masks of the Death Eaters. Costume designer Judianna Makovsky was even nominated for an Academy Award for her work on Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.
During the Wizarding Wardrobes feature, visitors were able to admire the incredible craftmanship that went into costumes never before seen at the Tour.
There was the chance to discover how clothes are transformed from brand new to centuries-old or battle-torn and to find out more about the journey a costume goes through, from initial design to finished article. They also saw an all-new demonstration of “Professor Slughorn’s armchair suit.”
Directing Dobby (Feb 4–Mar 31, 2017)
This feature gave visitors the opportunity to discover the behind-the-scenes secrets of everybody’s favorite house-elf.
They could find out more about the CGI magic and filmmaking wizardry used to bring Dobby to life – from a tennis ball on a stick to a detailed, full-size model – and got to try out a new, interactive experience where motion capture technology was demonstrated by Dobby copying their movements!
Fantastic Beasts Screenings (Nov 18–20, 2016)
The weekend of the film’s release, Warner Bros. Studio Tour London hosted special screenings of the next chapter in the wizarding world!
Screenings were held November 18–20, and special packages, priced at £145, were required for entry. The screening packages included:
- Studio Tour with specially created souvenir ticket
- Butterbeer served in a souvenir tankard
- Choice of hot food and a glass of wine, beer, or soft drink in the Backlot Café
- Complimentary souvenir green screen photograph
- Ticket to screening of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them in theaters
- A bag of candy or popcorn to enjoy in the theater
- Choice of wine, beer, hot drink, or soft drink in the Studio lobby to enjoy in the theater
- Souvenir guidebook
- Return shuttle to Watford Junction Station
It was definitely a special opportunity to watch the movie on location where it was filmed, with props and costumes from the film on display just a few feet away.
Fifteenth Anniversary Film Celebrations (Oct 15–Nov 4, 2016)
In a final celebration of 15 years since the cinematic release of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, the Studio Tour brought back fans’ favorite props and costumes as voted for on social media.
These included Hagrid’s deconstructed costume from this year’s half-giant Hagrid feature and an interactive special effects “UP” broomstick. The Great Hall set was dressed for Halloween and featured Professor Quirrell’s costume.
It was the last chance to see the original Sorting Hat and stool in the Great Hall as well as the interior set of number four, Privet Drive since this was re-opened especially for the 15th-anniversary celebrations.
Finding the Philosopher’s Stone (Jul 22–Sep 5, 2016)
In honor of the 15th anniversary of the first Harry Potter film, the Studio Tour celebrated the quest Harry, Ron, and Hermione undertake at the end of the film to protect the Stone.
Visitors could discover how the giant chess pieces were made to move and how Fluffy was brought to life. A moving display of Devil’s Snare was also exhibited for the first time.
September Screenings (Sep 19–29, 2015)
The Studio Tour announced that a series of screenings would be taking place in September 2015. The films were screened over a week, starting on September 19 with Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and ending on September 26 with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2.
Tickets included entry to the Tour itself, as well as a butterbeer, a hot snack, a soft drink, and popcorn – and of course entry to the film itself!
Sweets and Treats (Jul 20–Sep 6, 2015)
Exhibition looking at how the food seen in the films was made.
MuggleNet represented by Laura Louise Rafferty
You can read the report here.
CEO Speech at Hogwarts Express launch (Mar 17, 2015)
Official launch of the Hogwarts Express feature. Special guests included Warner Bros. CEO Kevin Tsujihara.
MuggleNet represented by Sophie Reid
You can read the report here.
Hogwarts Express (Mar 3, 2015)
Preview of the Hogwarts Express feature.
MuggleNet represented by Sophie Reid
You can read the report here.
Summer Screenings (Jul 7–Aug 26, 2014)
In summer 2014, there were special screenings of all eight Potter films. The film screenings took place each Monday and Tuesday beginning on July 7 and ran for eight weeks through August 26. From the press release:
[V]isitors to these exclusive screenings [began] by exploring the Studio Tour (which include[d] a chance to taste butterbeer) before grabbing a hot snack, popcorn and a drink and then settling down in the Studio Tour’s cinema to watch their chosen film.
The dates for each film screening were as follows:
July 7 & 8: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
July 14 & 15: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
July 21 & 22: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
July 28 & 29: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
August 4 & 5: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
August 11 & 12: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
August 18 & 19: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1
August 25 & 26: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2
A week before the Summer Screenings began, the Studio Tour held a VIP screening of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. The event was attended by Potter alumnus Warwick Davis, along with other celebrities, including Idris Elba, James Buckley, Jonathan Ross, Jill Halfpenny, and Jamelia.
Guests were also treated to a VIP tour of the studios, during which actor Idris Elba confessed that if he could play any Potter character, he would choose Hagrid.
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Second Anniversary (Mar 28–30, 2014)
To kick off its second year, from March 28 to March 30, 2014, the Warner Bros. Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter featured special guests Miraphora Mina and Eduardo Lima!
Ahead of the weekend, Warner Bros. described the event thus:
To celebrate our second anniversary, graphic designers Miraphora Mina and Eduardo Lima will be on hand at the Studio Tour to demonstrate the creative processes they used to develop the graphic style of the Harry Potter film series. You’ll be able to take a closer look at some of the iconic graphics they created, including issues of the Daily Prophet, the Marauder’s Map, fanciful Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes products and wickedly enchanting books.
Ghostly Goings-On (Oct 19–Nov 3, 2013)
A two-week feature timed to coincide with Halloween. Among other spooky additions, costumes of the ghosts in the series were displayed in the Great Hall and staff showed visitors how to make troll bogies, three-headed dog saliva, and shimmering unicorn blood.
MuggleNet represented by Rosie Morris
You can read the report here.
Summer Spells (Jul 26–Sep 2, 2013)
In summer 2013, Warner Bros. Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter invited visitors to delve into the world of spellcasting, potions, and wizard duels as it hosted its first Summer Spells feature. Visitors discovered first-hand how spells such as the Levitation Charm came to life on screen and how the wand movements that accompanied them were developed.
Knowledgeable staff members were on hand to teach wand battle choreography, aided by an interactive experience created by choreography expert Paul Harris. Paul composed the battle scene between Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) and Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and is the world’s only wand combat choreographer.
Those exploring Diagon Alley were able to take part in a special effects demonstration created by BAFTA-winning special effects supervisor John Richardson. By pointing a wand, visitors were able to cast a spell that made the sign above Potage’s Cauldron Shop bang and flash as if by magic.
In scenes where a character conjured his or her Patronus – a protective charm that usually takes the form of an animal and shields the wizard against Dementors – actors such as Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter, whose Patronus was a stag) and Emma Watson (Hermione Granger, who casts an otter Patronus) had to use their imagination; Patronuses were created post-filming using CGI. The cast was, however, aided by an Irish wolfhound dressed in a specially made costume, which helped them visualize the glowing effect of a Patronus. This was on display at the Studio Tour for the first time throughout the Summer Spells feature.
- In the first and second films, the wands looked quite plain. This was drastically changed in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, when the wands were given distinctive shapes and carvings, reflecting the owners’ personalities. For example, the wand of Professor Slughorn (Jim Broadbent) is inlaid with silver slug trails and has a slug-shaped handle.
- Some of the cast of the Harry Potter film series had their own ideas about how their characters’ wands should look. Actor Ralph Fiennes said he wanted Voldemort’s wand to look like an evil finger pointing off into the distance; this influence can be seen in the wand he used on screen, which appears to be made of bone.
- Over the course of the films the prop team created thousands of wands. Rumor has it they never lost a single one – though Daniel Radcliffe wore out over 60 wands during the making of the film series.
- Hundreds of potion jars line the walls of the Potions classroom, which can be seen at the Studio Tour. Among the ingredients kept in them are plastic animals from a zoo gift shop, baked animal bones from a local butcher shop, and dried leaves and herbs.
On joining the line to get into the tour, we were all handed special Bludgers and Broomsticks badges to wear. As we went through the tour, there were some smaller nods towards the theme, and other more noticeable ones. For example, in the Great Hall, hanging above one of the tables was one of the brooms that Fred and George make their great escape on in Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix. Further on, the Gryffindor Common Room was decked out for a post quidditch match celebration party, complete with butterbeer and banners.
In the green screen area, quidditch balls zoomed overhead on wires, while the green screen technology was on display, along with a selection of brooms. There were plenty of quidditch outfits on display as well. I couldn’t remember if they had all been there previously or not, but they were all great to look at. The rattling crate of balls as seen in the first film was also present, and the rather alarming clunking sound that it made when operated by a member of staff could be heard by all in the sound studio! It was great to see this in action, as well as Madame Hooch’s outfit, the bottle of Skele-Grow from the second film, and several of Harry’s outfits too. As always, there was the chance to ride a broom in front of green screen and see how the technology worked for yourself.
Just round the corner from this however, was my favorite addition to the tour for this feature: Broomstick Making. Although you couldn’t make one yourself, a workshop was set up, and the two staff members working there with the brooms had worked on the Potter films for ten years. As well as displaying brooms they had already made, they were also in the process of making new ones for the purpose of showing people how it was done. Listening to them talk about the process was fascinating and I could have stayed there all day. The staff member informed us that the handles of the brooms were all made from different woods, sourced from orchards, and it was a challenge to find the right shape. For brooms such as the Nimbus 2000 a very specific shape of stick had to be found. The wood for “school brooms” didn’t matter so much, and there was one on display that was made out a piece of apple tree! The tail sticks however they had to source from Italy. The amount of careful work that went into making just the broomsticks alone reiterated to me how much craftsmanship and dedication went into making all the props on the Potter films.
The staff member also said that before Potter anything that was made for a film was discarded straight after filming had finished. Potter had changed that, as people had realized that these objects had a life.
There was also the opportunity here to pick up the very Nimbus 2000 that Daniel Radcliffe carried in the third film. This was called a hero prop (too heavy for a stunt person to use, and only shown in close up scenes). It was surprisingly heavy to hold! This was due to the twigs and metal that make up the bottom of the broom.
Before moving outside, there was one more addition for this feature – a board game, called Snitch Snatcher! MinaLima created the game for Prisoner of Azkaban, but unfortunately it got cut. It was great to see though.
Outside, there was one of the chess pieces set up on a chess board to have a picture taken with, as well as find out just how the chess pieces worked. Back inside again, on Diagon Alley, three quidditch players, dressed in Gryffindor robes, stood outside Quality Quidditch Supplies, posing for pictures complete with a snitch and bludger.
Following this, was a section devoted to concept art. Several pieces of concept art relating to quidditch where displayed here, and the knowledgeable staff member explained how the different props were visualized by different artists. The staff member also showed us a stunt version of the bludger bat – which is made of rubber so that no one gets hurt!
As always, the staff and everyone at the Studio Tour were very friendly and helpful, and it was a great day out. If you’re heading there this summer for the Bludgers and Broomsticks feature, then enjoy yourself! If you haven’t got your tickets yet, then make sure you get them soon before you miss out. Thanks again to the Warner Bros. Studio Tour for having us.[new_royalslider id="228"]
Report and images by MuggleNet Staff Member, Sophie Reid
This Wand Week was a special one indeed. The focus seemed to be on how wands were designed. The Studio Tour ran a contest for fans to design their own wand. The winning wand would then be made a reality! The winning wand was a beautiful creation with leaves on the handle and a colorful phoenix feather wrapped around the entire wand.
As I watched one of the wand designers carve this creation, I started chatting with another one of the staff about how the design for each character’s wand was decided on. He told me that the film directors (starting with Alfonso Cuarón, who decided that each character should have a personalized wand) would meet with the design team and determine what kind of character they were dealing with; for example, the twins are fun-loving, Voldemort’s has a strong connection to death, etc. The design team would then come up with a drawing they thought fit that character.
This design was submitted to J.K. Rowling, who would approve of the wand or send it back for redesigning. This staff member (who was very helpful and insightful) also noted that the trio (Harry, Ron, and Hermione) were all given very organic looking wands to symbolize their purity. Harry’s looks as if it has just been carved from a tree; in fact, it looks like it is growing from the handle. Ron’s is similar, but is cut rougher, with more distinct divots. Hermione’s is the most put together, daintily carved with vines. Each of these wands obviously reflects its owner’s character!
As I watched the crafting of the winning wand, it was clear just how much time and effort went into creating the beautiful detail of every wand for the films. Once again, it shows the detail and care that went into the making of these films!
Always seeking to best themselves, the WB Studio’s latest feature is a real treat to behold. Established in time for the British Easter holidays, Feathers and Flight takes you behind the scenes on the series’ delights and once again, MuggleNet were given the opportunity to take a look around.
The Great Hall, the tour’s grand beginning, has been decked out with a cracking Hogwarts breakfast, laden with toast, jugs of orange juice and boxes of Cheeri Owls and ready for the morning owl post. Across the hall, hovering above a Ravenclaw costume, is one of the brooms ridden by the twins during their spectacular escape from the Umbridge regime in the Order of the Phoenix.
Further into Soundstage J is a small feature on Rita Skeeter and her Quick Quotes Quill. Perched on a notepad, the details of this animatronic device are explained in an fabulously dated video – judging by Matt Lewis and Tom Felton’s chosen hairstyles! However it does detail the three week building process for the device and demonstrate how it was controlled, which is quite similar to that behind a remote control car.
The rest of the sound stage is largely unchanged. However such is the magic of this exhibition, that you are never quite sure if certain items are genuinely new or you simply missed them last time. I, for one, am convinced that I have never seen the Inquisitorial Squad badge on Draco Malfoy’s costume before or the intriguing bird skull necklace on the Bellatrix mannequin.
Outside in the backlot, Feathers and Flight truly comes alive as you are introduced to some of the film’s animal actors. Once again, a handsome white owl is perched atop the Privet Drive sign, ready for selfies with Hedwig! Sandwiched in-between Privet Drive and the Potter’s Godric’s Hollow cottage, are a series of flying demos. Taking place every half an hour, they are worth any time spent waiting.
First up is a large eagle owl, one of the two used in the films. Sixteen years of age and 2kg in weight, the owl did its best to demonstrate its movie training. The trick, taking a letter in its beak and delivering to the trainer a few feet away, can take up to six months to teach and a week to forget. This dimwittedness is in stark comparison to the next featured performer, a raven. These lethal-looking birds can learn the same tricks as an owl in just a week. The raven present appeared to be closer in behavior to a dog, than any bird we had previously witnessed. It fetched sticks when thrown for it and even jumped a few inches in the air when commanded. To finish up the session up, a charming little tawny owl was brought out, dozing gracefully on it’s trainer’s arm.
Moving into sound stage K and Potter featherologist, Val Jones, and her team are on hand to demonstrate the feather making process. Using real goose feathers, each feather is dyed (yellow for Fawkes, grey for Buckbeak etc.) before the details are individually painted by handed. The feathers are then trimmed to the appropriate size and sewn onto a stretching fabric, giving the illusion of a living animal once placed on the animatronic substitute. Given this detailed approach, the creation of these models for the Harry Potter films was a lengthly process: the owls took around a month, three Buckbeaks took 8 weeks, whilst three Fawkes tool the best part of five months. Still, a spectacular site when complete. But all too soon it is time to leave, although not before stocking up on Peppermint Toads from the shop!
Feathers and Flight is a brilliant addition to the existing exhibition and will be appreciated by new and previous attendees alike. It is also a thrilling reminder of just how much care and attention went into making these films, instilling yet more enthusiasm for what is in store with the Fantastic Beasts films!
Feathers and Flight continues until April 27th, 2014 whilst Wand Week will run from May 23rd to June 2nd.[new_royalslider id=”217″]
Report by MuggleNet Staff Member, Claire Furner
It has been exactly a year since Warner Bros. welcomed its legions of fans over the threshold of the Warner Bros. Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter.
Since the star-studded Grand Opening last March, the tour has won over the hearts of fans and critics alike with its all-access insight into bringing this iconic story to life. Its only only fitting then that they should celebrate their birthday in style and MuggleNet was on hand to witness the many treats on offer.
The first treat of the day, were the 1st Year Anniversary badges being handed out to every visitor. Then one lucky person from each group was being offered limited edition prizes at the start of the tour whilst everyone else was promised more prizes and surprises as they made their way through the tour, speaking with the incredibly knowledgable interactors. However the taster that peaked our interest was the offer to visit Hagrid’s hut (invisibility cloak optional). As we arrived, we were treated with the very special appearance of the true Potter trio: Hedwig, Pigwidgeon, and Crookshanks.
We were also fortunate enough to have a quick with with the brilliant Julie Tottman, animal trainer on all eight of the Potter films, which is featured below.
After these exciting tidbits, we were once again allowed to enjoy the wonders of the tour at our leisure before diving head first into the gift shop. For any Quidditch players out there, it is worth noting that the tour has released a whole range of sports merchandise including Quaffles and Bludgers as well as House branded kits.
So One Year On and the WB Studio Tour is as fantastic as ever. After celebrating their millionth ticket sale at the end of the last year, you would be forgiven for thinking things may have slowed down. On the contrary however, neither of us in attendance today have seen the place quite so busy despite having five previous visits between us; further proof that the magic of Potter will live on for many years to come.
Report by MuggleNet Staff Member, Claire Furner
The WB Studio Tour is always a fantastic day out but during school holidays they pull out all the stops to make a child’s dreams come true. For fans, this means extra behind-the-scenes information and fun-filled interactivity that brings the magic alive alongside the regular superb tour. This week it’s Wand Week, with a variety of wand themed activities around the site. In the entrance you’ll find a host to the tour explaining that there are special adventures you will see this week only, helping to build the excitement before you go near the tour itself.
When I visited shortly before Christmas last year, the holiday decorations made the expansive buildings look festive and homely. The tour stayed closed for two extra days over the holiday, taking these decorations down and used the time to fix up the regular tour to cast ‘Scourgify’ and ‘Reparo’ on a few items and make it look perfect for the movie-loving visitors. This included taking a layer of dust from Hogwarts castle so the fantastic set looks like a beautiful and colorful castle in spring rather than hidden under a slight snow – much like the rest of the country. It is now looking lovely so well done to everyone who worked as hard as house-elves over the break.
Additional areas in this week’s tour include an extended work station beside the usual ‘wand wheel’ where a wand crafter from the films is on hand to explain how each of the three types of wand are made. You can watch as a wooden wand is carved, see the moulds used to create resin versions and see the rubber wands that are less likely to cause damage if someone attacks you with Expelliarmus! Each character had their own wand design, which were influenced by the actors themselves, so look out for your favorite and see if you can find links to their characters.
Further along you’ll find a brilliant interactive station where Paul Harris, the wand choreographer from the films, will teach you the five principal movements in any wizards duel. You can then test what you’ve learnt if you come across one of the super-scary Death Eaters that are stalking the grounds. If you don’t take part yourself, do take the time to watch as there’s nothing better than the smiles on children’s faces as they learn the stances and flicks for their own magical battles.
In Diagon Alley you can see Ollivander’s robes on display in the doorway of his shop and find out how the wands you’ve seen be created were used alongside the special effects within the films. From light-up tips to full bulbs that can light Harry, the Map and an entire corridor in Prisoner of Azkaban, the SFX team has set up magical effects that mean a lucky few can cast their own spell with a swish and a flick right there by Gringotts Bank.
If you get a chance to see the tour this week, I hope you have a magical experience as I did, and if not the standard tour is a must see for any Potter fan and should not be missed!
A very big thank you to Rowena, Emily and the rest of the fantastic Studio Tour team!
Report by MuggleNet Staff Member, Rosie Morris
Arriving at the WB Studio Tour this Christmas is like walking into a winter wonderland, with beautiful giant Christmas trees welcoming you as soon as you step through the door. The amazing tree in the entrance hall is so huge it can only have been put there by Hagrid (Though it was actually installed and decorated by dedicated staff in the small hours of the morning.)
We were lucky enough to be invited to the tour to see the new winter decorations on the day they were celebrating the one millionth guest to the site. The family of four, appropriately enough from the town of Dudley, were greeted by Mark Williams who had just been around the tour to celebrate his daughter’s birthday. He presented them with a Nimbus 2000 and a goody bag of merchandise, making their family day out that little bit more unexpectedly magical!
The tour itself has been tweaked and changed since we last visited close to the opening in April. The Christmas decorations will be there all season, so if you have a chance to visit before February do go and see all of the hard work that the staff have put in! There are other small changes that have been made on the basis of visitor comments, the queues for a Broomstick photo are now much shorter for instance and the bridge to Hogwarts is now open so that visitors can walk across. Even without these changes there is always so much detail that taking the tour for the second time was no less interesting and revealing than the first!
The main attraction today however were the glorious christmas fittings that have been added to four key sets on the tour. The set designers from the movies, Stephanie McMillan and Rosie Goodwin were involved in designing and overseeing the decorations, as well as John Richardson, the head of Special Effects.
On entering the Great Hall you are now greeted with a magnificent Christmas feast, with eight giant trees adorned with golden stars, moons and birds, and the occasional witch that you can see in the movies flying around the top of the tree. The fireplace holds a large wreath, surrounding the Hogwarts crest, and the tables are decked with the most delicious array of Christmas goods! In the movie some of these were real dishes, but for obvious reasons these have been replaced with resin platters which still look good enough to eat. Take a look at both tables for the full array of marvels, with the left covered in roasts and the right with desserts!
The gigantic christmas puddings were used in the films and contained gas canisters that allowed the puddings to flame non-stop throughout filming. My personal favorites were the Christmas cakes with adorable snowmen in school uniform sat on the top. Each section still holds the uniforms of a house, and the tables have been laid with house crackers to add to the appeal.
As you go through the tour you find the Gryffindor House has also been decorated for the season. We spoke to the wonderful staff who explained that the decorations in the house are designed to make it look like the students have decorated it themselves, with handmade paper garlands and tinsel everywhere! The tree beside the fireplace is covered in Red and Gold skulls, which seem like a strange choice for a holiday decoration but I really want some for my tree! The handmade cards scattered around the rooms are so detailed they even include messages such as ‘To Harry, Merry Christmas from Hagrid and Fang’ though you can’t see the insides from the barriers. A sneaky Gryffindor student has even put a bunch of mistletoe atop the archway to the dormitories, so be aware of where you’re saying goodnight as you head up to bed! These decorations are a mixture of those seen in the first and the fourth films and definitely look like a warm and welcoming christmas in he Gryffindor tower.
Further along and we find that the Burrow has also had a holiday makeover. The curtains are closed to block out the winter weather and the table is set to a point between the main course and dessert, perhaps Harry and the Weasley’s have stepped out for a game of Quidditch to work off the impressive meal. Ginny, an appropriately named staff member, told us more about the set, explaining that the half eaten turkey on the side table was originally an actual turkey that the cast were told to eat before a resin cast was taken of the remnants leaving an incredibly lifelike and hunger-inducing dish on show. The crackers have been pulled and the nuts cracked, but the cake has yet to be eaten so it feels like you could sit down at the table yourself and join in the Weasleys’ celebrations.
When walking around the building, make sure you do stop to ask the staff about the sets! The audio tour with Tom Felton is brilliant but asking the interactors adds a new dimension of detail to the already packed experience. There are so many anecdotes and tidbits they can supply about individual places and props, it helps to bring the sets to life with real personality.
The final addition to the tour is in Diagon Alley, where the SFX department has set out Harry’s footprints in the snow from Hogsmede in Prisoner of Azkaban. Hidden under the cloak, all we see are Harry’s footprints appearing as he walks and these are actually animatronic! Each footprint descends as you watch, one by one as if Harry were walking past!
Overall, the Christmas tour is even more magical than usual and well worth a visit! Thank you to WB and the staff members who made our day so brilliant and thank you to the dedicated staff members who stayed up through the night after closing to make the special holiday makeover possible! It’s brilliant to see Harry’s world at Christmas and I’m definitely ready for the holidays now!
Report by MuggleNet Staff Members, Claire Furner, and Rosie Morris
Will Dunn’s (James Sirius Potter) Report
So on Sunday I went back to Leavesden Studios (Now Warner Bros Studios Leavesden I guess…) with some of the other Potterkids (yes, that’s what we call each other) to see the WB Studio Tour. IT’S ACTUALLY REALLY GOOD. That probably sounds like a shameless plug or something, but it genuinely is!
Seeing the studios again after nearly two years was very, very odd; the place has completely changed, which for film crews and tour goers is great, it was definitely a little strange for me personally though, even though I only shot there for a week.
SO THE TOUR ITSELF. I don’t want to give away too many spoilers… hmm. Well, for starters, there’s a really cool looking café at the start. That’s not too spoiler-y right? I ended up waiting at said café for a while; Ryan (Hugo) Ellie (Lily, Harry’s mama, not daughter) and Ben (Young Sev!) had booked an earlier slot, and Helena (Rose) had gotten stuck somewhere in central London, thus I waited with a Sprite, people watching, as you do! So I now hold fond memories of that café, I recommend it etc etc.
We started the first part of the tour by opening the huge doors into the Great Hall, and then the hangar after that had a huge collection of various sets from the series, which are just amazing to see in person, the amount of detail, and obvious amount of effort that the set designers put into them, is just incredible. So props to them for that (did you see what I did there?!). There’s parts of the Ministry of Magic set too, that especially took me back to when I did Potter; we all did our first rehearsal on that set, with the trio and David Yates, and all the crew. I remember being blown away by the size of it, not to mention the fact I was even there. I guess that was a reminder of how lucky I was to be part of it!
There’s a part that involves brooms and green screens… I say no more.
And then, the tour continues onward, but OUTSIDE. Yes, you heard me. OUTSIDE. And what could possibly make this outside-ness better? Butterbeer! And Hagrid’s Bike! And the Knight Bus! Helena and I decided to hijack Hagrid’s Bike, I got a little concerned I wasn’t gonna get out of the sidecar after I got in, but I just about squeezed out.
So then, assuming you’ve finished your butterbeer (taking drink indoors is a nono), we proceed onwards again to, if I recall correctly, GOBLINS. And SPIDERS. My mum got especially scared by the spiders. YAY. I believe I saw Warwick Davis’ face in a mould somewhere too.
It was pretty crazy seeing all the different sections, and thinking of the sheer amount of people that worked on the films. I think the number that worked on DH was around 2000.
I’m trying not to make this too much of a walkthrough, I have a feeling I’m failing. Oh well. This pic speaks for itself! Yes, it was huge.
Then the wand boxes. To sum it up, pretty much everyone that played a part in the making of the films, no matter what they did to contribute, got a wand box, which are all in this section. I think this is a really cool touch, so often crew members get a place on the credits (or not even that) and that’s it, cheers, you’re done, bye! But here, the wand boxes give them the extra recognition that they definitely deserve. And let’s be honest, having a wand named after you is more than cool.
Seeing my own box was great too! Thankyouthankyouthankyou to Hannah who spotted Helena and I and showed them to us. And thanks for putting up with my requests for Jenny Harling and Jonny Greenwood, her knowledge of where they all are is pretty impressive… as is the enthusiasm of all the people that work there.
And then, that was it. Worth it? Oh yus. The interactivity is so good, and it was a nice little nostalgic Potter top up for me (I need one every now and again, don’t we all?). I think (and hope) I can speak for the other kiddies in saying that we all loved it; we met up afterwards for a meal and were raving about it.
Oh, I couldn’t resist doing this either.
Ellie Darcey-Alden’s (Young Lily Evans) Report
I think that my studio tour was absolutely amazing; it was a totally awesome adventure. My favorite part was either seeing the mini version of the Hogwarts Castle, riding on the broom sticks or standing in the Great Hall again, I can’t really decide which because they were all so fantastic! Standing in the Great Hall made me feel proud because I remembered being under the Sorting Hat, riding the broomstick was just so cool because I had never really done it before, and as for the miniature castle… well you have to see it to believe it, I think it should be the 8th Wonder of the world. Oh and I also loved finding the Wand Box with my name on in the Wand room, I can’t believe it really…
Everything was mind-blowing, from art sketches to mechanical beasts like Aragog. It was mesmerising to see ALL of the sets and props they used from the first film all the way to the last. All of the crew put so much effort into the making; they had to make sure that every minor detail was correct like every strand of hair on the Goblins to every one of Buckbeak’s feathers. It is totally incredible to think that all of this originated from the imagination of J.K. Rowling… Wow completely mind blowing!!!
I recommend a visit to everyone, I think they should go and experience this wicked adventure.
MuggleNet was on the on the Red Carpet for the amazing grand opening of the Warner Bros. Studio Tour.
In attendance at the event:
Rupert Grint – Ronald Weasley
Tom Felton – Draco Malfoy
Bonnie Wright – Ginny Weasley
Evanna Lynch – Luna Lovegood
Warwick Davis – Professor Flitwick/Griphook
David Thewlis – Remus Lupin
Helen McCrory – Narcissa Malfoy
George Harris – Kingsley Shacklebolt
Nick Moran – Scabior
Natalia Tena – Nymphadora Tonks
David Bradley – Argus Filch
David Heyman – Producer
David Baron – Producer
David Yates – Director (OOTP, HBP, DH pt 1, DH pt 2)
Alfonso Cuarón – Director (POA)
Mike Newell – Director (GOF)
MuggleNet Red Carpet Interviews:
A video interview collaboration with Hypable.com
Keith Hawk’s MuggleNet Review
Fan Report by Josée Leblanc
Around this time 10 years ago, I was “forced” to discover the Harry Potter books because I was teaching twin girls reading comprehension and that’s the series they were both reading. Over the last decade, I’ve discovered the online fandom, made countless Harry Potter related crafts (costumes, photo albums, a scrapbook, cards, Ravenclaw swimwear, etc.) and created a Yahoo! Group on the subject, been to four conventions (Convention Alley in 2004 and 2008, Lumos in 2006, and LeakyCon last summer), visited the Harry Potter: The Exhibition in Toronto and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando, Florida, bought Harry Potter books in languages I neither read nor speak, to name only a few. Yet nothing compares to the Warner Bros. Studio Tour London, which I was lucky enough to visit before it’s official opening on Friday, March 23. I’m sure I must have overdosed on Felix Felicis for this to happen to me.
Getting to the Studio Tour was very smooth and easy. We took the underground, then the train from platform 9 at Euston Station (I think they dropped the 3/4 so Muggles wouldn’t get suspicious) to Watford Junction. We then experienced our first wow moment when we saw the shuttle bus, painted with images of the Studio Tour, which you can see, poster-sized, throughout London these days. It was clear that it wasn’t Ernie behind the wheel, as the drive was smooth and very enjoyable.
The two buildings housing the WB Studio tour, named “Studio J” and “Studio K”, are positively huge when viewed from the outside. Seeing them, you will hardly be able to contain yourself and will want to rush inside to begin your journey. Once inside, you will get a bit of time to admire the entrance hall and its immense posters, as well as the very first props you will get to see (Harry and Ron’s trunks, the flying Ford Anglia and a few others). After a brief wait in the queue, you will be ushered in a room with screens. To be honest, I can’t talk much about what they showed us, because I hardly remember any of it. I was too excited for what was to come. Once we left that room, we were taken to a movie theatre with very comfortable seats, and watched a short film with the trio, where they mentioned that 17,000 wand boxes were created and hand labeled. My mind was blown for the first of what would be countless times that day.
When the movie finishes, you expect to be taken through the small door on your right to whatever is awaiting you next. Wrong! The screen actually lifts and *gasps* here they are, the Great Hall doors. Now if you think that you know what these will look like because you’ve watched the movies a million times, think again because you. are. wrong… and you’re about to be proved wrong a million times over. The sheer amount of details in these doors and in the Great Hall in general is incredible. In fact, I would almost compare it to the level of details I had witnessed the day before in Muggle London, on buildings like the House of Parliament and Westminster Abbey. The guide told us that when they filled the hourglasses counting the house points, it caused a shortage of beads in the UK, and I have no trouble believing it. The cylinders are a few inches in diameters and they are filled with seed beads; for those not familiar with them, they are about the size of a grain of rice… cut into four pieces.
Now, I really don’t want to spoil too much here, but here’s what you can expect to see in the first studio. First, there are dozens of the costumes (accessories like shoes, gloves and jewelry included) worn by the actors. Once again, you will be blown away by the amount of details you see on them, from delicate embroideries, to detailed beadwork, carefully frayed pants and rich fabrics. I think the detail that impressed me the most was found on one of Umbridge’s dresses: two little pink bows at the bottom of the dress are adorned with golden buttons.
So far, so good. Standing a few feet away, you think they look cute. Now take your camera and zoom in on them as much as you can. Doing that, you’ll notice a sort of shape, and you’ll think that they’re cats. Then once you’re back at home and zoom the picture using your computer, you’ll notice that they’re not cats, but tiny little golden skulls with diamonds for the eyes. Even costumes that are meant to look hideous on screen, like Ron’s Yule Ball outfit, look so beautiful when you see them in person that you can’t help but take a few moments admiring them in awe. A fair warning to all costumers and cosplayers out there: once you’ve seen the exhibit, the odds are you’ll want to redo your whole costume so it looks exactly like the one you’ve just seen. I know that’s how I felt after seeing the Beauxbâtons robes!
Then, there are the props, which I think I can accurately say there are thousands of! Golden snitches, letters from no one, howlers, U-No-Poo and other WWW merchandise, the time-turner, Mad-Eye Moody and Lupin’s trunk, wands, turkeys (yes, you read that right!), books, Cherri Owls boxes, broomsticks, and much, much more.
Also, there are the sets, which, once again, will leave you speechless. Once again, the amount of details in them is unbelievable. Surely you remember that in Snape’s dungeon/office, there is a sort of archway with words on it. We see it briefly and vaguely in the movies, since the lighting there is meant to be rather dark. Well that archway is actually made with copper leaf, which was hand applied. As for the potion ingredients jars, there are quite a few hundreds of them, and they each have a unique name, were hand labelled and their content is all different. It’s made from things like toy frogs that were ripped apart, then severely modified by the props crew to make them look unique. That much I was able to learn by speaking with the gentleman stationed in that area, whose name I unfortunately forgot. Be sure to use your legilimency powers on the staff. They are a wealth of information and you won’t even need veritaserum to get them talking.
By that point, I had taken 600 pictures, and I actually stopped the paparazzi work, not because I wanted to, but because my camera battery died as I was snapping pictures of Umbridge’s office. If only I could have blamed the short plump witch for killing a Muggle contraption like a digital camera, but nope! I was the one to blame on this one: I had forgotten to charge my battery the day before after visiting Muggle London. Please learn from my mistakes, and a) charge your camera, b) bring your battery charger and/or extra batteries, and c) if you’re not from Europe, bring a plug adaptor. I was lucky that Keith had his own camera and a fully charged battery. I could still have kicked myself for my mistake, but at least I didn’t go home picture less from part 2 and 3 of the Tour.
Part 2 of the tour takes place outside and you get to buy butterbeer if you wish to. Now I had butterbeer, both frozen and regular, at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando, and I took a sip from Keith’s in London, and my opinion is that they taste different, though the staff assured us the same recipe is being used for both location. Perhaps it’s because I only had a sip in London whereas I had full glasses in Orlando, but I thought the Orlando butterbeer tasted sweeter. Bottom line, visit both locations, taste it and see for yourself! When you get outside, you’ll see picnic tables where you can sit down and relax. We didn’t, and in hindsight, we should have. You still have quite a bit to visit from there, and you won’t want to rush the end of your journey because you’re uncomfortable, so take a seat, sip your butterbeer, admire the pictures you’ve already taken, and relax a little.
Once you’ve done that, take a moment to look at the large set pieces sitting outside: the Knight Bus, the bridge to Hogwarts, Number 4, Privet Drive, the Potter House (which they were still working on when we visited), the Ford Anglia, and some giant chess pieces. Be sure to take hop on the Knight Bus or Hagrid’s motorcycle and in the Ford Anglia to snap a few pictures.
It’s now time for the second and last studio, studio K. Though I’m much more into costumes, sets and props, I must say that this part of the tour impressed me just as much, if not more, as the first studio. There, you get to see the goblin masks and makeup, dragons, a breathtaking Fawkes model, the scale costumes, the Dobby doll Daniel Radcliffe carried to his grave (*blows nose and sniffs loudly*), as well as quite a few animatronics like a mandrake, the flayed baby Voldemort, and the much impressive Buckbeak. That’s where I met the most awesome little girl, dressed in velvet Gryffindor robes, bowing to the Hippogriff like a champion (she wasn’t the only one either). I unfortunately didn’t ask for her name, but she sure knew her canon back to front!
From the animatronics we walked up Diagon Alley (starting from Gringotts Wizarding Bank rather than the wall behind The Leaky Cauldron) and got to admire the many shop fronts of Ollivanders, Quality Quidditch Supplies, and Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes, to name only a few. Once again, the attention to details left us speechless. After the last shop, you enter a room filled with what can only be described as tons of blue prints, concept art and miniature models of everything from the Whomping Willow to the Burrow and the Quidditch World Cup stands. There, you can learn precisely how high the topmost turret on the Burrow is, admire concept art so beautiful you just want to steal it and hang it in your living room, and stare in awe at the miniatures which are so detailed it’s unbelievable. For example, if you look closely inside the miniature created for the Prefect’s bathroom, you’ll be able to spot the mermaid stained glass window. It was so small taking a picture of it proved to be difficult.
Once you’re out of that room, you round a corner and are faced with the pièce de résistance of the whole tour: the Hogwarts scale model. I’m sure you’ll recall the reaction the kids had in the Philosopher’s Stone/Sorcerer’s Stone movie when they first caught a glimpse of the castle from their little boats. Well, that’s exactly how you’ll react when seeing this miniature (which is still at least a story high) of everyone’s beloved School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. We thought we had seen attention to details in the rooms we had visited thus far, but it was nothing, absolutely nothing when compared to what was achieved with the castle. In all honesty, you need either binoculars or a very good camera zoom to fully experience what you are seeing; your eyes alone are probably not strong enough. The little lamp posts are so small they’d make the pen you have on your desk at home look enormous. The bridge is made of pieces of wood that are so tiny you’d think they’re toothpicks. They say that if only one person had worked on this project, it would have taken said person 74 years to complete it, and I have no trouble believing it. To be honest, I don’t think the English language (or any other, for that matter) includes words powerful enough to express what I got to admire in that room. The fact that the lighting would show Hogwarts throughout the day and night only added to the magnificence.
After that, you’d think the journey was over. What could the Studio tour possibly have left in store? The credits, of course, but with a little wizard twist. After the Hogwarts castle room, you enter a room filled with wand boxes, though they’re probably stacked in a more ordered fashion than at Ollivander’s. On many of those wand boxes, you notice a label. Oh! I know that name! Here’s Daniel Radcliffe! And J.K. Rowling! And Warwick Davis! But who on earth is David Smith? And Nicholas Henderson? And Victoria King? Ask Stephen, the employee stationed there, he’ll probably know, as the man’s knowledge of wandlore is second to Ollivander’s and of the Harry Potter cast and crew is probably unprecedented. In case you haven’t guessed it yet, the labels list the name of every single person who has ever worked on the Harry Potter films, whether they were actors, sound recorders, drivers or concept artists. There are 4,000 labels in that room, which puts everything you’ve seen during the tour into perspective. Yes, you can find the wand boxes for each and every single actor in the movies, but bottom line is, you’ll have to find them, because they are hidden among thousands of others who made the movies what they are. As talented as they are, the actors wouldn’t have been able to make Jo Rowling’s world come alive the way they did had it not been for all those people working in the shadows. Sure, Jason Isaacs can say Lucius’ lines just as well in boxers (ladies, you’re welcome for that visual!) than he can wearing his robes, but the effect would have been far from being the same had the costuming crew not been there to sew them. And Warwick Davis sure is a wonderful actor, but let’s face it, he really doesn’t look like a goblin without the makeup on. Seeing that room, you can’t help say a silent thank you to each and every single label/person for the hard work and dedication they have put into those films.
Then you enter the gift shop. So that’s it now, the tour is over, right? Insert a big buzzer sound here, because it’s not! Even there, there are props to see. The lanterns are the ones that can be found in Slughorn’s office, and the shelves are the ones that can be found in the library scenes, though we’ve been told they had to cut a portion of them so they would fit. The wall behind the cash register is also the one in front of which Gringotts goblins can be found working. The cashiers did were very happy to mention how cool they thought that they had the privilege to work in such a setting. The gift shop is obviously filled with treasures for all budgets, from cheap £2.95 Dark Mark lollipop to £39.95 sweaters and more expensive collectors’ pieces.
So the tour being over, what do I wish I had done differently? The most obvious would have been to charge my camera battery. Then I either would have left the heels at home or sat down way more often to give my poor feet a break. Last but not least, I wish I had taken more breaks but taken more time in each section, reading every sign, talking to every employee there, etc. I thought to myself “I’ll go back and do that later”, but in the end, I never did.
A few of my work colleagues asked me which I find better between the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, the Warner Bros. Studio Tour, and the Harry Potter: The Exhibition (which is currently touring in Australia). My answer is that they’re all different in their own unique way. The Exhibition allowed you to sit in Hagrid’s chair, throw quaffles through golden hoops, and visit sets that weren’t shown at the Studio Tour. However, the fact that you can’t take a single picture, unless they’ve changed the rules, without having a prefect following you around makes it a lot less enjoyable. As for the WWoHP, it has the added bonus of letting you visit the inside of shops like Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes, as well as eat inside The Three Broomsticks, not to mention the rides, which I enjoyed a lot. And you’ve just read my full report on the WB Studio Tour. So in short, if you can, visit them all. However, if you had to pick only one, I’d pick the Warner Bros. Studio Tour, if only for the sheer quantity of things you get to see.
I had a truly amazing time visiting the London Studios, and I’d like to thank the WB Studio Tour staff, as well as MuggleNet, especially Keith and Micah, for this wonderful and unique opportunity. And of course, thank you to J.K. Rowling for thinking about Harry and writing his adventures. At the end of the wand room, there was a quote by her that said: “The stories we love best do live in us forever. Whether you come back by page or by the big screen, Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home”. So my question to Jo is… When can I move in?
Hidden away in west Hertfordshire, magic is happening. Over 10 years of Harry Potter film history is being unearthed and put on display where, next spring, it’ll form one of the UK’s most extraordinary attractions. I’m talking about none other than Warner Bros. Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter at Leavesden Studios.
Imagine being able to step foot inside The Great Hall, to come face-to-face with a Basilisk, to step inside THE Ford Anglia used in the films – that is just a small taste of what’s on offer to fans everywhere. The truly unique tour will let you venture behind-the-scenes and witness first-hand the craftsmanship and magic that has gone into making one of the most successful film franchises of all-time.
A few weeks ago I was invited for a sneak peek behind-the-scenes of the Studio Tour to see how the development was coming along and to take a glance at some of the sets, creatures, special effects and props that will be featured in the tour. Despite the fact that there is plenty of work still to be done ahead of the launch, I was given a clear vision of what they hoped to achieve.
Everything is being done with great care and respect to ensure an authentic representation of the Harry Potter films. Whilst some of the sets are still erected in their original format, many of the structures and props have been kept in storage where they have faced damage and decay. Drafted to repair and painstakingly restore the items are the team originally involved in creating them. Production Designer Stuart Craig, Make-up Effects Artist Nick Dudman, Stephanie McMillan, a whole host of industry experts have returned to bring the world of Potter alive one final time.
The first thing to note is that this place is huge! Set in over 150,000 square feet, the tour will be housed in two studios (J and K – a coincidental homage to the wonderful author behind it all), as well as an exterior space for some of the outdoor sets and props. With great respect to the studios history, the old Rolls-Royce factory buildings will be preserved – it is this level of care and proficiency that is evident throughout the planning and development of the tour.
The attraction is estimated to take three hours and the studios are expecting around 5,000 visitors a day. The pre-booked tickets will be allocated to time slots with around 120 people per session. A free shuttle bus will be on hand to transport visitors from Watford Junction to the heart of the studios.
As fans arrive at the visitor’s entrance they will be immediately presented with props protruding from the ceiling. I’m talking about either a Hawthorne Dragon or a Basilisk suspended from the roof! To the left will be a cafe (no butterbeer, I’m afraid!) and to the right will be a gift shop that will sell some unique merchandise only available at the tour.
The experience starts with 8 digital screens playing footage from all of the films – building the hype and showing you the result of everything you are about to see henceforth. As the footage concludes you will be taken to a cinema where you will see some exclusive messages from the cast and crew reminiscing over their time on the set that many of them called home for the best part of a decade. From here, visitors will be taken to the most iconic and breathtaking of the sets that will feature in the tour, The Great Hall. Moved for the first time in 11 years, it has been meticulously rebuilt like a complex jigsaw so that you can witness the sheer scale and detail of the magnificent structure. Before entering the solid oak doors, you can marvel at the statues that surround The Entrance Hall, which are brought to life by McGonagall in The Battle of Hogwarts.
The Great Hall itself will be decked out prior to The Battle of Hogwarts and will be decorated with the house colors. What is evident here is the level of detail that goes into every single prop. The cutlery for the 1,000 extras was hand-dipped in gold, the tables were distressed before filming and then vandalized by extras (as encouraged by Stuart Craig), all of which added an extra level of authenticity. You will be able to walk on the same York Stone floor and take a seat at one of the house tables used in the films. For the first time you will be able to witness the faint markings of the house emblems on the walls, things that aren’t clearly visible when you watch the movies.
At the teachers table will be a showcase of the costumes of the Hogwarts staff including Dumbledore, McGonagall and Snape. There will also be the House Points vial, containing the very beads that left a national bead shortage when they were installed in 2000.
One of the films oldest sets, The Gryffindor Common Room will also appear in the tour and will be featured next to the Boys Dormitory. Visitors will only be able to walk partway into these sets – a decision that was rightly made to allow them to furnish the rooms full of props for you to admire. You will be able to see the original beds that were made for Harry, Ron, Seamus, Neville and Dean, which they quickly outgrew during filming. On one of many screens detailing information about the sets you will discover that filmmakers had to use camera angles to hide the fact that the teenagers could no longer fit in their beds. It is these insights that make the tour very personal and informative.
Some of the other sets that will be featured on the tour include Dumbledore’s Office (with the Griffin doorway, the Pensieve and Portraits), the Black Family Tapestry, parts of the Library, the Ministry of Magic (specifically the fireplaces, Umbridge’s Office and the infamous Magic is Might Statue), Hagrid’s Hut, the Potion’s Classroom, the Cupboard Under The Stairs (which you can go inside) and the Weasley Kitchen.
Outside there will be number 4 Privet Drive, the Riddle tomb, the Hogwarts Bridge and the chess pieces used in the Philosopher’s Stone. With some decisions still to be made there may be additional props added outside, with the chance of rotating the pieces throughout the year.
We were told on the tour that there are over 180 shipping containers worth of props and sets, which are available for use on the tour. We can expect to see several display cases scattered around containing some of these items. In addition to these props, will be those hanging from ceilings and walls, including Hagrid’s motorbike, the Gringotts cart from Deathly Hallows – Part 2 and Quidditch Brooms. Each will have green screens behind them with moving backgrounds to demonstrate the film technique.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the tour is discovering that elements in the films you expect to be done by CGI were not. A perfect example of this is the beautiful door to the Chamber of Secrets, complete with moving parts. You’ll be able to witness some of the special effects first-hand, as Lupin’s Trunk folds away before your eyes and Moody’s trunk unlocks to reveal an imprisoned Mad-Eye at the bottom (using carefully placed mirrors). In the Weasley Kitchen you’ll be able to use hand gestures to animate objects like saucepans and chopping knives and watch the magic unfurl before your very eyes.
Also present will be 3 of the 15 Ford Anglia’s that were used in the filming. One will be specially made to provide a photo opportunity with you inside of the car. It is worth mentioning that you will be able to take photographs throughout the tour.
Another huge part of the tour is the creatures and animatronics section. For those interested in filmmaking, you’ll get to see how prosthetics and models were used to create lifelike creatures. The sheer level of detail here took me back; we were told for instance that there were several versions of Fawkes the Phoenix, each one had the feathers individually painted and attached. When we were there, art designers were working on Aragog (which is huge!) and they were individually adding each hair to the leg one-by-one. This level of intricacy is something you don’t always appreciate until you see it up close and personal.
In the creature workshop visitors will be able to see the Basilisk, Buckbeak, the Hog’s Head plaque, the Hungarian Horntail, Goblins, an eerily dead Charity Burbage and the freakishly tall Aragog.
What I like most about the Studio Tour is the level of honesty and authenticity it bestows. Whilst breathtaking and overwhelming, the tour is in parts very raw – you will be able to see the scaffolding, plaster and tape that holds the sets together. This gutsy decision was made so that you, the fan, will get to experience things exactly as the cast and crew did when they shot the films. Everything has been done with thought behind it – with Michael Finney telling us that even the lighting and time of day was part of the complex decision making. The Warner Bros. Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter, is a celebration of the craftsmanship of filmmaking of Harry Potter and I highly recommend it!
Due to huge demand, tickets will only be available through pre-booking – they will not be sold on site. You can buy tickets online at www.wbstudiotour.co.uk, when they go on sale, on October 13th 2011 or from approved tour operators. Tickets will be priced at £28 for adults, £21 for children and £83 for a family of four.