Location: Leavesden Studios; Watford; Hertfordshire; WD25 7LR; UK
Ticket Prices: £35 (Adults), £27 (Kids – 4 and Under are FREE), £107 (Family: 2 Adults & 2 Children)
Opening Hours: Times range from 9:00am-10:00pm, 7 days a week.
I’ve been wanting to go to the Warner Bros. Studio Tour ever since the doors opened back in 2012, and on Sunday 8th May, ToysWorld received press access to take the family on a day out to the studios to check out ‘The Making Of Harry Potter’ attraction.
In the weeks leading up to our visit, our 5-year-old Daughter, Amelia started re-watching the Harry Potter movies, and by the time the big day finally arrived, she was just as excited as we were, which genuinely pleased me more than I can say. As parents, we are sometimes guilty of pushing some of our own likes and loves onto our children, expecting them to follow suit, but such is the magic and reach of J.K. Rowling’s world, however, Amelia really didn’t need that much encouragement.
The Warner Bros. Studio Tour is by far the nearest thing we have in the UK that can be compared to Disneyland; whilst there are not many rides to go on, the magic of the movies have been captured perfectly throughout the tour, and it’s just like that feeling you get when you walk through the gates at Disneyland.
If you’re bringing kids with you, make sure you remember to pick up The Making Of Harry Potter passports when you get your tickets. There are fun things to look out for along the way, as well as areas to collect embossed stamps which you can add to the passport.
If you went to the cinema to see each of the Harry Potter movies as they were released, you can’t help but feel a wave of nostalgia as you walk through the doors. To the right as you walk in, the lure of the gift shop instantly draws you in, and if you can resist until the end, it will be even more worthwhile (plus you won’t have to carry bags of merchandise around with you through the tour).
The tour begins as you enter a holding room with screens on the walls. Harry Potter movie posters from around the world are displayed and change, and it’s amazing to see the different art and concepts used in different countries. There is a brief video that then plays on the screens showing the magic of Harry Potter, with members of the cast and crew, as well as fans discussing the appeal.
You are then taken into a cinema screening room where you watch a short refresher of all 8 movies. Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson, then welcome you (via the video) to the tour, and then something rather magical happens which we really don’t want to spoil, but you’ll thank us for not doing so! You are then taken to the doors that lead into the great hall where you get to see the tables and props featured from the familiar setting, as well as numerous costumes worn by the teachers and students.
Words cannot describe the breathtaking attention to detail on the stonework of the great hall and you feel like you are entering a building that is hundreds of years old – it pays off on screen, and in the flesh the illusion is no different. Towards the back of the room, some of the teachers costumes are lined up, allowing you to get up-close to see the detailing. There’s also a chance to see the actual sorting hat. It’s worth noting that you can take photo’s and video on 95% of the tour, with the holding area, cinema and green screen areas being the only restricted zones.
After about 20 minutes in the great hall, the guided part of the tour ends as you are led into a huge area filled with sets and props from the movies. In all honesty you could spend all day in this room alone! Everywhere you turn there is something familiar from the movies – be it a huge swinging pendulum, or a tiny glass vial for ‘liquid luck’. Of particular interest was the Gryffindor common room and bedroom, featuring more amazing stonework and wooden beams. Snape’s potions classroom was another fantastic set – crammed full of bottles, vials and bubbling cauldrons.
As you make your way around to the back of the room, there’s a chance for you to take part in green screen based photo and video shoots on broomsticks. The team even provide robes for you to dress up in!
Once you’re done with the photoshoots and exploring the main sets and props room, you can then make your way down the short hallway to the Hogwarts Express – complete with faux Kings Cross Station and Platform 9 ¾ trolley wall! Whilst you are here, you can climb aboard the Hogwarts Express and view the different carriages, dressed up to represent poignant scenes from the movie series. Once you step off the train, you can then take part in a mock filming session on board the train carriage set – but beware the Dementors!
After all the excitement so far, the next stop is the cafe, located in the backlot, where you can have a well-earned rest and a bite to eat whilst also sampling the world-famous Butterbeer! It’s kind of like a cross between American cream soda and shortbread, with a butterscotch flavour whipped cream on top, and despite name it is alcohol free! At the time of writing, a regular sized Butterbeer costs £3.95 and you can even purchase tankards as a memento from the day.
Whilst you’re snacking and slurping, you have the rather pleasant view of the courtyard where you can view The Knight Bus, Privet Drive and the Hogwarts Bridge. For the first time, No.4 Privet Drive will be opened up to the public from 27th May 2016, so a return visit may just be on the cards! The Knight Bus was fantastic to see up close, and whilst you couldn’t climb on board, you could still walk up a couple of steps to see inside the ground floor. It was fantastic to actually walk the length of the Hogwarts Bridge – it feels as rickety and creaky as it looks on-screen!
Also in the courtyard are some of the large Wizard’s Chess pieces, the Weasley’s Ford Cortina and Hagrid’s bike and sidecar, which you can climb in to get more great photo-ops.
The next part of the tour takes you through to the creature effects department, where you can view some of the goblin masks, Dobby, the Book of Monsters and the Mandrakes (to name just a few items of interest).
As you continue round the corner and pass the giant Aragog prop, you then enter Diagon Alley, which was, for us, one of our favourite areas of the whole tour. To see Gringots, Ollivanders and the Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes shop fronts up close was thrilling and you just want to go inside…sadly you can’t. It would be great if the team could turn Ollivanders into an actual wand shop, or the Weasleys’ into a sweet shop where you can buy your chocolate frogs, lollipops or jelly beans. Of course, you could just wait until the very end and get all of the aforementioned items in the main gift shop!
As you exit the far end of Diagon Alley, you reach the art department display, which is truly fascinating. The walls are filled with drawings, sketches and concept art from all the movies, as well as 3D set miniatures. Once you make your way up to the top of the ramped walkway, the biggest surprise of all awaits you; the model of Hogwarts Castle. Nothing can prepare you for just how big it is, and just how real it looks – even at the scaled down size. Whilst you explore the castle exterior from different angles, the lighting around you changes to reflect different times of the day, and when it’s night time, the windows light up and you really get the feeling people are inside.
If you can bare to tear yourself away, the final stop is the all-important gift shop, where it is very easy to lose another hour of your time, browsing the many items of Harry Potter merchandise on sale. We highly recommend the wand replicas which are built out of resin and are made with the exact processes of the ones used in the movies. Amelia opted for Herminone’s wand, and it looks exactly like the one on-screen. It does clearly state it’s not a toy, but any child buying this cannot help themselves casting a few spells or charms on their parents. The wands retail at £27.95, but for just £17.95 you can purchase a light-up toy version, which may be a bit more robust and child friendly. For any of you with a sweet tooth, you can stock up on Bertie Botts Every Flavour Beans, Chocolate Frogs, Honeydukes Lollipops, Exploding Bon-Bon’s and even Jelly Slugs! There is also a fantastic selection of Harry Potter related clothing, ranging from T-Shirts, jumpers and cardigans to boxer shorts and detailed house robes, which you can buy for £74.95.
We had a truly amazing day, and whilst we felt exhausted, we were already planning our return visit. As a family it felt so special experiencing the tour together and it made us want to go home and watch the movies all over again. We clocked our visit time at between 3-4 hours, and had we not had our 2 ½ year old son, Jacob (who was getting a little restless by this point) we could have easily stayed longer! 🙂
No matter how old you are, magic really does exist, and if you’re in any doubt, a trip to the Warner Bros. Studio Tour will convince you!