Warner Brothers Studio Tour
The Making Of Harry Potter
Pre-Opening Press Event Tour
By: Keith Hawk
On Friday March 23rd, MuggleNet was invited to attend a special Press Event at the Warner Brothers Studio Tour: The Making of Harry Potter in Watsford, England. In this article, I will provide the reader with everything they need to know from getting to the Studio Tour to what you will want to look for while exploring.
Getting to the WB Studio Tour is extremely easy. As Warner Brothers believes there will be up to 6,000 guests per day attending the event, the easiest way to guide you is by starting at Heathrow Airport to the west of London. As the main mode of transportation for tourists around London is via the Underground Tube system, we begin the journey from the Terminals.
First, get on the Piccadilly Line and take the tube from the airport to Green Park station. Get off and follow the signs to the Victoria Line Northbound and take it to London Euston Station. Get off the Underground and follow the signs to the Overground in order to take the train from London Euston to Watford Junction. When you arrive at Watford Junction, head to the Bus Terminals at the station and get on the WB Studio Tour Bus. You will easily know which bus is yours as it’s black with the WB Studio Tour images all over the bus. There will be three buses in total operating throughout the day and the trip to the studios is around 10 minutes. The cost of the bus is just 2 GBP and under 5’s are free.
You could also take a taxi to the Studio Tour from Watford Junction for approximately 10 GBP but I would recommend the bus to enjoy those first moments with other attendees.
The WB Studio Tour takes place in two completely new modern buildings on the property, so you will not be seeing the actual location where the films were created. However, approaching the property, knowing that these brilliant films were all made within a few hundred feet of where you are, presents a magic all to its own. Plain and simple, the initial sight of the Studios is mesmerizing, and you simply cannot wait to begin snapping pictures as you pull in.
Once you are off the bus and finished staring at the exterior in awe, you enter an equally impressive entrance hall where you will be picking up your ordered tickets. The entrance hall has gigantic individual images of most of our favorite characters, twenty-three in all.
A bag and coat check is available as well as eating and restroom facilities in this section as you wait for your individual tour time to commence.
The tour starts and your group is ushered into a large room with 8 screens that have displays of movie posters from a variety of different countries.
A tour guide introduces himself or herself and a small movie is played featuring the background of how Harry Potter
was discovered by Heyday films leader and film producer, David Heyman. From this room, the excitement swells as you are ushered into a movie theater for a short film featuring Dan, Rupert, and Emma about the sets they have worked on for the past 10 years and are sure you will be impressed with the craftsmanship in all of the little details along the way.
When the short film is complete, the screen is lifted and there it is, the entry doors to the Great Hall, just as if you were ready to be sorted like a first year. The tour guide gives you plenty of time to explain the tour overall, and touches on some of the key features that you may have missed watching the movies. For instance, on top of the Hogwarts fireplace is the Hogwarts crest, but did you know that the crest is also located within the fireplace as well?
What about all of the individual flambeaux’s surrounding the Great Hall sculpted into one of the four Hogwarts mascots? Did you know that each of the Hogwarts Cup Point Counters has Ancient Runes written on the metal counter? You can find so many little treasures inside just this first room, that you will be primed and ready to continue with the full tour. But be sure to take your time throughout each of the sets, you are given plenty of time to explore all you want; however, you cannot move backwards through the tour.
Also, and this is very important, talk to the staff that is stationed throughout the tour. They are all huge Harry Potter fans and very knowledgeable on all of the displays in their particular area. You may also get quite a surprise when you talk to them, as a few of the staff members have appeared in the films as extras. One of them, Katie Rosedale, appeared in four of the films as a Slytherin extra, and she was extremely proud to be part of the Harry Potter family, not only from the films, but also as she guides the tourists around the Dumbledore’s Office set.
The first studio contains most of the iconic sets from the films in their full glory and the number of pictures you wind up taking quickly escalate to several hundred. Be sure to bring plenty of camera batteries and disc space for all of the pictures you take. Just as you finish examining Dolores Umbridge’s Office, you feel like the tour may well be over, but no, it’s not even close to being finished.
As you leave that first studio, you spot the Knight Bus sitting outside in all of its purple majesty as well as quite a few other large set pieces: Number 4 Privet Drive, The Potter House, the bridge to Hogwarts, the Ford Anglia and a few more. While enjoying these outdoor sets, you have the chance to try the Butterbeer. They use the exact same formula as found in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida, so you will find the Butterbeer just as incredibly sweet as ever.
When you are ready, you enter the second building and final portion of the Studio Tour. This portion was just as exciting as it contains the behind-the-scenes work including the entire creature and art department inside information. The concept drawings, the animatronics from all of the creatures, the architectural drawings and the miniature models from all of the sets give the tourist a full sense of how the creators of the films worked so diligently and painstakingly throughout the past decade to create this magical world.
This detailed look into the world of Harry Potter is never more apparent then when you enter one of the final rooms of the tour: The full size model of Hogwarts. Words cannot express the magnificence and awe that presents the tourist upon entering and walking all around the iconic model. Such detailed beauty in each and every square inch. Each individual shingle was placed on the tower roofs, fiber optic lights in each of the windows and along the walkway to the Boat House. The bridge that Neville destroyed in Deathly Hallows is interesting and you can picture Neville standing on the edge yelling, “Yeah, you and what army?”
On your way out of the Hogwarts model room and prior to entering your final leg in the WB Studio Tour gift shop, you enter a wand display room. You may be thinking that WB is just trying to convince you to purchase a wand here, but that is not what this room is about. It is a tribute room. Every single one of the over 4,000 people that helped to create this film, from the cast, to the crew, drivers, caterers, prop makers, etc., have their name on one of the wand boxes. You may be inclined to ask to see the wand box of J.K. Rowling, Dan Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint, and the staff member, Stephen, will be more than happy to show you where they are. But Stephen will also tell you stories of the people that you may or may not have known. Personally, I found this to be extremely enlightening, as each of these people played a significant role in the creation of our favorite film series, and I could have spent another four hours in this room alone. But by this time, exhaustion was setting in, and it was time to end the tour (after buying a few souvenirs from the gift shop of course). Note, however, that the tour doesn’t stop upon entering the gift shop but after, as several authentic props are also proudly displayed there too, and the cashiers will be only too happy to share their enthusiasm at the idea of working in front of the wall to the actual Gringotts Bank.
Bottom line: this experience was truly magical, and if there is some way for you to make it to the Warner Brothers Studio Tour: The Making of Harry Potter, I would certainly encourage you to go. A word of advice to the ladies from my companion Josée: leave your heels at home, and opt for sneakers instead! Feel free, however, to wear your best costumes. The staff will be more than happy to compliment you on your outfit.
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