This is the sequel to my previous post, which is fairly apt considering we went tothe Leavesden Film Studios where 8 films were made of a little boy who lived under the stairs…
The secret was kept until we all arrived in Watford. Master BG had struck up a friendship with a little boy from Canada on the train, who asked him ‘Are you going to the Harry Potter Studio Tour?’
‘Um…no, I don’t think so,’ was my son’s reply. When we hoped off the train, we confessed that was indeed where we were going. The response was a bit muted, rather than the enthusiastic one I thought we would get.
They warmed up as we approached the studios in the bus from the railway station, and got quite excited when we walked in and saw…the gift shop! Full of chocolate frogs (£7.95), Bertie Bott’s Beans (£7.95) and a genuine Marauder’s Map(£29.95)!
Our entry was a timed entry, and we arrived about 45 minutes early, so we were able to have lunch before joining the queue. We were escorted into a room where we were shown a brief video on the original discovery of JK Rowling’s book by the producers, then into a theatrette where we had another film on the making of the studio tour. Presented by Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint, it ended by them entering Hogwarts Great Hall through a large, ornate door. Then the cinema screen rose…and there was the door! I nearly leapt out of my seat in excitement. The doors opened and then we were in the Great Hall and the start of the tour.
There was a guided tour of the Great Hall by one of the many tour guides who gave a presentation on its creation. After we moved from the hall, the remainder of the tour was a self-guided, to allow you to spend as much or as little time looking at the sets which had been recreated, and rebuilt, complete with costumes from the principal characters.
There was so much to see that you could easily spend hours studying everything in great detail. And everything does have such detail! From individual labels in Ollivander’s wand shop, to thousands of glass bottles in Dumbledore’s office, the richness and quality of detail only served to enhance the cinematic experience, and to employ so many set designers and dressers.
Throughout the self-guided tour, studio employees were on hand to provide information about particular aspects of the set, stories about the making of the film and anecdotes from cast and crew members. From them we found that as the boys grew, they either had to curl up in bed or let their feet hang over the edge out of shot, as the beds were designed for 10 year olds and not 17 year old boys
The mechanical opening door with all the locks to the Chamber of Secrets was created by the special-effects team and fully mechanical
The backlot component of the tour involved part of the rickety bridge, the Potter home, the Knight Bus, Hagrid’s motorcycle, and the flying car. It also had number 4 Privet Drive, where Harry grew up with Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon. The original film filmed in an actual street, which was then recreated on the back lot for subsequent films. The Knight bus was created from 3 vintage buses to make it into a triple decker bus.
The tour also focused the greenscreen special effects used to create the Quidditch and flying sequences, the prosthetic props such as giant spiders, and set design drawings and conceptual art. The final exhibit was the model of Hogwarts which was used for aerial shots. It took eight weeks to build and it was massive in its size and detail.
The little BGs were given complimentary passports with an opportunity to have them stamped at stamping stations along the tour. There was also the little Quidditch balls hidden amongst the exhibits for them to seek out and tick off. This, and having their uncle Andrew along, kept them well occupied. The back lot provided them with ample opportunity to clamber over props, while we enjoyed a taste of Butterbeer! (Non-alcoholic, and delicious)
We managed to escape the gift shop with a couple of frogs and all-flavour beans, and departed thoroughly pooped but all very happy. The verdict from the kids was that Legoland was better, but Harry Potter was still very good. They were both quite different, but enjoyable in their own way. For fans of Harry Potter it is a must-see, and a definite improvement on other studio tours (according to Andrew who went on a studio tour in LA).
Next stop Ireland!