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The Making of Harry Potter: Warner Brothers Studio Tour

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by Summer Grant (subscribe)
I'm a Magazine Journalism Graduate living on the South Coast of England. If you like books or random rants visit my blog at: anyonething.wordpress.com/ Or, if you like music visit my other blog at: musicalnourishment.wordpress.com/
Published August 29th 2012
Harry Heaven, Potter Perfection


Just north of London, standing between two fields, is the UK's hottest attraction; Warner Bros. Studio Tour London.

With input from the creative minds behind the films, Warner Brothers have found a way to keep the magic of Harry Potter alive.

Now that the final clapperboard has been brought down on the films, Leavesden Studios has been renovated and turned into a unique experience for both fans of Harry Potter and film alike. The first tour of the day is at10am and the last is at 4pm, unless it's a school holiday or weekend in which case the last is at 6pm. Tickets cost 28 for adults, 21 for children and 83 for a family ticket. Audio guides are available to hire in a multitude of languages.

For months the tour has promised to reveal secrets, from the making of Aragog to the decoration of Dumbledore's Office; they certainly didn't disappoint.



The magic all starts the moment the Great Hall comes into view. In spite of logic the eye is drawn above, instead of the enchanted ceiling with its shining stars and swirling clouds there are bright studio lights and unyielding scaffolding. However the extra and previously unnoticed details, such as the Hogwarts crest in the fireplace and the faded murals on the walls, of the Great Hall more than make up for this missing feature.

It has often been said by members of the cast and crew that it was built to last and this sentiment becomes tangible the moment feet step onto the sturdy flagstones used for the floor.

The last time the Great Hall was seen on screen it was destroyed by the struggles of the Final Battle but it was rebuilt especially for the tour. Despite it being one of the most recognisable places in the Harry Potter universe it is rushed through, the tour guide swiftly mentioned the costumes and briefly discussed the unique features of the set but it wasn't long before he ushered the visitors forward.

However, that disappointment is soon forgotten as the excitement bubbles, in this huge building, where Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint grew up, there are entire sets and towering props, all authentic and from the films. Yet when it comes to the sets some were a lot smaller than expected, for example the boy's dormitory was a tiny space and only grew smaller. When the beds were first made they were built to fit the young cast but as they grew the beds grew with them until eventually Daniel and Rupert were forced to pull their legs up during filming so that they might fit.

The Boy's Dormitory


Then there's Dumbledore's Office, which is incredibly detailed. The telescope at the back window is in fact one of the most expensive pieces to be made for the entire series, but it always remained in the background. Now it's time for the fans to get a closer look.

Placards placed around the tour reveal little known facts, there were two griffin staircases made; one of them was fully functional and proved to be exceptionally difficult to create while the other, the one on the tour, was stationary.

Entrance to the Chamber of Secrets


Just around the corner and past the collection of portraits is the impressive entrance to the Chamber of Secrets. The design is so intricate that it seems impossible that it works, but they used the working model instead of resorting to CGI. Alongside this is a model of a door to a Gringotts vault and to the left of it is a place to sit down and watch exactly what goes into making a game of Quidditch. Looking closely there's even a board with tactics for a Gryffindor versus Hufflepuff game.

It is around this area that the interactive side of the tour comes into play. It follows the footsteps of the books and films by appealing to all ages. Not only are children given a passport full of activities, such as finding all the golden snitches hidden throughout the tour and collecting all the stamps, but also they will relish the opportunity to control the iron and the knitting in Mrs Weasley's kitchen.

There's a chance to fly on a broom through London and around Hogwarts too, a photo of which can be bought for the reasonable price of 12 or four for 20.

Just past Hagrid's Hut, the intimidating Magic is Might statue and the rest of the Ministry of Magic is the back lot. It acts as a refreshing break between the two sound stages and is the only place outside of America to serve butterbeer, but there's no ignoring the three vehicles parked nearby.

The Knight Bus


Hagrid's motorbike, Mr Weasley's flying Ford Anglia and the iconic purple, triple-decker Knightbus are placed so that visitors can clamber aboard them and enjoy a little break from the rest of the, now, self-guided tour.

Entering the creature workshop is like being in the strangest zoo possible. Although it is widely believed that the array of creatures introduced throughout the series are computer generated this room proves otherwise.

Fawkes the Phoenix


Behind the glass casing Fawkes the Phoenix is perched proudly and Dobby the House Elf stands next to a model of a Thestral and its foal. There's even the head of a mermaid and Viktor Krum's attempt at transfiguring into a shark during the second task of the Tri-wizard Tournament. Then there's Aragog, the hairs of which come from coconuts and were each individually threaded in place, hanging above the skeleton of the fearsome basilisk.

Yet the experience of being so close to the mythical creatures pales in comparison to stepping into Diagon Alley for the first time. Again, it is a matter of the incredible amount of detail put into it. The door of the apothecary has a sign reminding shoppers that the sale of unicorn blood is forbidden, Quality Quidditch Supplies has a broomstick floating in the window while Madam Malkin's Robes for all Occasions has a pair of moving scissors above the doorway.

Diagon Alley


After walking around this set it's time to experience the hard work that the art department put into the films, which generated four Oscar nominations for Best Art Direction and won a BAFTA for Best Production Design for Goblet of Fire. Everything is in miniature and the drawings on the walls are so complex it's hard not to be impressed.

As the tour approached its final scene, visitors regaled at having spent three hours inside "surely it can't be over yet" one child cried. While there has been many a breathtaking moment none can quite compare to the finale.

Hogwarts


The to-scale model of Hogwarts Castle stands grandly in the centre of the room. The lights are set to cycle from dawn to night and every incredible detail of the castle is shown. Despite its roots being set firmly in fantasy the design team have done such an amazing job that it looks as if it could be a real building. In fact they decided to base separate parts of the building on different churches, cathedrals and castles in Britain.

On the way to the exit, which is through the gift shop, there is a room full of wand boxes. There are about 4,000 of them and each has the name of a person who helped create the films written on it. J.K Rowling's can be found alongside a set decorator.



The gift shop, it's fair to say, is like the Room of Requirement, piled high with Harry Potter goods that are mainly exclusive to the UK, from a Firebolt to a Chudley Cannons pin. Above the shelves are even more authentic props from the films and at the till hangs one of the chandeliers from Gringotts Bank. Although quite expensive it is hard to walk out without buying something.

To visit Warner Bros. Studio Tour London tickets must be pre-booked at www.wbstudiotour.co.uk or through and approved operator. Parking at the studio is free but for those who don't drive it takes less than 20 minutes to get to Watford Junction by train from Euston. At Watford Junction there is a special Studio Tour bus that takes people to the attraction, it costs 2 for a return. To view directions to the bus and a complete timetable for the buses go to www.mullanysbuses.com and click on the Making of Harry Potter link.
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Why? Warner Brothers have found a way to keep the magic of Harry Potter alive.
Where: Leavesdon Studio, Watford
Cost: 28 for adults 21 for children
Your Comment
How did you get a picture of Diagon Alley empty? Amazing!
by Shealagh (score: 0|8) 2178 days ago
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