As we pulled up to the parking lot of the Warner Bros. Studios and stared at the fog curling around the Studio buildings, we couldn’t help but notice that there was a Voldemort-like feel to the air. Not that it would have deterred us from going in at all and the excited chatter as we waited in the queue assured us that we weren’t the only ones keen to get a look inside.
The Warner Bros. Studios in Watford have been home to the Harry Potter Studio Tour since 2012 and welcome in over 6000 visitors a day. This popular attraction is for children and adults alike with a spellbinding mix of sets to see, effects to learn about, costumes and creatures to marvel at and interactive areas to try your hand at. Of course being a fan of the movies and books will help too.
The tour starts with a short talk and cinema screening of all 8 movies one after the other….only joking! The cinema screening is about five minutes long and you are seated comfortably before heading straight into the tour. The items exhibited are all originals and are accompanied by short information boards which include details and facts about each area of the movies. Through the first section, the Making of Harry Potter it soon becomes clear that the attention to detail in all the films is incredible, from the costumes to household items, scene construction and effects, no effort was to great to make the perfect pieces of the Harry Potter movie puzzle fit together and it showed in each and every scene. Meeting the faces working behind the screen including scriptwriters, producers and designers is a great touch and it was lovely to see how the team were given tokens of thanks by appearing in paintings hung in Hogwarts’ many halls and corridors, all hand painted of course.
The space then opens up and you are free to explore. For Harry Potter fans, this is where the magic happens with many of the props and settings you know and love from the movies included in this part of the tour and lots of interactive attractions.
Learn the secrets of the Goblet of Fire, press buttons to see demonstrations of magical doors that unlock with a flick of a wand and suitcases that pack themselves. Spell-casting classes take place throughout the day including dark arts defense tactics and green screen broom riding as also available to take part in. I could talk all day about this, but why would I ruin all the surprises?
The Hogwarts Express is the newest part of the tour and we climbed aboard this beautiful steam train to discover that each of the eight carriages have been showcased with a scene from each of the eight films. The railway shop has a variety of well made Hogwarts Express pieces, take part in a green screen train ride adventure or pose with a trolley as you glide through the wall of Platform 9¾.
At the midway point, you are presented with a picnic area and facilities. You are allowed to eat your own picnic at the tables or pick one of the lunchtime options available from the cafe menu. The Butterbeer bar can also be found in the picnic area with choices of cups, cones or sundaes. The Knight bus and outdoor scenes are visible through the glass exit doors and it is here that we went on to next for a wander round Privet drive and hopping aboard the Knight bus to discover its mechanical secrets before heading into the visual effects Studio.
All the creatures are moulded from exquisite design to sculpted wonder and the tour explains the technical challenges faced, while bringing each character to life and showcasing the fantastic results. There are several interactive buttons, allowing visitors to see the carefully crafted mechanics inside some of the films memorable creatures, in action for themselves. A short stroll through Diagon Alley is a section taking you through the stages of the intricate design process, including prototypes of some of the buildings and settings to the movies. See a 3d model of the Whoomping Willow and the incredible detail that goes into each and every element of a structure before the unveiling of the Studio tour’s “jewel in its crown”. Quite simply, it is stunning.
The last stop on the tour is Ollivanders where 120,000 boxes filled the shelves. Some of the original boxes survived the explosion scene for the movies and are displayed here, if you look for the singed boxes high up on the shelves before descending into the gift shop. An outstanding range of products are on display with collectibles, artwork, clothing, books and sweets as just a few of the ranges on sale. It is impossible to walk past the wand sections without stopping to test out a few for a favourite (mine was Viktor Krum’s), and calls of “Expelliarmus” and “Reducto” are heard coming from this area as you walk around.
This is a day out for the inner wizard inside you and armed with my chocolate frog, (see my review), I wondered how long it would be before I sneak back for another visit. Something tells me it won’t be too long…
Tips: Remember that you can take your own food with you to eat if you wish. There is both an indoor and outdoor picnic area.
There are plenty of restrooms at points along the tour.
Visiting time – We went through the tour in 3 hours and weren’t rushing but from the guides I understand the usual visiting time is approximately 4 hours.
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